Post-Hearing Questions for the Record Related to the Department of Defense's National Security Personnel System (NSPS)

GAO-06-582R: Published: Mar 24, 2006. Publicly Released: Mar 24, 2006.

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Derek B. Stewart
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On November 17, 2005, the Comptroller General testified before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs at a hearing entitled: "From Proposed to Final: Evaluating the Regulations for the National Security Personnel System." The Comptroller General responded to questions regarding labor relations for unique segments of the workforce, employee involvement and representation, system evaluation, impact on veterans, safeguarding of teamwork and fairness, pay and performance standards, and safeguards against abuse.

The Comptroller General responded that (1) the Department of Defense (DOD) could find no compelling argument that civilian mariners should not be covered by the new system; (2) legislation would be needed to allow the Secretary of Defense to exempt any unit from the labor relations system; (3) DOD's final regulations do not identify a process for the continuing involvement of employees and other key stakeholders in implementation of NSPS, but the Secretary of Defense would be permitted to determine the number of employee representatives allowed to engage in the collaboration process and the extent to which employee representatives are given an opportunity to discuss their views with and submit written comments to DOD officials; (4) the development of procedures for evaluating NSPS that contain results-oriented performance measures and reporting requirements are recommended to determine if the new system is "getting it right;" (5) the inclusion of employees and their representatives needs to be meaningful, and an elected Employee Advisory Council can be used to serve as an advisory body that represents a cross-section of agency employees, and one of the most relevant implementation steps will be for DOD to enhance two-way communication between employees, employee representatives, and management; (6) GAO cannot provide assurance that the final NSPS regulations will not have a detrimental impact on veterans, however the regulations continue to give veterans' preference the same priority in the event of a reduction-in-force as under current regulations; (7) senior executives needs to lead the way to transform their agencies' cultures to be more results-oriented, customer focused, and collaborative, and this focus on collaboration, interaction, and teamwork across organizational boundaries is increasingly critical to achieve results; (8) the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled that the final NSPS regulations do not ensure that employees can bargain collectively, DOD modified the proposed regulations so that the final regulations state that basic performance expectations should be provided to employees in writing, the final regulations could not reduce employees' basic rates of pay when converting to pay bands, and the final NSPS regulations would allow DOD to reduce, realign, and reorganize the department's workforce through revised reduction-in-force procedures; (9) to assure that pay levels are adequate for employee recruitment and retention and to reward good performance, DOD needs to conduct annual, high-level compensation reviews to determine the competitiveness of the pay ranges, and periodic comprehensive compensation studies while monitoring employee recruiting, retention statistics and employee feedback; (10) GAO has developed an initial list of possible safeguards to help ensure that pay-for-performance systems in the government are fair, effective, and credible; (11) this list of safeguards is based on the experiences of GAO and an extensive body of work looking at the performance management practices used by leading public and private sector organizations; (12) GAO plans to begin an evaluation of the costs associated with the design and implementation of NSPS by April 2006, and provide Congress with relevant information by September 2006; (13) DOD needs to address safeguards to ensure fairness and guard against abuse in any pay-for-performance system; and (14) DOD must address principles, players, and proposals to ensure that the NSPS appeals system is both fair and perceived as fair by employees.

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