Pay Banding at China Lake and Point Mugu

Pay banding utilizes a 5-point performance grading system with "1" being the highest score. Until recently, NAWCTSD also used a 5-point performance grading system, but with "5" being the highest score. As the following tables show, a much higher portion of NAWCTSD's employees got top scores under the GS pay system than of China Lake's employees under pay banding.

Performance Ratings History at China Lake under pay banding
("1" = highest score):
Year\score 1     2     3    4    5
1983      9.3% 31.2% 59.0% 0.3% 0.2%
1984     13.9  42.2  43.5  0.4  0.07
1985      9.8  31.4  58.6  0.1  0.1
1986      9.8  32.4  57.6  0.2  0.0
1987      9.5  34.9  55.3  0.3  0.0
1988      8.2  35.5  56.1  0.1  0.1
1989      9.9  32.6  57.1  0.3  0.0
1990      8.8  34.6  56.3  0.3  0.01
1991      7.9  35.7  56.1  0.4  0.0
1992      7.7  38.5  56.3  0.3  0.1
1993*     8.6  38.2  52.8  0.2  0.2
1994      9.8  37.9  52.1  0.1  0.1
1995     10.3  39.0  50.2  0.2  0.01
1996     10.7  40.8  48.1  0.0  0.0
1997     10.5  42.5  46.6  0.4  0.0
1998     11.3  44.6  44.1  0.0  0.0
1999     10.8  46.8  42.2  0.0  0.0
2000     11.3  45.9  42.6  0.1  0.2
2001     12.2  45.7  42.0  0.1  0.0

China Lake's grading history under pay banding, with scores most heavily concentrated in the middle score ("3"), contrasts with NAWCTSD's under GS series, which has historically been most heavily concentrated in the top two scores ("4", and "5"):

NAWCTSD GS Performance Ratings for 1995/1996/1997
("5" = highest score):
                       Above      Fully
        Outstanding    Fully    Successful
           ("5")     Successful    ("3")
Code      95/96/97    95/96/97    95/96/97
             (%)         (%)         (%)
Code 1    67 69 79    32 29 20     1  2  1
Code 2    63 61 73    31 32 23     6  7  4
Code 3    43 56 63    51 36 33     6  8  4
Code 4*   46 50 62    47 46 36     1  4  2
Code 7    59 63 75    35 32 21     6  5  4
Code 8    45 57 56    30 32 36    25 11  8
--------  -- -- --    -- -- --    -- -- --
TSD WIDE  52 56 66    42 39 31     6  5  3

Under pay banding, pay raises and bonuses depend on performance ratings. Since there is limited money with with to grant raises and bonuses, high scores would have to be limited (shared) regardless of performance. Furthermore, it is necessary to receive a score of "1" or "2" in order to cross over the midpoint of any given pay band. Performance ratings are determined by management. China Lake reported that under pay banding, their management personnel tended to advance in pay faster than non-management personnel.

The article reprinted below was published in the wake of a Reduction In Force (RIF) action under pay banding. Underlined sections below are commentary added by the person who sent us this article:


August 25, 2000
Report blasts job cuts at Mugu

Inspector General's Office says Navy discriminated against older workers

By By Raul Hernandez Ventura County Star writer Friday August 25, 2000

Top civilian managers at the Point Mugu and China Lake Navy bases inappropriately, and perhaps illegally, cut more than 300 civilian jobs last year, according to a Navy probe into complaints that officials unfairly targeted older workers.

The report, by the Naval Air System Command's Inspector General's Office in Washington, D.C., contends these civilian managers also tried to stop the investigation into employee claims that officials rigged a job performance rating system by routinely posting poor reports for older employees. The report, finished in April, was obtained this week by the Ventura County Star.

The Navy bases reduced the work force last year as part of the Pentagon's ongoing efforts to save billions by changing the way military bases do business. Naval civilian managers have repeatedly maintained that employees were treated fairly during the so-called reduction-in-force, or RIF, job cuts and reclassifications. But the Inspector General's 16-page report disputes this. It concludes that managers treated employees unfairly, engaged in a cover-up and ordered the IG's top investigator, Harry L. Carter, to stop the probe and destroy his findings. Carter, however, refused to do so. "It is impossible to conclude anything else except that the employees were not treated fairly during the RIF and possibly even treated illegally," Carter wrote in his report.

Carter said his investigation team, along with EEOC and Human Resources officials, were told repeatedly last year by an "overwhelming number" of employees that the RIF had major flaws. "People focus" sessions at Point Mugu and China Lake were held to deal with the reduction of jobs and to gauge morale. But shortly after the meetings, base managers at the personnel department said reduction-in-force concerns and issues were never raised by employees at the meetings.

Carter said he met in April 1999 in Washington with top civilian officials at the Naval Air Systems Command, and advised them to hold off on additional job cuts scheduled for November, pending the conclusion of the IG investigation. But these officials, including Richard A. Findley, assistant commander for corporate operations, and Linda E. Eldridge, supervisory management analyst, ignored his advice, Carter wrote. "(Findley) did nothing and let perhaps dozens of innocent employees be unfairly impacted by RIF," Carter said. Carter declined to talk about the investigation Thursday, saying Navy rules require reporters to first go through the Navy's Public Affairs Office. Findley is retired and couldn't be located. Lola Hilton, spokeswoman for the Naval Air Systems Command in Washington, D.C., referred questions to Steve Boster, head of public affairs at Point Mugu.

Boster, in turn, said he would fax any questions back to Washington. He said it would take time to prepare a response to the report. "We are not prepared to make any comment at this time beyond that."

Discrimination suits

Many employees who lost their jobs have been very vocal, filing grievances and lawsuits, and writing letters to Congress complaining about the personnel system they claim discriminates against older workers. Carmichael Smith-Low, an attorney representing 57-year-old John Jay, who lost his electronic engineer post at Point Mugu after 32 years, said it's no secret what base officials intended. "The purpose was to get rid of the deadwood, which translated into getting rid of the old people," he said.

Ironically, Carter contends in his report that command management was banking on the premise that employees affected by RIF wouldn't be smart enough to successfully challenge the Navy. "Basically, a decision was made by these command officials that if any employee tried to challenge the validity of RIF, they would not be smart enough to bring up the right issues to cause us liability in court," Carter noted. But instead, Jay and other employees, former and current, hired attorneys, filed appeals and lodged age-discrimination suits. Jay alleges in his lawsuit that those who got low job performance ratings were given pink slips or put in the so-called available talent pool, "the Corporate Resources Availability Program List or CRAP List." He alleges this list contained a disproportionate number of older workers, disabled workers and those who filed complaints with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Jay's suit, which is pending, alleges age and disability discrimination. He is seeking more than $1 million in damages. Jay is appealing his job loss with the Merit System Protection Board in Washington. Navy management maintains he voluntarily agreed to leave the post.

Job performance

To shore up discrimination claims for the lawsuit, Jay's lawyers, Smith-Low and Jack Futoran, hired economics-discrimination expert Harriet Zellner, a professor at Rutgers University. Zellner concludes in a three-page 1999 statement that there existed a "disparate impact discrimination against older workers" in the pay-for-performance scores from 1992 to 1998 at the Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division, Point Mugu and China Lake. Futoran explained that some military bases and federal agencies, including Point Mugu and China Lake, have for years cut jobs through a personnel system that scores job performance higher than seniority or veteran status. The idea, he said, was to rid the federal government of lazy, unproductive workers. "There is nothing wrong with the theory," Futoran said. But now, he said, the federal government wants to broaden the use of this job performance system to implement RIF job cuts. The problem, he said, is that this leaves too much control to managers, who can use it to give higher ratings to young workers and dole out poor performance scores to older workers. "This system gives managers all sorts of authority that they did not have before, and they have skewed the (RIF) results," Futoran said. "There are actually ramifications nationwide."

Cover-up attempt

Carter wrote that the top civilian brass wanted to wrestle the investigation out of his hands in February and put it into their domain. Carter stated in the report that this move was an attempt to cover up his findings. "The report would then not be releasable to complainants/or those interviewed during the investigation," Carter surmised in the report. When this didn't work, Carter said, civilian officials and base lawyers began to question the validity of the Inspector General's investigation. "Legal expressed the opinion that the findings of the investigation had not been substantiated so, therefore, were not legitimate findings. During this meeting (Findley) reiterated his position that he was never fully briefed as to what our (investigative team) findings were. Both preceding comments struck (and still strike) me as amusing," Carter wrote. Carter stated he told his detractors that he's conducted many similar investigations for the Navy over nearly eight years. "I have never been questioned by legal on any other investigation," he said. Carter stated in the report that Findley and others then began attacking his character. Findley accused him of having a "hidden agenda" and of "inventing problems" where they didn't exist. Carter also was accused of "falsifying the investigation by intentionally asking misleading questions in order to get the results we wanted," the report states. Carter said he told Findley that it was "impossible" to falsify the results. Findley backed off, the report states, but told Carter and his team of investigators to suspend their investigation until he talked to base lawyers about who should be conducting the IG RIF investigation. Carter backed off. Findley, however, never gave Carter and his team the green light to proceed, Carter said in his report. And Findley allowed the job cuts to proceed on schedule.

-- Raul Hernandez's e-mail address is

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