Federal Manager's Daily Report

The Defense Department has announced plans to expand pay flexibilities for employees under its science and technology research laboratory demonstration project, saying that “competing with private sector compensation is particularly challenging, especially in emerging mission areas such as hypersonics, autonomy, cybersecurity, and data science.”

In a demonstration project, an agency may use many non-standard personnel practices such as paying within a broad range rather than by GS grade and step; the DoD project, which has been running for many years, involves 21 research facilities across the military services.

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A notice in Thursday’s (May 12) Federal Register says that lab directors will have authority to establish pay supplements “for those positions which warrant higher compensation than that provided by the established broadband salary ranges, STRL staffing supplements or differentials, or other recruitment or retention authorities.”

Such rates could be set by occupational series, specialty, competency, broadband level, and/or geographical area, and could be based on a range of considerations. Those may include: rates of pay offered by non-federal employers; remoteness of the area or location; undesirability of the working conditions or nature of the work; lack of job candidates, numbers of existing vacant positions and the length of time vacant; turnover; and “evidence to support a conclusion that recruitment or retention problems likely will develop (if such problems do not already exist) or will worsen.”

The labs are to monitor market conditions to determine if the pay supplements still are needed and employees will have to acknowledge that they may be reduced or eliminated, and that such a change is not to be considered an adverse action that can be appealed or grieved.

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