National Nuclear Security Administration to launch pay for performance

Employees at the National Nuclear Security Administration will become the next group to test pay for performance in government, the agency announced Wednesday.

NNSA, the quasi-autonomous agency within the Energy Department, said it is starting a five-year partnership with the Office of Personnel Management to "fundamentally alter" major parts of the government's competitive service personnel laws and regulations.

Under the pilot, NNSA will collapse the traditional 15 General Schedule pay grades into broad paybands. The process would eliminate the fixed steps that give automatic raises to employees and would make annual pay adjustments performance-sensitive.

The paybands will be based on previous recruitment and promotion patterns and existing grade distributions. Each of the agency's five career paths will include different paybands that reflect the typical career progression within those occupations.

The new system will affect nearly 2,000 of NNSA's 2,500 federal workers. The agency touts the changes as a means of giving managers more flexibility to set higher pay for employees through appointments, promotions and performance evaluations. The agency also hopes the system will help it compete for high-quality candidates and help motivate and retain high-performing employees.

"NNSA needs to continue to attract high-quality people with technical skills for our important national security programs," said NNSA Administrator Thomas D'Agostino. "This pilot project gives us the tools necessary to do so in an ever-increasingly competitive job market."

The project is expected to last up to five years, and, if successful, will become the permanent pay system at NNSA, the agency said.

By law, OPM is authorized to conduct demonstration projects that experiment with different human resources concepts to determine whether changes in policy would result in better governmentwide management.

NNSA and OPM first announced plans to launch a pay-for-performance pilot in a Federal Register notice more than a year ago. The project follows two years of discussions, planning, design, development and communications, including the three phases of employee briefings and managerial training conducted at every major site and location throughout NNSA, the agency said.

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