Proponents of the Department of Defense’s proposed National Security Personnel System received a little good news Tuesday with an endorsement of sorts from the Government Accountability Office.
Not to be outdone, opponents of the new system received a measure of good news as well – an endorsement of sorts by the same Government Accountability Office.
Which leads to the obvious question: huh?
In written testimony prepared for the House Government Reform Subcommittee on the Federal Workforce and Agency Organization, Comptroller General David Walker of GAO sprinkled praise…and concern about the new reforms. On one hand, Walker indicated that the reforms are a step in the right direction.
“Many of the principles underlying the proposed NSPS regulations are generally consistent with proven approaches to strategic human capital management.”
Conversely, he also sees the potential for missteps that could fester into roadblocks along the way.
“First, DOD has considerable work ahead to define the details of the implementation of its system, including such issues as adequate safeguards to help ensure fairness and guard against abuse.”
Clear as mud, you say?
Actually, Walker was very clear concerning the areas for praise and concerns, listing them as follows:
“The first positive feature is that the proposed regulations provide for many elements of a flexible and contemporary human resources management system-such as pay bands and pay for performance. The second positive feature is that the proposed regulations will allow DOD to right-size its workforce when implementing reduction-in-force (RIF) orders. For example, DOD will be able to give greater priority to employee performance in RIF decisions and make more factors into consideration when defining the areas in which employees will compete for retention. The third positive feature is that DOD has pledged to engage in a continuing collaboration with employee representatives. On March 16, 2005, the 30-day public comment period on the proposed regulations ended. On March 28, 2005, DOD and OPM notified the Congress that they are about to begin the meet and confer process with employee representatives who provided comments on the proposed regulations. (It should be noted that 10 federal labor unions have filed suit alleging that DOD failed to abide by the statutory requirements to include employee representatives in the development of DOD’s new labor relations system authorized as part of NSPS.)”
Likewise, there are areas of concern, which he outlined accordingly:
“However, in addition to the litigation referenced above, our initial work indicates three primary areas of concern. First, DOD has considerable work ahead to define the details of the implementation of its system, including such issues as adequate safeguards to help ensure fairness and guard against abuse. Second, in setting performance expectations, the proposed regulations would allow the use of core competencies to communicate to employees what is expected of them on the job, but the proposed regulations do not require the use of these core competencies. Requiring such use can help provide consistency and clarity in performance management. Third, the proposed regulations do not identify a process for the continuing involvement of employees in the planning, development, and implementation of NSPS.”
So Walker also indicated in the testimony three recommendations for DoD to move forward:
– Develop the position of Deputy Secretary of Defense for Management, who would act as DOD’s Chief Management Officer. This position is essential to elevate, integrate, and institutionalize responsibility for the success of DOD’s overall business transformation efforts, including its new human resources management system;
– Develop a comprehensive communications strategy that provides for ongoing, meaningful two-way communication that creates shared expectations among employees, employee representatives, and stakeholders; and
– Ensure that it has the institutional infrastructure in place, including a modern performance management system and an independent, efficient, effective, and credible external appeals process, to make effective use of its new authorities before they are operationalized.