Pentagon's personnel system still a 'go' despite DHS ruling

By Karen Rutzick

The Defense Department said it will go ahead with its planned personnel overhaul, despite a ruling by a judge last week that a similar plan from the Homeland Security Department is illegal.

Proposed rules for Defense's new personnel framework, dubbed the National Security Personnel System, were published in February in the Federal Register. In that notice, the department clearly laid out its use of DHS' system as a model.

NSPS Program Executive Officer, Mary Lacey, wrote in an e-mail Tuesday that the Pentagon "plans to continue to go forward with finalizing our regulations and our plans to implement NSPS later this year."

NSPS developers were "extensively informed by the DHS experience, in terms of both process and results, in designing, developing and drafting these proposed regulations," Pentagon officials wrote.

What's more, NSPS officials said that "where it made sense," they "adopted many of the concepts and approaches and even much of the specific language set forth in the DHS regulations."

The regulations specify that NSPS mirrors the pending DHS system in terms of labor relations, adverse actions and appeals--all areas that were contested in the DHS lawsuit.

Judge Rosemary Collyer of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled that the collective bargaining portion of DHS' proposed system did not provide adequate binding contracts for employees, in large part because DHS reserved the right to issue directives that voided contracts at any time.

The decision affected only the labor relations portion of DHS' personnel plan, not its proposed pay-for-performance system.

"Like DHS, the authorizing law for NSPS makes it clear that collective bargaining and the rights of workers be preserved and respected," Gregory Junemann, president of the International Federation of Professional and

Technical Engineers said. "However, to date, the administration has failed on each account. I only hope that this decision will serve as a wake-up call more adhering to the letter of the law..."

American Federation of Government Employees President John Gage said the union was "not finished with litigation on this thing, especially when it comes to DoD." Gage also said the Pentagon's proposal is "actually worse than DHS'," and urged Defense officials to rethink their plan, adding AFGE will ask for hearings on the system.

The proposed NSPS rules were subject to meet-and-confer sessions with unions after publication. The final regulations are scheduled to be published in the Federal Register this fall, according to an NSPS official.