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Study: Defense Dept. pay-for-performance system 'flawed'

By Ed O'Keefe

By The Post's Federal Diary columnist Joe Davidson:

The pay and personnel system for Defense Department intelligence units demonstrates the difference between theory and practice.

The design of the Defense Civilian Intelligence Personnel System "is fundamentally sound," says a new report by the National Academy of Public Administration, but its implementation "has been flawed."

DCIPS is a pay for performance system that is, in some ways, similar to the bungled National Security Personnel System for other Defense civilians that is being terminated under a law passed last year by Congress. That same law suspended portions of DCIPS until the end of 2010, while it is being reviewed.

NAPA, a congressionally chartered think tank that studies federal management topics, examined DCIPS, which eventually could cover 50,000 civilians in the National Security Agency, Defense Intelligence Agency, National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, Defense Security Service, National Reconnaissance Office, and the intelligence elements of the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps.

In the forward to the report, Jennifer L. Dorn, NAPA’s president and chief executive, defended the DCIPS pay for performance system, a position many of those who labor under it are not likely to adopt.

“The Academy Panel recognized that the manner in which the performance of these employees is assessed and rewarded is as important to how -- and how well -- they do their work, as it is to recruitment and retention. A culture that encourages ‘connecting the dots’ and finding new ways to look at ‘dots’ cannot be built on a system that rewards longevity over performance,” Dorn wrote. “The Panel concluded that a performance-based pay system that provides recognition for individual as well as collaborative performance can produce more robust discussion and better intelligence products that will significantly strengthen our ability to thwart attacks.”

Congress authorized the study “in large part due to perceptions that DCIPS could result in unfair treatment of minorities and women,” according to the report, which was first reported by the Federal Times. Likewise, the report notes the “widespread perception that performance-based compensation systems result in disparate treatment of women and minorities.” It also found that “no official policy requires an examination of ratings across the DoD intelligence components to identify disparate treatment.”

NAPA said the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency found that its pay for performance system might not have treated African American, mixed-race and disabled workers fairly. “In essence, there are unexplained variances in ratings assigned to employees in certain protected classes,” NAPA said. “NGA plans to study these to determine whether they reflect legitimate performance differences.”

The report concluded “there is nothing inherent in the DCIPS’ design that would lead to negative impacts on career progression or diversity, but that it is too soon to determine the actual impacts of implementation.”

By Ed O'Keefe  | June 2, 2010; 12:48 PM ET
Categories:  Workplace Issues  
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The system discriminates against those who do not perform. This is antithetical to unions and the Civil Service. What they need is a pay system that pays everyone equally (with bonuses for skin color or other progressive diversity factors).

Posted by: seraphina21 | June 2, 2010 1:59 PM | Report abuse

The review sends mixed messages - on the one hand commending the structure of DCIPS while criticizing its poor implementation of lack of effective management.

It calls for management to spend MORE time learning/perfecting DCIPS. DCIPS has already shown itself to be a black hole in the work-time continuum. Literally, work comes to a halt when DCIPS reviews (and re-reviews) are due.

The end of the report acknowledges that we can know for sure whether DCIPS does or does not work, since the Intelligence Community entities that use DCIPS have done so for such a short period of time.

It is a cop-out, cover-your-butt presentation of DCIPS - it is good, but poorly implemented, but we can't be sure because we haven't used it for long enough yet.

Posted by: ErickSp8 | June 2, 2010 3:54 PM | Report abuse

Labor and Management 101...

Admin workers are NOT production workers! The GS system was the best they had. Go back to it! The pay for performance is for production workers, NOT admin workers. The workers that get promotions and bonuses are those that are in the good ole boy circle. All this does is waste time, creates hostile work environments and hurts performance of everyone because of a secret pay poll without any accountability or visibility!

Posted by: darbyohara | June 3, 2010 9:36 AM | Report abuse

Yes, admin does not produce. That would interfere with naps and smoke breaks.

Posted by: seraphina21 | June 3, 2010 4:43 PM | Report abuse

The NAPA report had at least 30 findings which I doubt can or will be addressed or fixed. Secretary Gates would be well advised to dump DCIPS in the same circular file with NSPS and place the employee's back under the GG System

Posted by: shelbysaab | June 4, 2010 4:02 PM | Report abuse

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