Thursday, October 08, 2009

Nah-nah-nah, NSPS goodbye

This is phenomenally good news for DoD civilian employees.

The repeal of the National Security Personnel System came as part of a compromise House and Senate members announced in their negotiations over the Defense Department authorization bill. The Defense Department will maintain more performance management and hiring flexibility than other federal agencies, but it must halt NSPS by the start of 2012 and it cannot enact a new pay-for-performance system without submitting detailed proposals to Congress for approval.

There will be many who argue that the removal of "pay for performance" is bad. And I would agree if NSPS had in any fundamental way been about pay for performance. While the system paid lip service to the theory, in practice NSPS was a way to marginalize raises and bonuses and obfuscate the entire pay process.

The major problem with NSPS, outside of its inherent unfairness, is that it was initially created to do things that can be done within the old "GS" system. One of the biggest complaints about the GS system is how hard it is to fire an underperforming employee. And that is a true statement. It is difficult, but not impossible. If managers are willing to follow the rules. Which, in retrospect, wound up being far easier than anything NSPS dumped on the laps of managers DoD-wide. I can add some anecdotal strength to this - our department deputy called me yesterday to tell me about the amount of overtime he's been having to put in just to manage the NSPS paperwork for two or three NSPS employees. The other day he put in seven hours of overtime. One day.

You can talk about the GS system being broke all you want. You will have plenty of valid arguments to make. I have a great dislike for many of the GS hiring practices. However, none of these arguments will cancel out the fact that the NSPS system is horrible. You can't fix something broken with something broken.

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