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Air Force Materiel Command (Sept. 27, 2006): AFMC vice commander testifies on new personnel system.

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio -- Lt. Gen. Terry Gabreski, Air Force Materiel Command vice commander, spoke before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, Sept. 20, addressing the recent implementation of the National Security Personnel System Spiral 1.1, at Tinker Air Force Base, Okla.

It was the third hearing examining the design and implementation of NSPS, a revised pay-for-performance system, which is the most radical change in general schedule pay for government employees since its inception in 1949. Specifically, NSPS provides the Defense Department a more flexible and responsive civilian personnel system for its non-bargaining unit employees. The system rewards high-performing employees, links performance objectives to organizational goals, and increases individual accountability.

Prior to her current assignment, Gabreski was commander of the Oklahoma City Air Logistics Center at Tinker AFB, which was the first Air Force installation to implement NSPS. Gabreski shared in her testimony the tools used by Tinker AFB for successful conversion of more than 2,400 non-bargaining unit employees in April 2006, and the command's ongoing efforts to prepare their remaining installations for conversion in October 2006 and January 2007.

"We worked extremely hard during the planning phases of NSPS to be sure we emphasized training, as well as communication," she told members of the panel, which included U.S. Senator George V. Voinovich, R-Ohio, and Senate Homeland Security Committee Chairwoman Susan Collins, R-Maine. "We continue to work these two specific areas, and we think those investments are paying off."

Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England also addressed the panel as a witness.

The general equated NSPS training for civilian and military personnel to that of an operational mission, stressing successful execution of the mission must be equaled by preparation. Education of both employees and management is vital, she said.

The general cited specific examples used at Tinker in both the preparatory and executory phases.

Tinker's communication strategy established information flow by developing an NSPS Web site, conducting town hall meetings and commanders' calls, using marquees, and publishing (base) newspaper articles.

"By quickly and efficiently disseminating information, we equipped our workforce with the tools necessary for transition to NSPS, engaged their participation, and encouraged feedback on their questions and concerns," she said.

The base placed a strong emphasis on training employees and managers, both civilian and military. "All employees who were deploying into NSPS received approximately eight hours of soft skills' training covering change-management, as well as eight hours of NSPS specifics," she said.

Housing 34 percent of the Air Force's civilian population, the general stressed to the panel AFMC's commitment to the NSPS transition.

"Such a large civilian population warrants our best effort in implementing NSPS, and that is exactly what we have endeavored to do in AFMC.

"The key message is that NSPS is much more than a new personnel system," she said. "It is a commander's responsibility and must be led from the top. Our four-star commander has relayed the importance of NSPS to installation commanders and individual employees."

She explained how general officers from each Air Force major command traveled to installations in their commands, giving "spread-the-word" briefings, which underscored the importance of NSPS.

Although the first performance cycle for Tinker's first NSPS employees won't close out until October 31, with payout results from the cycle occurring in January 2007, Gabreski said the base is already realizing the benefits from the NSPS.

"I have visited Tinker and have spoken with both employees and managers," she said. "They have told me they feel a stronger link to the mission."

The general said NSPS deployment hasn't been without its challenges, which include comparison to the "old way" of doing things.

"Despite these challenges, the Tinker implementation has shown the tremendous potential and benefits of NSPS, which strengthens our commitment to successfully implement across the command," she said.

Between October 2006 and January 2007, AFMC's other nine bases will deploy NSPS to more than 10,000 non-bargaining unit employees.

Lopez is with Air Force Materiel Command Public Affairs.
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Title Annotation:Career Development
Author:Lopez, Kathleen A.K.
Publication:Defense AT & L
Date:Jan 1, 2007
Previous Article:Air Force Personnel Center News Service (Sept. 14, 2006): Selective Early Retirement Board to convene Jan. 8, 2007.
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