Lawmakers urge halt to NSPS pending review

Members of a House committee on Friday urged the Defense Department to stop converting employees to its new personnel system until a thorough review of the system by Congress and the administration is completed.

The National Security Personnel System "made wholesale changes to the current federal employee system, resulting in widespread distrust and discontent within the ranks of the hundreds of thousands of dedicated DoD employees, both among those who have been converted and those who have not yet been converted to NSPS," wrote Reps. Ike Skelton, D-Mo., chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, and Solomon Ortiz, D-Texas, in a Feb. 11 letter to Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

The department has added more than 205,000 nonbargaining unit employees to NSPS since 2006 and planned to bring an additional 3,600 into the system in the coming months.

The letter also pointed to recent reports by the Government Accountability Office and the Congressional Budget Office that highlighted concerns over the cost of NSPS versus its benefits as well as a perceived lack of transparency in the new system. The lawmakers also questioned the Bush administration's last-minute move to issue controversial labor relations, hiring and promotion rules that "go beyond the intent of Congress when it enacted revisions to NSPS" in the fiscal 2008 National Defense Authorization Act.

Pentagon spokesman Les Melnyk said on Friday that Defense officials just learned of the lawmakers' request to halt NSPS and are evaluating its impact on the planned conversion of employees to the system. The department also is examining how a Jan. 21 White House memorandum, which suspended all pending federal rule changes issued by the previous administration, will affect the new personnel rules imposed by Bush. Those rules take effect March 17, Melnyk said.

During the campaign, then-Sen. Obama pledged to either overhaul or repeal NSPS.

Richard Brown, president of the National Federation of Federal Employees, on Friday praised the decision to halt conversion to NSPS, noting that the country has too many pressing needs to justify any more resources going to a failed personnel system. "It is a disgraceful waste of tax-payers' money to continue converting Defense workers to NSPS when the entire program might shortly be repealed," he said.

This story has been updated to reflect the latest news.

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