06 November 2009

Civilian Policy Recommendations

Last month, the President and Congress directed the Department of Defense to terminate the National Security Personnel System (NSPS). "The Secretary of Defense shall take all actions which may be necessary to provide, beginning no later than 6 months after the date of enactment of this Act, for the orderly termination of the National Security Personnel System and conversion of all employees and positions from such System, by not later than January 1, 2012, to the statutory pay system [applicable before the conversion to NSPS]." No employee shall suffer any loss of or decrease in pay during and after the pay system transition.

I believe this decision provides us with an opportunity to evaluate our current civilian policies beyond those specific to NSPS to ensure they enable mission accomplishment, reward initiative, and provide opportunities for career advancement.

In order to back out of NSPS and create a smooth transition to a new system, we need your advice and recommendations. What policies are working and should be preserved? What policies should Navy and DoD change? What other ideas do you have that may result in attracting and retaining our civilian talent?  All the best, JCHjr


David C. Phillips said...

As a designated command change agent and later program manager for NSPS, I've been through the entire gauntlet of get ready training and preparations, training of managers and employees, implementation, more training regarding objective writing, coaching/supervising, training on how to assess and write assessments, and more. Then, I selected managers to be trained and form the pay pool panel. To date I've lead, as alternate pay pool manager, two complete pay pool panels.

All of that said, this took way more time and effort than would justify the outcome. NSPS, which did not improve supervisor-employee interface/communications or relations, took my supervisors and managers away from performing their "day job" at least 25% of the time. While one would argue that supervising employees is their day job, that is not the case at my command. Supervisor and managers, over many years, have become working supervisors/managers. And, the final outcome was that most employees got about what they would have gotten under the previous system. Some a handful of true superstars did benefit considerably, but those folks aren't the ones motivated by salary increases and/or bonuses anyway. (And, they're the same superstars year after year.)

I do not oppose a pay-for-performance system, but there has to be something simplier than NSPS. I can't afford the time required.

shipmate said...


I believe that pay for performance is a good system but Mr. Phillips is right in that any new system has to be simplified. As a pay pool member I can assure you that "subjective" is a kind way of describing the current system.

When I was getting my MBA I studied this issue a lot and frankly, we made the pay for performance model way too hard with NSPS. We spend a lot of time validating that most people are simply "valued employees" who are solid "3.333" on the scale. I would suggest that a system similar to the officer fitreps would actually be very easy to implement, would meet the union requirement, and would allow for metrics of performance that could be measured. Forced distribution would be a problem (you couldn't legally do it) but you could look at how a reporting senior grades, provide granularity in performance and move closer to an objective analysis of performance. A simple form with goals and objectives and a measure of 1.0 to 5.0 works. And it could easily be adapted to the "old" GS scale.

No matter what system we end up with - and I suspect that it will be difficult to avoid going back to the GS system - we have to have a mandatory link to FORCE military supervisors to be accountable for their civilian personnel. I find it very common that most military supervisors just sign whatever is put in front of them, don't do the hard work of communicating with their people, and certainly avoid doing anything that even looks like career management with their civilian partners.

That is a shame because our civilian workforce serves as THE long-term stakeholder in our command. This is why I beleive that a system that combines a fitrep like form with the old GS scales is probably worth considering.

Again, thanks for the opportunity to contribute

Very respectfully,


Jim Moir said...


Great comments 1 and 2. I have 20+ in uniform and 10 years as a DON civilian. As a supervisor, the most urgent and ultimately important personnel issue for me is finding a more equitable conduit to ingest young talent into our workforce. I need young, sharp minds right now. Yet, I can't get past Veteran Preference and PPP to get to those young bright minds who have the skills I need, because they lack the requisite military experience or connection that current system demands.

I apologize I can't bring a solution to the table. I'm one of those old fogeys I'm talking about. And I understand our responsibility to the injured,disabled and displaced vets and family members that have a rightful place in the job queue. I'm not an HR type, but perhaps we can create a process that designates appropriate positions as "gateway" positions to get those new thinkers we need. The intern program is a start, but we need more avenues to refresh the force.


Disadv civilian said...

As you are aware we are going back into the GS system NLT 2012. My concern is this years paypool payout-- after attending the civilan townhall I read the brief that was posted on the ED's web page and noted this years pay out in the backup slides but was never discussed by the ED (was this a secret?. As I understand, this year the payout for the headquarters staff civilians will be calculated differently than the fleet. The change in policy execution clearly is more advantageous to the senior civilians of the staff as opposed to the majority of the civilian workforce. Couple of issues here, why is the headquarters staff being treated differently (disadvantaged) and this will only result in another morale deflator. I realize that you are very busy, but please confirm that you were briefed on this exception to policy and/or did you approve this major cut to the staff civilian payout? Since we have been in NSPS, the staff and fleet have always applied the payout policy the same, so why is this year different?. Signed Disadvantaged Civilians

DisadvantagedCivilia said...

Concerned about this years headquarters staff paypool payout. The staff has applied the same payout rules as the fleet, except for this year. The payout will end up being 30/70 vice 70/30 with the senior civilians benefiting yet again. The payout was not discussed during the civilian townhall by the ED, but the brief was posted on the ED web page with the payout information found in the backup slides of his brief. Please confirm that you approved this paypool pay out for this year. Dis Civilian

ADM J.C. Harvey, Jr said...

Mr Phillips, I agree whole-heartedly about the need for greater simplicity in whatever system takes the place of NSPS - the administrative processes associated with NSPS were indeed a time-sump of epic proportions.

Shipmate, one of the things I liked about NSPS was that we had to link individual performance goals directly to the organization's goals and it forced greater interaction between military supervisors and the civilians they led.
I'm sorry you didn't see the improved engagement between military leaders and their civilian workforce that I thought I saw under NSPS.
You're absolutely right that all too often in the past there was no meaningful engagement of the kind that was needed. In whatever system replaces NSPS, it'll be important to strengthen the links between the civilan workforce and the uniformed supervisors and force real investments in opportunities for civilian professional development.

Disadvantaged Civilians - I'll get with Mr Honecker today, 16 November, on the details of this year's paypool payout and be back to you this afternoon.

All the best, JCHjr

ADM J. C. Harvey, Jr said...

Disadvantaged Civilians - I met with Mr Honecker this afternoon to discuss the conerns you expressed in your posts.

Here's where we are:

1) No determination has yet been made on the specifics of this year's pay-out distribution. That said, I will ensure that whatever plan we decide upon, we will use a consistent approach across the entire USFFC claimancy, to include the USFFC staff.

2) Mr Honecker will brief me in early December on the proposed Fleet paypool percentages/splits before they are executed.

3) In January, the Fleet paypool results will be communicated Fleet-wide via the USFFC portal; you will be briefed individually by your rating official on your final rating of record.

All the best, JCHjr