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NSPS - National Security Personnel System

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Background on the National Security Personnel System (NSPS)

In the spring of 2003 -- using the initial success of the Iraq invasion as political cover -- the Bush administration asked Congress for permission to revamp the personnel policy covering all civilian employees at the Department of Defense. The system proposed by then Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and his Deputy, Paul Wolfowitz, came to be known as the Orwellian-titled National Security Personnel System, or NSPS.

Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz attempted to paint NSPS as a necessary reform of "outdated" civil service rules. They claimed (without ever explaining how or why) the nation's security required an overhaul of civil service rules -- rules that had effectively protected workers' rights and prevented cronyism for decades. Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz told Congress that DoD needed a more "flexible" personnel system in order to wage war on terrorism. What they did not say was that "flexibility," in their minds, meant stripping workers of all meaningful rights and protections and allowing management to unilaterally dictate all conditions of employment, including doing away with collectively-bargained agreements that had been negotiated in good faith between labor and management. In other words: the new system was a dictatorship.

Congress authorized the creation of a new personnel system but mandated that such a system must be created in collaboration with labor and it must protect workers' basic rights and protections, such as collective bargaining. Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz, in behavior typical of their time running the Pentagon, immediately disregarded the directives of Congress as they set about implementing NSPS. The "collaboration" process was a sham in which representatives of DoD management and labor met, but the many concerns and suggestions for improvement put forth by labor were completely ignored. Not surprisingly, when the final version of NSPS was released, it reflected none of the changes requested by employee representatives. Instead, NSPS looked exactly like the ideologically-driven attack on workers that it was intended to be.

Knowing that the Republican leadership controlling Congress at the time would do nothing to reign in Rumsfeld/Wolfowitz, the members of the United DoD Workers Coalition (www.uniteddodworkerscoalition.org) filed a lawsuit seeking to stop NSPS. The Federal Education Association also filed its own lawsuit at the time, dealing with issues specific to our members' roles as DoDEA employees, but FEA's suit was put on hold until the larger coalition lawsuit was settled. Initially, the coalition suit was successful, as a Federal Judge ruled that DoD had violated the will of Congress by seeking to do away with meaningful rights and protections for workers. That legal victory prompted the House of Representatives in 2006 to pass legislation stripping funding for those aspects of NSPS found by the court to be illegal.

The coalition's victory was short lived, however, as an Appeals Court panel overturned the initial ruling against NSPS. In summer 2007, the United DoD Labor Coalition asked the entire U.S. Federal Appeals Court to review and overturn the appeals panel's decision. (at this time, the full Appeals Court has not decided whether to review the decision). Meanwhile, FEA has re-activated its lawsuit against NSPS and is awaiting further action by the court on that matter.

While the lawsuits filed by the United DoD Labor Coalition and FEA have delayed implementation of NSPS on a wide scale, the Pentagon has already begun imposing the new system on those employees unfortunate enough not to be covered by existing negotiated agreements. A GAO report released this summer (GAO-07-851, Human Capital: DOD Needs Better Internal Controls and Visibility over Costs for Implementing Its National Security Personnel System, July 16, 2007) cited many problems with the NSPS implementation effort so far, including mismanagement and an inability by DoD to properly track program costs. The GAO report only makes the need to rethink NSPS more obvious.

The summer of 2007 has seen a new vigor by Congress as it has taken several steps to reign in NSPS and be sure the Pentagon follows the will of Congress in creating any new civilian personnel system. The House of Representatives included language in its version of the 2008 DoD Authorization Act to do away with the most harmful provisions of NSPS. The Senate included weaker language against NSPS, but still sought much-needed improvements. It is hoped the stronger House language will prevail when the Authorization bill goes to Conference Committee in the fall of 2007.

To learn how you can help in these efforts to reform NSPS through the DoD Authorization bill, please follow this link

In early August, Representatives Jay Inslee (D-WA), Walter B. Jones (R-NC), and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) sponsored an amendment to the DoD Appropriations Act. The amendment denied the Pentagon funding for any NSPS efforts that would strip employees of their rights and otherwise violate the will of Congress. The amendment passed easily on a voice vote and the final DoD Appropriations Bill, including the Inslee/Jones/Van Hollen amendment, passed by an overwhelming 395-13 margin.

FEA and other pro-labor organizations have been urging the Senate to include language similar to the Inslee/Jones/Van Hollen amendment in its version of the DoD Appropriations Act. President Bush has threatened to veto the bill if it includes such language. The issue will ultimately be decided in a Conference Committee, made up of members of both the House and Senate Appropriations committees. Regardless of whether the Inslee/Jones/Van Hollen language is included in the Senate's DoD Appropriations bill, the Conference Committee can include the language in the bill's final form. In order to encourage such a result, we are urging our members and other supporters of workers' rights to write to their Senators, especially those on the Defense Subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee, and tell them to support the Inslee/Jones/Van Hollen language in the final 2008 DoD Appropriations Act.

To find out more about this effort, visit this page.

To learn how you can help in efforts to reform NSPS through the DoD Authorization bill, please follow this link

Read the full text of the complaint FEA has filed (in PDF format).

Summary of FEA's Complaint

How DoD and OPM Have Deceived Congress About NSPS

Labor Proposes a Positive Plan for Reforming Personnel System

IMPORTANT: This information should not be downloaded using government equipment, read during duty time or sent to others using government equipment because it suggests action to be taken in support or against legislation.