American Federation of Government Employees, AFL-CIO

DoD Reveals to AFGE the Rumsfeld Plan for Stripping DoD Civilian Employees of Civil Service Protections and Replacing the General Schedule with Radical "Pay for Performance" Scheme

February 24, 2003

AFGE National Office staff have just been briefed by DoD officials on a plan that will be the blueprint for changes they will impose on DoD's entire civilian workforce if Secretary Rumsfeld gains the same "management flexibility" authority for DoD as the Administration won for the Dept. of Homeland Security. Rumsfeld has indicated that sometime in early March he will seek authority to waive several provisions of title 5 so that he will be able to dictate new pay, classification, hiring, firing, and performance appraisal systems. He'll call it the National Security Personnel System (NSPS).

What will the BP or NSPS look like? It will likely include a type of pay banding scheme with 5 career groups and as many as 4 bands per group. It will lengthen the time someone can be a term or temporary employee. It will allow local management to define the term "difficult to fill positions" and hire people for these positions on the spot, rather than competitively. It will expand the probationary period to as long as three years, and it will "dumb down" the scholastic achievement appointments so that a B average, rather than a B+, will be good enough.

Salaries will be described in pay bands, but the salary any individual will earn in any given year will depend on a supervisor's view of the individual worker's ability, competence, contribution to mission, or "performance." For example, if someone doesn't exhibit adequate "team spirit," it appears that her base salary could be lowered. If someone has a stress-inducing event in his life outside work, the supervisor can decide that the worker won't be able to perform at the level he has in the past, and could lower his salary. But since managers always naturally do the right thing, there's nothing to worry about. They are all-knowing, merciful and just, so the system should work just fine.

Supervisors will be the big winners in all this, as they guaranteed substantially higher salaries than those they supervise, regardless of the jobs of the non- supervisory staff. Even if the supervisor is young, inexperienced, uneducated, and only responsible for administrating this complicated personnel system, he or she will make at least 10% more than older, more experienced, highly educated workers with responsibilities and deadlines for complex projects and programs.

The financing for this "pay-for-performance" system will come from putting all funding for General Schedule ECI raises, within-grade increases, and promotions into one pot. Annual across-the-board increases, WIGIs, and promotions as defined under the GS system will be gone. (Although locality increases, in the plan, would continue, notwithstanding the fact that Bush tried to eliminate them this year and has proposed eliminating them next year as well). Indeed, the GS would no longer apply. After "mass conversion" into the "BP" there will be no grade retention, no GS classification, and no GS status. Instead, upon "mass conversion" workers will get a "buy-in" raise equivalent to a WIGI, which will double as that year's pay raise (except for managers and their subordinate supervisors, who will receive substantial raises.) After that, it's every man/woman for him/herself. One person's gain will be another's loss, even though everyone will be judged on "teamwork and cooperation."

The size of "performance" raises will vary by occupation. That is, if you are a low- grade employee, no matter how hard you work, how outstanding your performance, the size of your raise in percentage terms can never be as large as the raises available to more highly graded employees. This type of system guarantees that the highest performers in low bands will never earn as much as even the worst performers in the higher bands. So much for "pay for performance."

There will be 7 "performance factors" that will be used to justify pay raises, pay cuts, or pay stagnation on an individual by individual basis. They are: "technical competence/problem solving," "teamwork/cooperation," "communication," "customer care," "resource management," "leadership/supervision," and "contribution to mission." You can be judged as often as every 90 days or as rarely as once a year. Not all factors will apply to everyone - of course, the supervisor will make all these decisions. The plan itself calls for rigging the awards to make sure that the top 10% of performers "receive the bulk of performance awards or bonuses."

In a Reduction in Force (RIF), no credit will be given for length of service. The only objective criterion will be veteran's preference; otherwise, it is your supervisor's opinion that will determine your fate when there is a RIF. AFGE was briefed on this in the context of DoD's evaluation of numerous demonstration projects. The briefing focused on DoD's claim to have identified several so-called "best practices" that have emerged from demonstration projects affecting several scientific and technological reinvention laboratories (STRL) and parts of the civilian acquisition workforce (AcaDemo), and other alternative personnel systems experiences. The "best practices" (or "BP" as they call it) blueprint from the demos addresses: Pay banding, classification, hiring and appointment authorities, pay administration, a pay-for- performance evaluation system, sabbatical authority, a volunteer emeritus program, and revised reduction-in-force (RIF) procedures. It will soon be published in the Federal Register in the context of DoD's plans to modify existing demos and bring in more unrepresented DoD employees.

DoD will need to pass legislation to apply this to all DoD workers, and that legislation has not yet been introduced. Update: DoD intents to submit draft legislative language for Congressional sponsorship as early as March 10. Contact your Union office at x8721 for more information.