Can we have a word with you?

By March 16, the end of the comment period, DOD officials had catalogued more than 58,000 letters, possibly the most responses ever to changes proposed by the department. And most of the respondents opposed the plan.
"We expected a large number of comments on the proposed NSPS regulations and wanted to leverage technology to assist us in capturing, organizing and analyzing those comments," said Brad Bunn, NSPS' deputy program executive officer.
Officials scanned e-mail and written notes and published them on NSPS' Web site. In comparison, the Homeland Security Department, which is also developing a pay-for-performance system, received only 3,800 comments, Bunn said.
Mary Lacey, NSPS' program executive officer, said the new program would be the most important change in the federal personnel system in half a century. "It will provide DOD with a modern, flexible and agile human resources system that can be more responsive to the national security environment, while enhancing employee involvement, protections and benefits," she said.
But most employees who sent comments to DOD don't like the proposal. "I think this is the worst thing to happen to people who help support our troops at war or peace time," one comment states.
"What the DOD really needs is performance leadership, not a new performance management system," another e-mail says.
"I believe the proposed NSPS will undermine the civil service and hurt the mission of DOD," one handwritten note states.
Most respondents indicated that they do not want DOD to replace the civil service pay system with one that rewards performance and eliminates annual raises, said Mark Gibson, a labor relations specialist with the American Federation of Government Employees, which represents more than 220,000 federal employees.
CommentWorks is used throughout the government, especially at agencies that require a public comment period for changing rules and regulations.
"DOD is making robust use of the tool," said Gary Light, ICF's vice president. "It is the first time that DOD is using the product."

Spirits brighter at Tobyhanna
Reid Coploff

COOLBAUGH TWP. - Despite avoiding a hit list and being poised to gain an estimated 275 jobs during a military downsizing, the sense of relief at Tobyhanna Army Depot is now giving way to guarded optimism.

An influx of jobs could be anywhere from two to six years off, provided the 2005 Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission concurs with the Pentagon's downsizing plan. For now, many at Tobyhanna will watch targeted bases fight for their respective lives. But one local official warned against becoming too complacent.

“The pressure's off a little bit, but it's not over yet," said Keith Hill, a Depot employee and president of American Federation of Government Employees Local No. 1647, which represents about half of the depot's employees.

The Pentagon's recommendations came May 13 in the department's initial list of recommended closures, which targets 33 large bases and 26,187 jobs nationwide.

Between now and Sept. 8, the nine-member commission will review the hundreds of pages of documents, visit many of the nation's bases and hold hearings so that it can give President Bush its final recommendations.

Until those final recommendations, though, supporters of bases marked for closure will lobby commissioners to prove their base's military and economic value. Tobyhanna supporters know this all too well, having experienced the same thing in 1995 when the depot was added to the closure list by the commission.

Last week four of the nine commission members visited a submarine base in Groton, Conn., which is slated to close and take with it 8,460 jobs. They faced thousands of residents who lined the streets along with the state's governor, one U.S. Senator and two other congressmen.

When the list was released last month, Texas Gov. Rick Perry created a "Strike Force," to try to keep the four state bases recommended for closure open, even though his state is set to gain 6,150 if the list is passed as is. Two of the bases bringing jobs to Tobyhanna are in Texas, a state that set aside $54 million in recent months in anticipation of the downsizing process.

The new jobs would come from:

- Part of the depot maintenance of tactical vehicles from Red River Army Depot in Texarkana, Texas, which would be closed.

- The depot maintenance of several types of electronics equipment from the Marine Corps Logistics Base in Barstow, Calif., which would be realigned.

- The depot maintenance of several types of electronics equipment from the Naval Weapons Station in Seal Beach, Calif., which would be realigned.

- The depot maintenance of computers, non-airborne electronics components and radio from Lackland Air Force Base, near San Antonio, Texas, which would be realigned.

Depot Commander Tracy L. Ellis said after the list came out that the new jobs would make the depot the primary center for communications-electronics for all four branches of the military.

Of course, things can change during the commission's meetings. The main difference between this year and 1995, though, is that a super majority, 7 of 9 commissioners is now needed to add a base to the list, when 10 years ago only 5 of 8 commissioners were needed.

Pennsylvania officials aren't sitting on their hands, as the state is set to lose 1,878 jobs.

About $1 million remains in the state's Base Retention and Conversion grant program, said Kate Phillips, spokeswoman for Gov. Ed Rendell.

The program started with $4 million to try to keep the state's bases open. Thirteen mostly small installations are listed for closure, while six are set to be realigned.

Now that the list is out, Ms. Phillips said the remaining money will go to bases set to be closed.

"The focus has changed from pushing all of the bases across the state to just those that were targeted," she said.

The Blue Ribbon Task Force, a community group formed by the Northeastern Pennsylvania Alliance to keep Tobyhanna open, has already received two grants totalling $157,584, from the state. They've signed a contract for $100,000 to use to either actively recruit new jobs at the facility for reutilize the land in the case of closure, said NEPA Alliance Chief Executive Officer and task force co-chair Cameron Moore.

"We'll probably use some if not all of that money," he said.

The task force has also raised about $160,000 from local governments and individuals. About $50,000 of that money has been spent so far, Mr.

Moore said. The majority of it, over 80 percent, was used on a Washington, D.C.-based lobbyist, Barry Steinberg, whose job included identifying the depot's strengths and weaknesses and any locations where Tobyhanna could gain jobs.

The task force probably won't need to raise any additional money unless the depot is added to the list later, Mr. Moore said.

If any new defense jobs come to Northeastern Pennsylvania it remains to be seen how many are for local residents and how many will be transplanted.

"The people in those jobs normally get first shot," Mr. Moore said.

Mr. Toolan said, in 1995, a higher percentage chose not to move.

The grant money could be used, Mr. Moore said, to acquaint new people with the area or make sure local residents know that new jobs are available at the depot. Mr. Hill said he knows several people at the depot who relocated from California 10 years ago, but acknowledges that many jobs were filled locally.

"Not everyone wants to uproot their family," he said.

Flemming Award Winner Applauded for Work on Space Program
By Stephen Barr
Monday, June 6, 2005; B02
E leven government employees will be cited for their extraordinary achievements in science and program management at the 56th annual Arthur S. Flemming Awards ceremony this evening.
The Flemming Awards recognize public servants with three to 15 years of experience for their contributions to the federal government. The award is named after the longtime public servant, Medal of Freedom recipient and president of three universities who died in 1996.
One of the award winners, Air Force Maj. Stephon James Tonko , said he was honored to have been selected and praised the program as "a great way to recognize public service."
Tonko was cited by the awards commission for leading an effort to use "key space capabilities" to support combat troops after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
He was the program manager for 13 classified space and intelligence programs and a $4 billion global system while assigned to the Space Superiority Materiel Wing at Los Angeles Air Force Base. In 2004, he used his program management skills to save the Air Combat Command more than $10 million and leveraged an additional $25 million to rescue an Air Force Space Command system from budget cuts, according to the commission.
Asked about his work, Tonko said his efforts have been directed toward looking for solutions in outer space than can help war fighters on the ground.
"Space is part of our everyday lives now," he said. "It has gone way past the moonwalks. There are a lot of different applications."
Tonko began his Air Force career 13 years ago as a missile launch officer and has worked in various fields, including satellite testing and space program acquisition, and as a staff officer focusing on programs and budgets.
"I've been fortunate to work with some sharp and smart folks in the space business," he said. In working on programs, he said, his philosophy has been to "be educated and stay engaged" and strive for smart decisions when using taxpayer dollars.
Tonko, a native of northern Minnesota, is the executive officer for the director of Air Force space acquisitions, based in Rosslyn.
This year's award winners are:
For scientific contributions -- Jose E. Barrera of the Air Force, Keith L. Cartwright of the Air Force, Daniel A. Fischer of the National Institute of Standards and Technology, Steven R. Jefferts of the NIST, Keith R. Lykke of the NIST, Gareth Wyn Parry of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Paul D. Schirmer of the Air Force and Jun Ye of the NIST.
For program management -- Jeanette Meixner Franzel of the Government Accountability Office and Daniel I. Gordon of the GAO and Tonko.
David M. Walker , the head of the GAO, will deliver the keynote address at the ceremony at George Washington University. The event is sponsored by BearingPoint Inc., Science Applications International Corp. and Touchstone Consulting Group.
Labor Talks
Closed-door talks between Pentagon officials and labor leaders over the Defense Department's plans to create a new personnel system have ended. The talks, which began April 18, concluded with a two-day session last week.
In a statement, Mark Roth , general counsel at the American Federation of Government Employees, said of the talks, "I never participated in a greater exercise in futility."
A Defense spokeswoman, however, said the department "gained a great deal from the process and will make several recommended changes to the proposed regulation as a result of union input."
Union leaders will meet with Gordon England , the acting deputy defense secretary, and Dan G. Blair , acting director at the Office of Personnel Management, mid-month for a review of the talks, but a spokesman for a labor coalition said he doubted that the session would resolve major differences over collective bargaining rights and other issues.
John P. Cullen , a senior weapons test engineer at the Naval Surface Warfare Center's Dahlgren Division, is retiring after more than 38 years of federal service.
Les Gray , deputy commissioner of the Federal Supply Service at the General Services Administration, retired June 3 after 34 years of federal service. During his career, he led a number of GSA organizations and was the first assistant commissioner for the Office of Vehicle Acquisition and Leasing Services.

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