Most NSPS employees headed for full 2010 pay raise

Employees covered by the Pentagon's pay-for-performance system will receive the same base salary increase in January 2010 as their General Schedule counterparts, as long as their work is deemed acceptable, according to new orders from Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

"Given the ongoing leadership review of [the National Security Personnel System] and in consideration of recommendations made by the Defense Business Board in its recently published report on NSPS, the department leadership decided this was the most prudent course of action," the NSPS program office said in a fact sheet released with the decision.

Under the law that established the pay system, employees who are rated better than "unacceptable" -- the lowest possible mark - are entitled to at least 60 percent of the General Schedule raise. The Defense secretary has the authority to allocate the remaining 40 percent to pay pools, to be distributed based on employees' job performance. This is what happened for the 2009 raise.

But for 2010, employees performing at an acceptable level will receive the entire General Schedule raise. Exceptional workers will qualify for additional raises and bonuses, but those will have a separate funding stream.

Employees who are rated "unacceptable" were not entitled to that 60 percent raise in the past, and the new policy does not extend any new raises to them.

The three-person panel convened by the Defense Business Board to study NSPS criticized the pay pool system in its final report, released in August, saying the system was confusing and not sufficiently transparent. Deputy Defense Secretary William Lynn and Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry are reviewing the board's findings.

Matt Biggs, legislative director for the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers, one of the federal employee unions that has opposed NSPS, said he thought the Defense Department's decision was prompted by congressional amendments to the fiscal 2010 Defense authorization bill that threaten to abolish the pay system. Differences in the House and Senate versions of that provision have yet to be resolved in ongoing negotiations on the bill.

IFPTE President Gregory Junemann said the decision was a ploy to make NSPS look more employee-friendly. "Trying to fix NSPS is like mopping a dirt floor," he wrote in an e-mail to Defense Department officials and leaders of other unions.

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