News from the Whitehouse: On November 25, 2015, President Obama signed Pub.L. 114-92, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016. This Department of Defense (DoD) appropriation statute contained two provisions which negatively impact the civil service rights of affected DoD employees.
DoD and its component agencies are the largest civil service employer, employing almost 37% of the non-postal civil service workforce. As a result, DoD has at times been used as a laboratory for testing proposals to negatively impact civil service protections, for example the now-rescinded National Security Personnel System (NSPS) during the Bush II administration.
The pertinent portions of Pub.L. 114-92 are sections 1105 and 1106. Section 1105 creates a new statute (10 USC 1599e) which lengthens newly-hired DoD civilian employees’ probationary period from 1 year to 2 years. This provision is not retroactive, and only applies to new hires. Section 1106 allows DoD to delay within-grade step increase (WIGIs), so that any time period in which the employee’s performance is rated “unacceptable” doesn’t count toward the time-in-service required for receiving the step increase. This provision applies to all DoD civilian employees covered by the General Schedule, and does not exempt current DoD employees (but does not apply to civilian employees under DCIPS or other special pay authorities).
Federal employees are advised to follow events in Congress, as it may well be that Pub.L. 114-92 may be a harbinger of future legislation negatively impacting the rights of the rest of the civilian workforce.