Federal Eye: Defense Authorization Bill Repeals NSPS

Federal employees and their unions should remember Oct. 7, 2009: It’s the day they got to cross several items off their wish list.

The conference committee working on a compromise version of the Defense authorization bill (pdf) delivered several long-sought reforms impacting current and former federal employees, their salaries and the way the government measures their performance.

The big one: a repeal the controversial National Security Performance System, the Bush-era pay-for-performance program approved by Congress in 2003.

The Department of Defense would maintain more performance management and hiring flexibility than other agencies, but must end NSPS by Jan. 1, 2012. It cannot enact a new pay-for-performance system without submitting detailed proposals to Congress for approval.

Roughly 30 percent of the Defense Department’s civilian employees are part of NSPS, according to the Pentagon. Of those, only 749 employees are members of federal workers unions. But employees, federal unions, outside experts and lawmakers of both parties have long agreed that the program is ineffective, confusing and detrimental to employee morale.

“It’s a big day for us,” said John Gage, president of the American Federation of Government Employees. He thanked lawmakers for repealing what he called “a terrible idea.”

“It was just bad for employees and bad for the country. It wasn’t a motivator for federal employees. it wasn’t fair or open. It was a gimmick,” Gage said.

Lawmakers “could have punted on this issue,” said William R. Dougan, president of the National Federation of Federal Employee. Instead, “The committee took bold action, and I believe it was the right thing to do.”

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