More troubles for NSPS

Cost estimates increase for the Defense Department's NSPS civilian personnel system


The Pentagon’s new civilian personnel system could come with a larger price tag than previously estimated, according to the Government Accountability Office, and that could mean more troubles for an already troubled system.

In November 2005, Defense Department officials pegged the cost for implementing the National Security Personnel System (NSPS) at $158 million from 2005 to 2008. But a new GAO report states the cost most likely will be higher because DOD officials did not accurately account for the salaries of civilian and military personnel necessary for deployment of the system throughout the department.

Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld proposed NSPS as a centerpiece of his efforts to transform DOD to meet 21st-century threats. NSPS is an alternative to the 50-year-old civil-service plan for paying employees according to their length of service. It replaces the General Schedule pay scale with one in which DOD’s civilian employees are assigned to pay bands and receive raises according to the performance level they achieve each year. Instead of steady, predetermined increases, raises depend mostly on supervisors’ evaluations.

GAO analysts said the program could serve as a governmentwide model for transforming personnel management. In their July report, GAO’s auditors recommended that DOD officials define all direct and indirect costs for managing NSPS. Moreover, DOD should craft a revised estimate of how much it will cost to implement NSPS, and the estimate should conform to federal financial-accounting standards, GAO said. Thirdly, auditors recommended that Defense officials develop a comprehensive oversight framework to ensure proper reporting of NSPS-related funds.

NSPS program executive officer Mary Lacey, in a written response to the report, concurred with most of GAO’s recommendations. “The Program Executive Office will develop a revised estimate of applicable costs for implementing NSPS covering fiscal years 2008 through 2011,” Lacey wrote. 

Meanwhile, the American Federation of Government Employees and the United Department of Defense Workers Coalition are seeking a review of a May ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

On May 18, that court reversed a lower court ruling issued last year that nullified portions of NSPS. In its 2-1 decision in the case, AFGE v. Gates, a three-judge panel said the way NSPS was designed and implemented provided appropriate due process and protections for employees.

In early July, the United Department of Defense Workers Coalition,  which represents several DOD unions, filed a petition with the court for a review of the ruling. The court gave DOD 15 days to respond.

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