Remaking government with a new salary system

Bush administration officials say their plan to change the way federal workers are paid and promoted is a central part of efforts to remake the internal workings of government. But skeptics wonder whether the administration's civil service reform proposals will transform government or undermine the federal workforce.

Administration officials plan to send Congress a proposal that would overhaul the way federal workers are paid and promoted, a change they want to go into effect by 2010, according to a draft letter from the Office of Personnel Management.

Granting agencies greater workforce flexibilities "makes it possible for agencies to be better focused on results," said Clay Johnson, the Office of Management and Budget's deputy director for management. "Civil service reform helps us create a performance culture."

In contrast, Jack Hanley, president of the National Federation of Federal Employees' Council of GSA Locals, predicted that reforms would cause "many

more conflicts, a lot more grievances and a lot more workload for the unions and the labor relations people."

But the Bush administration is not alone in its belief about the need to institute pay-for-performance systems. "Human capital reform is an essential

element in order to transform government," said David Walker, U.S. comptroller general.

A group of 18 Republican lawmakers, led by Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), say they want to vote in favor of a proposal to replace the 50-year-old General

Schedule system of payment and promotion. "The time has come to promote a personnel system that mirrors the market," they wrote in a letter to Bush earlier this year.

In new systems being developed at the Homeland Security and Defense departments, in addition to existing systems at the Federal Aviation Administration and a slew of other agencies, more than half of federal workers will have their salary tied to some measure of performance. But managers at DOD and DHS, which employ 42 percent of the federal civilian workforce, have limited experience with pay for performance. That means the administration should wait until officials can evaluate the effectiveness of those programs before expanding the reforms, many skeptics

say. They also cite a survey of FAA employees released in January in which only 38 percent of respondents covered by that agency's pay-for-performance system give it a favorable review.

DOD's new pay regime, set to launch incrementally beginning July 1, has been delayed by a flood of negative comments from employees and contentious meetings with unions.

The final reform proposal will be released this summer, Johnson said, adding that draft language was released to agencies for feedback. "We've got an awful lot of comments back from agencies, so we need to sort through those comments and pay a lot of attention to them," he said.

Permanent or temp?

Employee resistance to pay-for-performance systems may continue well into the foreseeable future, said one academic who has different recommendations for personnel reform. The track record of pay-for-performance systems gives little reason to be optimistic, said James Thompson, an associate professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago and co-author of a recent report for the IBM Center for the Business of Government called "The Blended Workforce: Maximizing Agility Through Nonstandard Work Arrangements."

Performance evaluations "tend to be highly subjective, unless you're an assembly-line employee," Thompson said. Even in the private sector, managers don't receive adequate training on how to conduct evaluations. And in government, training funds are often the first to disappear when budgets are tight.

Thompson recommends that the government adopt a core-ring model for structuring the workforce. A core group of employees performing year-round tasks could be supplemented with on-demand contract workers, he said. Under the Bush administration's plans, two basic categories of workers would be established, career and time-limited employees, and the Office of Personnel Management would have rapid-response hiring authority. But although it might appear similar to the core-ring model, the administration's plan breaks down because temporary workers "always are going to be second-class employees," Thompson said. "Obviously, everybody would prefer to be permanent and have the choice of when to leave be theirs."

When contract workers are hired to tackle government jobs, "you get good people, because they're basically virtually permanent jobs, they only just happen to be working for a contractor," he said.

— David Perera

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.