Intelligence agencies to follow Defense in personnel reform

Officials in the intelligence community are drawing up designs for a new pay system similar to ones in the Homeland Security and Defense departments, a senior personnel official said Thursday.

Ron Sanders, chief human capital officer for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, said the 16 agencies under the office's umbrella will work under a single new compensation system, featuring broad pay bands, higher salary caps, performance-based raises and market sensitivity.

"The system we'll adopt will be a kissing cousin to what the National Security Personnel System has," Sanders said. NSPS is the Pentagon's new human resources setup.

After completing a feasibility study with the CIA, FBI, National Security Agency and other intelligence organizations, Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte sent a memorandum to officials Sept. 29 that adopted the joint approach to compensation and announced a move into phase two -- system design.

Sanders said employees could expect to see a first draft of a detailed design by early 2007. For the roughly 50,000 civilians employed by these agencies, the system itself won't be rolled out for four to five years.

DHS and the Pentagon have been stymied in their efforts to implement new human resources systems by federal employee unions. The labor groups successfully sued both systems over changes to labor relations rules. But most employees in the intelligence agencies are not members of bargaining units, so Sanders said he does not expect the same hurdle.

But a lack of union involvement does not mean the ODNI can ignore the worries of its employees, Sanders said. Among the lessons learned from the DHS and Defense experience is the need for employee support, he said. Officials will try to assuage intelligence workers' fears that the new system is simply a pay cut in disguise or that it will lead to cronyism.

There is another major difference between this initiative and the ones under way at Defense and DHS. The intelligence system will be the first modernized pay scheme to cross departmental lines. The Office of Personnel Management and the Office of Management and Budget have pushed governmentwide pay reform, but so far Congress has not passed legislation.

ODNI will be "a great laboratory for OPM when they get around to doing [this] governmentwide," said Sanders, who formerly worked at OPM.

Negroponte's post and the ODNI were created by Congress after the 9/11 Commission called for greater collaboration among intelligence agencies to prevent future terrorist attacks. Negroponte is rolling out new joint-duty requirements, similar to the Goldwater-Nichols joint-duty system in the Defense Department. Employees must have experience in multiple intelligence agencies, or in the ODNI itself, to reach executive status.

Sanders said a single compensation system approach is necessary for joint duty. Also, some benefits such as the CIA's beefed-up health and life insurance for overseas operations are now available to all intelligence employees.

Many of the larger agencies under the ODNI umbrella already have congressional authority to eschew the General Schedule. But some of the smaller ones, including intelligence components of the State, Energy and Treasury departments, do not. Negroponte may ask for "gap-filling legislative authority," Sanders said.

One of the ODNI agencies, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, already uses paybanding. Sanders said experts from the NGA are helping to design the cross-agency system.

The modernized pay scheme and joint duty are just two of the initiatives included in Negroponte's strategic human capital plan, completed this summer.

Senior executives will begin to be rated on their ability to use values in making hard decisions, to lead without hierarchy, and to think outside an insular intelligence model, combining human, signals and geospatial intelligence, for example.

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