Concerns over pay loom as Pentagon returns to General Schedule

Managers’ association urge lawmakers to ensure top-performing Defense employees don’t lose pay.

The Federal Managers Association is asking lawmakers to ensure Pentagon employees do not lose salary as a result of the transition from the department's defunct pay-for-performance system.

"While the [2010] law explicitly states no employee shall lose or see a decrease in pay as they transition, I am concerned that this language will allow DoD officials to freeze future pay of top performers due to current [General Schedule] rules on pay retention," FMA National President Patricia Niehaus said in a May 14 letter to the leadership of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees.

According to Nieuhaus, since the average pay raise under the National Security Personnel System exceeded raises under the General Schedule, many NSPS employees are now, in terms of salary, a GS level above where they were when they entered NSPS. When these employees return to the GS grade they occupied prior to their conversion into NSPS, it is likely their salary will exceed the GS Step 10 level, Niehaus said. Under pay retention rules, these employees would receive only half the annual pay raise until the GS system catches up with them.

"We are increasingly concerned with the rush of DoD officials to transition employees out of NSPS without taking a close look at the number of employees likely to be subject to pay retention rules," Niehaus said.

An FMA survey of its members showed an average of 20 percent to 25 percent of employees are subject to pay retention rules. If FMA's members are representative of NSPS employees as a whole, then about 40,000 employees could face a decrease in pay.

"Many of these dedicated employees have crunched the numbers and determined that the General Schedule will not catch up with them by the time they retire over the next decade," Niehaus wrote. "This is unacceptable."

FMA is most concerned that pay retention would have the greatest effect on employees who were top performers under NSPS, which Niehaus said would send the message that above-average performance is not rewarded in the federal workplace.

"As members of the Federal Managers Association prepare to transition out of NSPS, I respectfully request that you take action to ensure high-performing DoD civil servants receive the compensation they have rightfully earned before they are forced to endure the effects of this unjust policy," the letter said.

The House Armed Services Committee will mark up the 2011 Defense authorization bill on Wednesday. Spokespeople from both the majority and the minority sides said they were unable to discuss the legislation heading into the markup. But it's likely the bill will address the NSPS transition, given the requirement that all Defense employees leave the system by Jan. 1, 2012.