New system should make civilian hiring, pay moves easier
YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea — The revamped system for managing civilian employees is intended to make the Department of Defense’s process for hiring, paying, promoting and firing workers more efficient.
The management program, called the National Security Personnel System, is also aimed at improving DOD’s ability to compete with the private sector in filling job slots.
“The intention is to make it better for both the employees and the management,” David L. Snyder, assistant chief of civilian personnel policy at the Department of the Army, said during a town hall meeting last week at Yongsan.
The current system, he said, makes the hiring process too slow and hurts recruiting. Among other deficiencies officials have cited: Outstanding performers are paid the same as poor ones; and managers face limited flexibility in reassigning employees.
But, Snyder said, whatever changes are made would be in harmony with long-standing civil service values, including merit system principles, and would not violate existing bans on certain personnel practices, such as those barring racial, religious or gender discrimination.
The NSPS already has sparked strong controversy among labor unions including the Federal Education Association, whose members are educators and support staff working for Department of Defense Dependents Schools.
The unions have charged that those advocating the new personnel rules want to limit or scrap collective bargaining and replace the current impartial, outside bodies used to settle disputes with a board mostly appointed by DOD.
Snyder, joined by Reginald J. Brown, assistant secretary of the Army for manpower and reserve affairs, briefed some 200 employees at Yongsan last week. The Army has held about 30 briefings in 25 locations in the United States, Asia and Europe, including Stuttgart, Heidelberg and Kaiserslautern in Germany.
Pentagon working groups have been looking at various ways the existing system might be changed, Snyder said. Pentagon officials also are in contact with key national labor unions about the possible changes.
“We really want … to hear from all sides before we actually change the system,” he said. “No decisions have been made as yet as to what this ought to be. … Working groups are … constructing options, that kind of thing.”
The Pentagon groups are discussing such areas as compensation, performance management, workforce hiring, assignment, pay administration and shaping, employee engagement, labor relations and appeals, Snyder said. Officials will draw on the groups’ recommendations to draft proposed NSPS regulations, he said.
Officials plan to test key ideas in a pilot project called “Spiral One,” which would involve several thousand volunteers at military installations around the world.
During a meeting in Europe, Jeannie Davis — a top manager for the Army’s civilian work force there — told a gathering of military executives that a few details on the proposals are emerging.
Officials, for example, have no intention of changing retirement benefits or living quarters allowances. Meanwhile, a new pay system is in the works — “pay for performance” and what Snyder called “grade banding.”
Pay for performance would link workers’ pay to their supervisors’ evaluations. The better the evaluations, the higher the pay.
Grade banding — called “pay banding” in the briefing — would simplify the DOD pay structure by reducing the number of pay grades to a few “grade bands,” Snyder said. Within a grade band would be various pay “steps,” giving managers more flexibility.
“The benefits of that are you have salary flexibility in what you can pay people from the lowest end of the band to the highest,” Snyder said. “In places where you want to compete, you have much more flexibility in what you can pay people.”
—Jon R. Anderson in Europe contributed to this report.