Defense releases guidelines for NSPS transition

Secretary Gates once called NSPS critical to the department's workforce strategy. Secretary Gates once called NSPS critical to the department's workforce strategy. Justin Sullivan/AP

The Defense Department has released guidelines on how to assign new employees to pay systems as agencies transition out of the National Security Personnel System. But some employee groups are concerned that the Pentagon is wasting resources by continuing to place new hires into NSPS.

"NSPS organizations should begin appointing individuals to non-NSPS statutory pay systems," Tim Curry, the acting program executive officer for NSPS, wrote in a Dec. 10 memo to managers in the alternative pay system.

Any vacancies for positions within NSPS posted before March 1, 2010, must include a disclaimer explaining that the job will return to the General Schedule "or an applicable personnel system" by Jan. 1, 2012, the deadline by which NSPS must be repealed completely. After that date, any listings for new jobs must reflect either a General Schedule pay grade or a pay grade in one of Defense's other alternative pay systems.

NSPS does not have to be dismantled fully by 2010. But after March 1, 2010, new hires and employees moving to new positions at agencies where NSPS was implemented and has not yet been rolled back, must be paid according to the General Schedule pay scale or a remaining alternative pay system, even if some workers at those agencies are still being paid and evaluated under NSPS pending the transition.

But Bud Taylor, an official with National Federation of Federal Employees Local 1164, which represents a wide range of workers in the Army Corps of Engineers, Navy and Defense offices in New England, says that continuing to hire employees and categorizing them under NSPS when the system is due to end is counterintuitive and creates more work for hiring managers. He said members of the bargaining units his local chapter represents have seen multiple job listings with NSPS pay grades since President Obama signed legislation on Oct. 28 ending the pay system.

"That's waste, fraud and abuse," Taylor said. "From a purely pedestrian viewpoint, why are you going to do something you don't need to do? You need manpower to hire people under this, teach them about it, rate them under this, and then convert them [to the General Schedule system]."

Taylor said NFFE is working with Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., and Rep. Niki Tsongas, D-Mass., to determine why Defense is continuing to allow agencies to hire employees under NSPS until March.

Matt Biggs, legislative director for the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers, said his union has filed unfair labor practice complaints against the Corps of Engineers for hiring workers into NSPS positions, rather than designating them as General Schedule employees, which would allow them to join a union. He said his union would remain vigilant until it was clear that NSPS rollback policies were being enforced uniformly across the Pentagon.

"While we remain hopeful that this good faith effort by DoD at the national level actually reverses the rogue actions of management at places like the Army Corps," Biggs said, "we will keep fighting."

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