Federal Manager's Daily Report

Civilian DoD employees make a crucial contribution toward the military’s mission but their personnel system is premised on circumstances that have long since changed, a report by the Bipartisan Policy Center has said.

As have other reviews, the report pointed out that the GS system has its roots in the immediate post-World War II era. “Back then, 70 percent of white-collar civilian positions performed clerical work. Contrast that with today, where many defense civilians work in highly technical professions like cybersecurity, acquisition program management, financial management, science, and engineering.

“The GS system features a rigid pay schedule based on time in a certain position … the structure of the system results in pay raises being awarded mostly based on longevity rather than performance,” said the report, in which many officials with long experience in government management participated.

“Since the system’s primary rationale is fairness and impartiality, it is exceedingly difficult to remove low performers” and advancement opportunities for good performers are limited, it added.

It recommended that DoD be allowed to operate under a separate personnel system in which it could customize hiring, management, compensation, and retention policies to meet its needs. This could include, for example, allowing midcareer civilians to enter the military at equivalent ranks, pay banding, shortcut hiring, and more movement of employees among components to meet arising needs.