Department of Defense sued over new rules for civilian employees

Until the suit is resolved, those provisions are on hold, said Don Hale, West Point union president.
“You really can’t implement one without the other, or you can’t do it very easily, so our agreement is they won’t implement anything until February 1 st or until the judge comes out with a ruling,” he said.
The union is concerned about a provision that would give the Defense Department the right to transfer a civilian employee anywhere in the world and terminate the worker if he or she rejects the assignment.

A Merit Makeover Shakes Up The Feds
December 19, 2005

Many federal employees are used to seeing one point of view in publications that cater to the federal workforce. Here is an editorial that appeared in the Northwest Florida Daily News with a different point of view on a topic that impacts many federal employees. Reprinted with permission of Freedom Communications, Inc.

Americans are almost unanimous in carping about big, wasteful, unresponsive government. Yet almost every effort to improve the way federal agencies function comes to naught, due in part to resistance from government employee labor unions.

The unions were out in force again last week, protesting proposed changes in personnel and pay systems at the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security.

“Bush has turned the government into America’s No. 1 union buster,” AFLCIO Executive Vice President Linda Chavez-Thompson said at a Washington press conference. But that’s a stretch.

What has the unions in a tizzy is a Bush administration plan to de-emphasize the old General Schedule system, which sets pay scales according to what GS ranking a worker achieves, in favor of a merit- and performancebased pay system that actually dares to differentiate between the motivated federal worker and the deadwood.

The GS system is based on seniority. It rewards longevity over performance, very much the way teachers in the public school system traditionally have been paid. And higher GS ratings are handed out more or less mechanically, like merit badges minus the merit.

The new system would, at least in theory, infuse new life into a stagnant arrangement by rewarding workers who excel. That’s what rankles the unions.

The new Defense Department system would permit the paying of “performance shares” to employees who outperform peers and allow supervisors to pay bonuses to outstanding performers, to help bring some parity with private-sector pay. The new guidelines also warn, correctly, that “inappropriate overuse of the bonus could result in morale, recruitment and retention problems.”

The Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security are far too important to be treated like every other hopeless bureaucratic backwater. If the agencies are going to compete with the private sector for the best and the brightest, they need an updated arsenal of management tools. And the unions can’t be allowed to drag them backward.

Union honchos fear that if these reforms can take hold in the federal government, they could spread elsewhere. John Gage, president of the American Federation of Government Employees, whined: “We know that if it happens to us, state and local governments will be next.”

And wouldn’t that be wonderful.

Representatives from the Department of Defense and a coalition of 36 unions have wrapped up a series of meetings in which they discussed the National Security Personnel System.

The two sides met in early December and again last week to discuss seven recently-released NSPS Implementing Issues.

“We feel the meetings were very informative, and we hope the unions did also,” said Joyce Frank, spokeswoman for DoD. “We’ve identified some issues we need to clarify,” said Frank, adding that the meetings “provided a lot of give and take.”

Union representatives were not as upbeat about the meetings.

“From the beginning, DoD’s concept of conferring with the unions has been to tell us it’s either too early or too late to meet. Now they are trying to give us the worst of both worlds. After six months of dancing around all the details of the new NSPS, DoD has dropped four-hundred pages of technical rules and concepts on us and unilaterally mandated that we respond after the holidays. Truly, they give new meaning to the concept of bad faith,” said Mark Roth, general counsel to the American Federation of Government Employees.

According to DoD, the unions have until the end of the year to submit questions and concerns about NSPS in writing. The Department extended the deadline for correspondence concerning Workforce Shaping, which discusses how DoD may realigned its civilian positions, until mid-January. Frank also said that DoD will be available for conference calls through the end of the year.

DoD released the long-awaited regulations in late October and published more details in November.

Two weeks ago, DoD posted a 25-page primer of the personnel system’s proposed human capital components. The document defines key terms and the system’s compensation structure, staffing flexibilities and performance management components.

DoD originally had wanted to begin implementing NSPS last month, but delayed the personnel system until Feb. 1, 2006, at the earliest. A coalition of federal unions, led by AFGE, has filed a lawsuit seeking to derail the personnel system. (See DoD DELAYS NSPS UNTIL FEBRUARY at

The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia will begin hearing the case Jan. 24, 2006.

Congress Clamps a Lid on Outsourcing of Government Work
By Stephen Barr
Tuesday, December 20, 2005; B02
Congress, in an effort to protect federal jobs, has placed restrictions on the Bush administration's program that uses cost-comparison studies to determine whether "commercial" activities performed by the government should be turned over to contractors.
One of the more significant curbs was contained in the fiscal 2006 spending bill for the departments of Transportation, Treasury and Housing and Urban Development. The provision applies across the government -- except for the Defense Department and the Transportation Security Administration's airport screener operation -- and became law Nov. 30.
The fiscal 2006 defense spending bill, approved by the House yesterday and sent to the Senate, would place a similar limit on the Defense Department's conversion of federal jobs to contractor jobs.
The president's "competitive sourcing" initiative calls for studies to determine whether certain types of work performed by federal employees can be done by the private sector at less cost. In policy statements, the White House has pointed out that job competitions conducted in fiscal 2003 and 2004 are projected to produce five-year savings totaling $2.5 billion. Federal employees have won 90 percent of the job competitions, officials also point out.
But federal unions have lobbied against the job competitions, arguing that the rules are tilted against employees and that estimates of cost savings are overstated or cannot be proved. Industry groups contend that agencies should be able to outsource work if it helps them manage their budgets or better accomplish their goals.
The new law will allow 10 or more federal employees to set up a "most efficient organization" to bid against contractors for the government work. Previously, only groups representing at least 65 federal employees could compete.
The law also prohibits agencies from contracting out activities involving 10 or more federal jobs unless the contractor's bid comes in $10 million or 10 percent lower.
Although President Bush 's senior advisers had warned of a possible veto if the restrictions on outsourcing were adopted, a spokesman at the Office of Management and Budget said the administration "determined that these provisions do not significantly erode the president's management agenda."
Alex Conant , the OMB spokesman, said officials "will monitor the impact" of the limits on competitive sourcing and, if found too restrictive, will work with Congress "to fix them." Conant said OMB officials are drafting additional guidelines for agencies "to help them successfully compete work."
The spending bill for the Defense Department carries provisions similar to the Transportation-Treasury law. It goes a step further, however, by including a section that would not permit contractors to gain an advantage in their bids if they offer less generous health insurance benefits than those paid by the Defense Department on behalf of its civil service employees.
Third Appointee to Join MSPB
The Senate has confirmed Mary M. Rose as a member of the Merit Systems Protection Board, a quasi-judicial agency that hears appeals from federal employees who face dismissal, demotion or other disciplinary action.
Her nomination by the president was approved Saturday. She was appointed to a seven-year term, expiring March 1, 2011.
Rose has served as vice chairman of the Federal Salary Council, which advises the president on locality pay adjustments, and as chairman of the Federal Prevailing Rate Advisory Committee, which helps set policy on blue-collar pay in the government. She helped recruit political appointees for the Bush administration in 2001.
She is a former deputy undersecretary of management at the Education Department. She graduated from the Bon Secours School of Nursing.
The board operates with three members. Neil A.G. McPhie is the chairman, and his term ends in March 2009. The other board member is Barbara J. Sapin , and her term expires in March 2007.
Chris Early , manager of the policy management division of the Federal Aviation Administration's office of human resource management, will retire Dec. 31 after 26 years of federal service. He played a key role in the development of the FAA's Core Compensation System.
Don Rider , counsel for labor and employment law at the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., will retire Dec. 31 after more than 30 years of federal service. He began his career at the National Labor Relations Board and included a stint at the Federal Labor Relations Authority.

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