Statement of Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter on the NSPS Amendment to the NDAA

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I am pleased to introduce this amendment regarding the National Security Personnel System - NSPS. It provides a responsible approach to resolving several problems with this controversial personnel system.


According to a November 2008 CBO review of NSPS, fewer than 20% of civilian DOD employees preferred NSPS to the previous personnel system.


It is not hard to see why that would be the case. The GAO has repeatedly found that employees and supervisors have serious concerns about the system's negative impact on morale and motivation; the excessive time that must be spent navigating the performance management process; and the lack of transparency in the rating process. Although the GAO has recommended that the Department develop changes to the NSPS plan to address these employee concerns, the DOD has refused, citing their desire that employees have more time under the system before making changes. Additional time in NSPS, however, does not resolve the problems inherent in the system. As the GAO found in 2008, the longer employees and managers were in NSPS, the more they disliked it.


In a Readiness Subcommittee hearing on NSPS in March 2007, Dr Marick Masters, Professor of Business Administration at the University of Pittsburgh, testified that "Pay-for-performance does not always work and may produce unintended negative consequences." The problem with NSPS, as Dr. Masters noted in his testimony, is that "the process is based heavily on supervisor ratings, and is highly subjective," The amount of judgment that managers must exercise in determining all of the ratings and pay decisions has caused systemic inequities and inconsistencies while doing nothing to protect employees from discrimination. The Federal Times analysis of payouts in 2008 and 2009 shows that white employees have been receiving higher average performance ratings, salaries, and bonuses than minority employees. Employees of the Defense agencies have been receiving higher ratings and payouts than their counterparts in the military services. In addition, performance ratings have not been consistent with payouts.


In February of this year, DOD suspended the conversion of its employees to NSPS in response to a request by Chairman Skelton and Readiness Subcommittee Chairman Ortiz. DOD then began a comprehensive review of NSPS that will be completed in September or October 2009. New hires, however, are still being placed in NSPS, and positions are being reclassified as NSPS - in advance of this review's findings.


My amendment prohibits that practice by prohibiting the DOD from placing employees in NSPS until after the review is completed.


My amendment also provides for conversion back to the General Schedule (or GS) of all NSPS employees within one year of enactment unless the Secretary of Defense notifies Congress of significant changes to NSPS. This language ensures that the review of NSPS will be completed in a timely manner and that the system will be reformed if it is to remain in place.


This amendment gives us the opportunity to take action this year on the recommendations resulting from the Department’s review of NSPS. Without this language, we would not be able to act until FY2011 and the serious problems would linger unresolved for yet another long year. Our dedicated federal workers deserve better than that.


This amendment also corrects an inequity for NSPS employees by fully restoring their annual nationwide adjustment. Currently, employees under NSPS who are rated "valued employee" and above, are guaranteed only 60% of the nationwide adjustment paid to all other civilian employees. Not only is it unfair to treat them differently, but this affects their income and even their future retirement benefits.


Finally my amendment also includes similar language on the Defense Civilian Intelligence Personnel System (DCIPS). Like NSPS, concerns have been raised about unfair performance ratings and negative impact on diversity. Chairman Skelton and Intelligence Committee Chairman Reyes requested that Secretary Gates and DNI Blair halt DCIPS, pending a review. Chairman Reyes has asked us to carry language covering the DOD defense intelligence employees, who also dislike their NSPS-like system.


Again, thank you Mr. Chairman. I would also like to thank your staff, especially Cathy Garman, who has been extremely helpful on this matter.