Pentagon releases long-awaited details on personnel reforms

Draft documents provide specifics on pay ranges, career paths and job classifications.

The Defense Department has released a number of key "implementing issuances" for its new National Security Personnel System, plugging some gaps in knowledge about the reforms under way.

NSPS is the Pentagon's program to refurbish its civilian personnel system. It supplants the General Schedule with broad paybands, ties pay raises to performance evaluations and limits union negotiation powers.

But NSPS regulations published Nov. 1 laid out only a framework. Crucial details such as the number of paybands, the salary ranges for each, career paths, job classifications and the performance factors upon which employees will be evaluated, were left to be determined by the implementing documents.

The issuances posted on the NSPS Web site last week are hundreds of pages long and address conversion into the new system, classification, compensation and performance management, among other subjects. They are drafts and still are subject to change after the department consults with union representatives.

According to the issuances, there will be four career groupings in NSPS: Standard, Scientific and Engineering, Medical, and Investigative and Protective Services. Each has subgroups, and each of the subgroups has its own pay schedules. The subgroups are as follows:

  • Standard: Professional/Analytical, Technician/Support, Supervisor/Manager and Student/Educational Employment.
  • Scientific and Engineering: Professional, Technical/Support, Supervisor/Manager.
  • Medical: Physician/Dental, Professional, Technician/Support, Supervisor/Manager.
  • Investigative and Protective Services: Investigative, Fire Protection, Police/Security Guard, Supervisor/Manager.

The classification implementing issuance lists every job with a corresponding career group. The document also includes descriptions for all of the jobs.

The draft documents also lay out paybands for the pay schedules assigned each career subgroup. For example, the Professional/Analytical pay schedule within the Standard career group has three paybands: Entry/Intern/Developmental (payband 1), Full Performance/Journey level (payband 2), and Subject Matter Expert/Program Manager level (payband 3).

Within that pay schedule, payband 1 ranges from GS-5 to GS-8, payband 2 from GS-9 to GS-13, and payband 3 from GS-14 to GS-15. At the time of conversion, the salary range for the bands will correlate to that for the GS grades within them, according to the issuances. The secretary of Defense will be able to adjust the pay ranges after that.

The paybands also will vary according to local markets. The Defense documents give an example that a payband with a salary range from $37,000 to $80,000 may be narrowed to $40,000 to $60,000 for the local market for a certain job. The local range would need to fall within the broad payband, however.

NSPS officials have said that market-adjusted pay rates will not be implemented for at least a year to give the department time to conduct market surveys for occupations in every location.

The issuances also get into the nitty-gritty of how performance-based raises will be calculated.

Employees will be awarded "shares" based on the average of their performance ratings in several categories. That average will fall on a scale of one to five, with five indicating a "role model" performance. An average rating of five will earn five to six shares, a four rating will earn three to four shares, a three rating will earn one to two shares and a two or one rating won't earn any.

To calculate raises under the new system, the department will multiply employees' base salaries by their ratings and add the results to arrive at a "Total Salary Share Product." The pay pool available will be divided by the Total Salary Share Product to calculate the value of a single share. Shares will thus be worth different amounts every time depending on how the rest of the employees in a pay pool perform.

Each review cycle, employees will be able to calculate their raises by multiplying their earned shares by the value of a single share, and then multiplying the result by their base salary.

The Pentagon plans to begin implementing NSPS in February, but a union lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia may cause a delay.

Judge Emmet Sullivan has set a Jan. 24 date for oral arguments on the case. The unions are accusing the Pentagon of failing to sufficiently consult with them during the creation of NSPS and of illegally curtailing collective bargaining, in large part because under the planned system, upper level department officials will be able to void existing contracts at any time after negotiations are finished.

At a hearing of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management two weeks ago, Sen. George Voinovich, R-Ohio, urged Defense officials to quickly publish the issuances in order to quell speculation.

"There's been a lot of apprehension about the issuances," Voinovich said. "The sooner we can see those, I think the better we'll all be."