Civilian Personnel Management (and other myths and legends)

A well-placed intelligence official bemoaned the task ahead. “Afghanistan?” we asked.

He should have been so fortunate. The National Security Personnel System (NSPS) was vexing him that day.

There long have been movements to streamline the defense civilian personnel system. Judging from our Secret Agent Man’s (SAM) frustration, these efforts have failed.

NSPS replaced the GS system, or General Schedule system, at DoD and other agencies. Under GS, intel personnel were classified as GG, according to SAM. Under NSPS, intelligence personnel are separately managed under the Defense Civilian Intelligence Personnel System (DCIPS), which claims to be a performance-based compensation system. According to SAM, who manages a number of intelligence assets, the only difference in the systems is those within DCIPS require a clearance. (NSPS has a number of non-intel types with high-level clearances.)

The NSPS Web site boasts:

NSPS creates a civilian workforce that is competency-focused and performance-based, putting the right people in the right jobs at the right time. It accelerates the Department’s efforts to create a Total Force (military, civilian personnel, Reserve, Guard, and contractors) that operates as one cohesive unit, with each individual performing work most suited to personal skill sets.

And the GS system did not do these things?

According to SAM, NSPS and DCIPS have created two bureaucracies, two hierarchies, two sets of human resource management systems and the cats and dogs that go with them. He charges the two separate personnel systems are essentially jobs programs, especially for the HR crowd. It is interesting that even HR people (non intelligence personnel) must have clearances to work in the DCIPS system. He says that DCIPS maintains this helps recruit better people—a claim indicative of DCIPS systemic arrogance, in SAM’s opinion.

Both systems are considered pay-for-performance, as was the GS system. SAM says this idea has never worked and still does not work. Accountability has not improved under NSPS-DCIPS, as hoped. The change was a “Rumsfeld-Chu scheme to get rid of the ladies in tennis shoes.” SAM adds that “those ladies got work done.”

Secret Agent Man may sound disgruntled, but he has been vindicated: the Pentagon has declared NSPS broken.

(The GS system is alive and well at other government agencies.)

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