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Upcoming changes in civilian personnel system create 'perfect storm'

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Some significant changes are coming soon to the civilian personnel community. Congress voted last fall to abolish the National Security Personnel System and convert those jobs back to General Schedule. The flood gates are about to open as various Air Force organizations begin to convert NSPS personnel to fill the new GS positions.

The news comes as AFSPC adds 900 civilian positions for fiscal year 2011 and 200 of those positions are in headquarters organizations. This creates the "perfect storm" in reducing contract positions, creating GS positions to replace them and converting current NSPS employees to GS -- all at the same time.

"The goal of Department of Defense is to convert NSPS employees to GS by the end of September 2010," said John King, Air Force Space Command chief of workforce effectiveness. "The final conversion schedule has not been released, but the personnel community is in the final stages of developing the rules and procedures to make the transition to GS as painless as possible for everyone."

The addition of 900 new civilian authorizations is being driven by a DoD-wide mandate to bring contracted work back in-house. As with the NSPS-GS transition, this process has managers and supervisors developing position descriptions and are starting to recruit for new civilian employees.

Current NSPS employees' salaries are being closely scrutinized to make sure they won't endure pay cuts during the conversion no matter what GS grade those jobs are converted to.

"When employees were being moved from GS into NSPS a few years ago, considerable efforts were made to ensure the move was equitable for all, and no employee lost money as a result of the transition," Mr. King said. "The same rules of engagement are in place now as we get ready to transition out of NSPS.

"Considerable efforts have been made to identify GS position descriptions to replace those of current NSPS employees," he added. "Employees will move to the new GS position descriptions when they convert and will have GS grades and steps instead of NSPS pay bands. Employees' salaries will be set within the grade range of their new GS position description and, where their NSPS salaries exceed the GS pay range, they will keep their current salaries under pay retention rules. If their current salaries fall within a GS pay range, employees' pay will be set at a GS step rate that is closest to but not less than their current pay rate."

Since it currently takes an average of 142 days to fill a civilian position, AFSPC, Air Force Manpower Agency and the Air Force Personnel Center are working to identify efficiencies in the personnel process to mitigate the impact of this workload.

"With the conversion of NSPS employees to GS and the hiring of many new GS employees, it's an incredible increase in workload for the AFMA, AFPC and AFSPC," Mr. King said.

He added that in the next few weeks, employees can expect a great deal of publicity on the details of the transition and will have the opportunity to ask specific questions on how it will affect them.

Job vacancy announcements with instructions on how to apply for them are found online at http://www.usajobs.gov/.