Intelligence agencies move closer to common personnel system

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence is close to finalizing and beginning to implement a new directive that will establish a common performance management and pay system across the 16 intelligence agencies, a personnel official said Monday.

The effort is part of a 500-day plan announced by Intelligence Director Mike McConnell last week to build on the successes of a 100-day push to improve integration and collaboration among intelligence agencies.

"Our next step is to build on and sustain momentum over the next 500 days to take on the bigger challenges of changing policies, improving technology and transforming the culture of the intelligence community," McConnell said.

McConnell said the successes of the 100-day plan included the launch of a civilian joint duty program, improved security clearance processing times, increased diversity in the intelligence workforce and more information sharing across the community. "I'm encouraged with our progress so far," he said. "We have a lot of work ahead of us."

A summary of the 500-day plan will be posted on the DNI's Web site later this month, McConnell said. But Mary Kay Byers, chief human capital officer for the National Reconnaissance Office, described portions of the new plan Monday at the HRGov conference in Morgantown, W.Va.

The performance management framework will entail six performance elements that all agencies must have, Byers said, adding that agencies can add elements to fit their individual needs.

The community also plans to launch a unified pay-for-performance system by 2009, with each agency developing its own timeline for implementation, Byers said. The Defense Intelligence Agency will begin implementing the new pay system, with the first payouts awarded in 2010, she said.

Byers also said intelligence agencies will rigorously move forward with the joint duty program, requiring all employees to complete at least one assignment outside their home agency in order to be eligible for promotion to the senior ranks. The requirement will begin in 2010, with employees completing the outside assignments in 12 to 36 months, Byers said.

"There are other honorable missions other than your own," Byers said. "You're more likely to collaborate with an organization you understand."

Meanwhile, Byers highlighted pilot projects involving performance evaluations that rely on an independent interviewer to ask an employee's superiors and subordinates about the employee's work. Those tests are taking place at the DNI office, the National Security Agency and others. Byers said many managers are skeptical of the amount of time and effort required for the evaluations.

The new plan also seeks to reform the hiring and security clearance process by allowing job candidates to work temporary unclassified jobs while they're waiting for clearances and investigations to be completed. "That way, we're not losing candidates due to the extensive processing time," Byers said.

Byers noted that the plan's greatest challenges lie with the smaller intelligence agencies embedded in larger departments with different personnel systems, such as the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research. She said the DNI office is still determining how to handle pay for performance and other personnel issues in these instances.

"As the rest of the community moves forward in changing pay, we may have to come up with different options for the elements that are small and reside with a department," Byers said. "We haven't figured it out yet."

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