Defense Department names task force to review NSPS

The Defense Department has announced a three-member task force will conduct a review of the National Security Personnel System, the controversial Bush-era pay-for-performance program that has been frozen by the Obama administration.

The panel will make recommendations to the Defense Business Board this summer, to be followed by a report to Defense in the fall.

Rudy deLeon, who was deputy secretary of Defense during the Clinton administration, will head the task force. He is now a senior vice president at the Center for American Progress, a Washington-based think tank headed by John Podesta, who was co-chair of the Obama transition team.

The Defense Business Board, an independent advisory panel created in 2001, launched the task force at the request of the Office of Personnel Management and Deputy Defense Secretary William Lynn. According to the Pentagon, the task force will focus on whether NSPS is meeting its objectives and operating in a fair and transparent way.

DeLeon said one focus of the review will be whether the performance-based pay system is attracting and retaining skilled civilian workers. "We do need to make sure that we're bringing in the next generation of civilian employees," he said.

The task force plans to seek input from civilian employees about the program's effectiveness and whether it is reaching its goals. DeLeon said the panel would say more about how it will conduct its review after its first meeting later in May.

Other members of the panel are Michael Bayer, chairman of the Defense Business Board, and Robert Tobias, a professor at American University, where he heads the Institute for the Study of Public Policy Implementation. All three members were chosen by the Defense Department and OPM.

Several Democratic lawmakers wrote to the Office of Management and Budget on April 3, asking the administration to halt all planned pay-for-performance systems from going into effect pending the NSPS review. The lawmakers said they were unnecessary and encouraged discrimination by managers.

Several unions, including the American Federation of Government Employees and the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers, have opposed pay-for-performance systems such as NSPS in the courts and in the legislature.

"IFPTE applauds OPM Director John Berry and Secretary Lynn for putting together what we view as a very fair and well-rounded panel of professionals to review the NSPS program," said Matt Biggs, legislative director for IFPTE. "We're confident in the folks who were chosen."

OPM's decision to halt implementation of NSPS prevented Defense from transferring 2,000 employees into the system, but 205,000 employees already were in NSPS.

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