Federal Manager's Daily Report

The concept of expanding “demonstration project”

authority-which in some agencies has allowed a de facto

form of civil service reform without legislation-appears

dead for this session of Congress. The head of the House

civil service subcommittee, Rep. Jo Ann Davis, R-Va., has

said she plans to drop the provision from a benefits

improvement bill (HR-1601) when she moves that measure

through her subcommittee.

Both that bill and a Senate counterpart (S-129) originally

had provisions to remove the current 5,000-employee limit

on a demonstration project, which effectively would have

allowed entire agencies to exempt themselves from many

civil service hiring, promotion, job grading and other

practices. Management of some agencies had been hoping

for passage, since getting personnel legislation from

Congress is a difficult task even for the most high-profile

agencies such as Defense and Homeland Security. The

demonstration project authority is a much easier route

and the measure would have made it still easier by removing

some current procedural hurdles.

However, in passing its version, the Senate Governmental

Affairs Committee dropped the demonstration project

authority and Davis’s stated intent to follow suit will

foreclose action for at least this year. The main opposition

came from federal unions, which mistrust the employee

evaluation systems that serve as the backbone of the pay

for performance features common in demonstration projects.

The Office of Personnel Management also cooled to the idea

of expanding demonstration project authority, saying at a

recent hearing before Davis’s panel that “while we always

appreciate more flexibility to deal with outmoded personnel

rules,” the demonstration project concept itself is now

somewhat outmoded in light of the DoD and DHS personnel

authorities.