Letters from readers comment on the NSPS pay system, oversight of federal inspectors general, and measuring the performance of programs

A better interface
Regarding Federal Computer Week’s story “Spending database takes shape” [July 23], I urge everyone involved with the federal spending database of grants, loans and contracts to review the science.gov Web site.

That site’s interface provides a unified way to search the repositories of 16 federal science organizations at 12 agencies and receive a compilation of results. It is straightforward to use, and it provides options for sorting results and the ability to set up alerts for new materials as they are added to the individual databases.

In my opinion, that is the way to go.

James P. Harold
USAID Development
Experience Clearinghouse
U.S. Agency for
International Development

Problems plague NSPS
Regarding the FCW.com story “Survey: Most HR officials favor ditching GS pay system” [July 19], those officials obviously are not aware of the unpaid overtime that our supervisors are putting in and the work that is not getting done because of National Security Personnel System deadlines.

I wonder if we latecomers to the NSPS system will get the seemingly fantastic pay raises that some of our friends who were involved in the beta testing have reported. Or will the rumor that our NSPS pay pool is somewhat smaller than what they were getting turn out to be a cold, hard fact?

I grant that the General Schedule system is a slower progression than industry, and it allows less-than-useful employees to advance at the same rate as the hardest workers. But having worked in industry for 18 years before going to the GS system, I have seen that NSPS-style systems also have their problems, especially if you are not in front of the person doing the evaluations every day.
And senior supervisors are saying that the GS system is not going away. Instead, it will just be invisible lines in NSPS. It would be interesting to see how much NSPS is costing, especially if you add up the unpaid overtime that those who are tasked with its implementation have put in and the disruption to real work that it has caused.

Air Force

‘Inherently governmental’ got lost in the shuffle
With regard to “What is inherently governmental?” [FCW, July 30], when the process of hiring contractors took off years ago, it definitely got to the point quickly where agencies were told something like, “Contract out 10 percent of your staff.” Then the next year it would be the same thing: “Contract out 10 percent more.” It had nothing to do with the work, just the number of staff you could get rid of. Jobs were cannibalized or merged to come up with something to contract out. “Inherently governmental” was lost in the shuffle.

Office of Inspector General
Agriculture Department

Who will oversee the IGs?
In response to “Senators join call for IGs’ independence” [FCW.com, July 12], who is going to oversee the inspectors general to ensure they are helping the government and the country and not throwing roadblocks and spikes in the way of government at every opportunity? When you are hired specifically to find things wrong, you will find things wrong or you won’t have a job.

IGs should be hired by, and work for, the head of each agency. Funding should be managed by the head of that agency as a separate line item. IGs should go through special training to ensure they are helping government agencies, not hindering their operations.

William Johnson

Specificity key to accurate metrics
In response to “Measuring program performance is a global issue” [FCW.com, June 12], the ExpectMore.gov Web site looks quite good, and the Program Assessment Rating Tool results are presented in a very accessible way. It made for interesting reading.

However, I noticed that the overwhelming majority of programs that did not
perform well, based on the PART results, failed because they did not demonstrate results, which means those programs lacked performance goals, metrics and data.

In my experience, one of the greatest obstacles government faces in developing meaningful metrics is the lack of clarity and specificity of the intended outputs and outcomes. The language is typically action-oriented instead of results-oriented, vague and laden with words that have widely interpreted — or misinterpreted — meanings: effective, efficient, productive, quality, engaged, sustainable.

I believe the first step toward improving the way government agencies measure performance would be to spend some time making outputs and outcomes or goals more specific, deliberate and tangible. If you could describe the differences that should be manifest after something is made more effective, efficient or sustainable, then measures would be easier to design.

I can’t wait to see what Canada does with the idea of an independent organization to review the robustness of measures.

Stacey Barr


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