Obama gives the heave-ho to DOD pay for performance

Critics laud the move, calling the program unfair and dysfunctional

The National Security Personnel System, the Defense Department's effort to tie salary to job performance, is on its way out. On Oct. 28, President Barack Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act for the 2010 fiscal year, which includes provisions to kill the program.

The DOD employees working under NSPS — more than 200,000 — will revert to the General Schedule system, according to the bill’s provisions.

Many NSPS critics praised the move because they contend that the system was unfair and dysfunctional.

Randy Erwin, legislative director at the National Federation of Federal Employees (NFFE), said the NSPS policy stripped employees of their right to collectively bargain pay rates, which can be aided by union backing. Officials familiar with the situation, speaking on background, said the program also allowed managers to play favorites and abuse the system, a charge with which Erwin agreed.

Congress restored collective bargaining rights in 2008 and made other changes to the system intended to assuage its critics.

However, many criticisms remained. “There is evidence that pay for performance was discriminatory and used as a way to take money from lower-paid employees and routed it to higher-paid employees,” Erwin said.

The system's proponents had championed it for being flexible and giving managers more freedom to reward their best employees. In 2008, Mary Lacey, then program executive officer for NSPS, reported that the highest-rated employees in the system got raises averaging 10 percent under NSPS. Across the board, she said, raises under NSPS averaged 5.4 percent. 

About the Author

Amber Corrin is a former staff writer for FCW and Defense Systems.

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Reader comments

Tue, Nov 17, 2009

The spirit of competition is what America is all about. If you worked hard and was recognized because of your contribution, you then distingusih yourself. In so doing, people who aspire as much as you do will do something to be competetive to realize their goals/dreams. There is nothing wrong with that notion. Excellence in performance must be rewarded, and those whose performance are not that excellent should be encouraged to strive harder. That is what makes America great, and the very reason why people all over the world want to come here, dating back since the beginning of European migration into this country.

Wed, Nov 4, 2009 Scott

What sort of statist article is this? The UNION BOSS is upset that people get to distinguish themselves with higher pay and performance, which upsets his plan to expand the union? Amber Corrin, what does the the head of the NSPS have to say about this, or would that be too fair to include their opinion? Liberal media bias, shown once again.

Wed, Nov 4, 2009 Flossy

To his credit, President Obama took the correct action when he dispensed with the NSPS, which was clearly a failed experiment. Given this, why is he pushing a similar undertaking (tying teachers' performance to pay) in Education? This is especially problematic because some of the same issues that surfaced under the NSPS have also surfaced in educational environments where the strategy has been tried.

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