Most NSPS workers will return to the General Schedule by October

The majority of the 225,000 employees in the Pentagon's soon-to-be-defunct National Security Personnel System will move back to their old pay arrangements by Sept. 30, the NSPS Transition Office announced on Tuesday.

The transition office is in the process of certifying Defense Department offices' and organizations' plans for returning NSPS employees to their previous pay systems, and those offices will inform workers once the strategies are approved, according to the announcement. In the fiscal 2010 Defense authorization law, Congress gave the department until Jan. 1, 2012, to roll back the pay-for-performance system completely.

"We encourage organizations to share details of the transition with their workforce where appropriate," the transition office's director, John James Jr., said in a statement. "We will work to keep everyone informed as processes are solidified."

Matt Biggs, legislative director for the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers, which has opposed NSPS, praised Defense for moving quickly.

"Under the previous administration, management would have dragged their feet," Biggs said. "However, this acceleration shows a clear desire on DoD's part to move everyone back to the GS as quickly as possible."

Not all workers will fit neatly back into their old General Schedule grades and steps, either because their salaries have increased or because their job duties have changed. Classification specialists, managers and supervisors will work together to assign those employees to new grades and steps.

Once employees are reassigned to GS grades, several rules will apply. Workers whose salaries fall between two steps within a grade will be assigned to the higher salary step. If employees' salaries fall below Step 1 of the grade to which they've been assigned, their pay will be elevated to that first step.

And workers whose salaries are higher than the 10th step in their grade will be allowed to keep that higher salary. But they will receive just half of the annual federal pay raise until their colleagues in Grade 10 have a chance to catch up.

Darryl Perkinson, president of the Federal Managers Association, said he was concerned this setup would violate Congress' intent that no employees receive a pay cut when they move out of NSPS. While it would not give employees who had outgrown their pay grade an immediate salary decrease, the period of lower annual raises would essentially impose a long-term penalty for having done well under NSPS, he said. Such a plan is "not a very good motivator for people who want to stay in civil service," Perkinson said. He said FMA had discussed the matter with congressional staffers, and that it might require legislation to clarify lawmakers' intentions.

Lt. Col. April Cunningham, a Defense spokeswoman, said department officials still were determining what to do with employees who came into NSPS from alternate pay systems, especially those that have since been discontinued.

"Transition dates for these employees will be determined after options are fully explored and decisions are made," Cunningham said.

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