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U.S. Army Europe intends to hold about 50 town hall meetings over the next several months to explain to its U.S. civil servants the upcoming shift away from the General Schedule — or GS — system, officials said Monday.

Replacing the GS structure will be something called the National Security Personnel System. For USAREUR civilian employees, that change is slated to take effect in October 2007.

“It’s the biggest change to the career civil service system since its inception in 1883,” said Jim Biggs, the NSPS coordinator for USAREUR. In all, 650,000 GS employees worldwide will be affected

Similar briefings and meetings are either being held or will be held in the coming weeks and months for U.S. civil servants working for the Navy and Air Force in Europe, spokesmen for both services said.

Perhaps the most significant shift in philosophy with respect to NSPS, a Defense Department initiative, is that employees’ pay will be predicated more on performance than seniority. When people hear that, Biggs said, many assume the worse.

“Nobody will lose money” when the new system is implemented, Biggs said. “In fact, many employees will get a slight bump up (in pay).”

But after the conversion is completed, employees will be judged — and compensated, at least in terms of pay raises — by their performance. The merit-based system will allow for more pay raises and bonuses, but it’ll also permit supervisors to penalize people for sub-par work. That philosophy has been floating about the Pentagon for years, but it didn’t gain any traction until the last few years. NSPS has met with some resistance from a coalition of federal employee unions in the United States, and so aspects of it won’t be implemented “until the court challenges are finished,” Biggs said.

Most of the meetings USAREUR intends to hold across the theater will occur in early 2007, though a dozen or more are scheduled to be held before the holiday season. Already, USAREUR officials have conducted informational meetings in Heidelberg and Mannheim, in Germany. A schedule of future meetings will be publicized soon.

Despite the challenges, Biggs said, come October 2007 “the GS system goes out the window.”

Go to the NSPS Web site at www.cpms.osd.mil/nsps for more information.

Changes loom for civil servants

The National Defense Authorization Act of 2003 called for a new civil servant pay and rating system to be implemented. Here is an overview of it:

¶National Security Personnel System will replace old GS system

¶Will impact 650,000 employees

¶Four NSPS career groups will have nine possible pay schedules within those groups

¶Creates link between pay, performance and mission accomplishment

¶Compensates employees on performance more so than on seniority

¶Enables Defense Department to hire people more quickly and to offer higher salaries

¶Preserves employees’ benefits, rights and protections

¶Veterans’ preference principles do not change

Source: Department of Defense

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