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AFGE opposes changes to NSF hiring authorities

The American Federation of Government Employees is concerned that the pay and hiring flexibilities lawmakers are considering for the National Science Foundation could damage the soundness of the merit-based pay system at the agency.

A bill introduced last month by Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas), chairwoman of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, would give the NSF expanded power outside of the civil service system to hire and pay employees as part of a bill aimed at strengthening the agency's research capabilities.

The National Science Foundation for the Future Act would give the NSF director the authority to appoint engineers and scientific and professional employees "without regard to the civil service laws" to the extent that "the director determines necessary for carrying out research and development functions which require specially qualified personnel."

It would also give the NSF director the ability to pay those employees anything up to the basic rate of pay for the Vice President "without regard to civil service laws."

Everett Kelley, AFGE national president, outlined the union's concerns in a letter sent on April 19 to Rep. Johnson and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.).

These sorts of waivers to civil service laws aren't necessary, Kelley wrote, adding that current incentive pay and other special pay rates authorized by the Office of Personnel Management, "would effectively address any pay-based obstacles to hiring that might arguably exist."

The union is also concerned that these proposals would "be damaging to the integrity of the merit-based pay system for the majority of those who work at the NSF," he wrote.

"The waiver of civil service appointment laws on such a vast scale bears a striking resemblance to the Trump administration's attempt to impose a new Schedule F hiring authority on a large portion of the civil service," Kelley wrote. "Given the experience of the Trump era with regard to politicization of the civil service, we urge you not to even consider dispensing with civil service laws."

The union is also concerned about the pay and appointment authorities in a Senate version of the bill introduced last year, called the Endless Frontier Act, although its hiring and pay waivers aren't as sweeping, Kelley wrote.

Reader comments

Thu, Apr 22, 2021

There shouldn't be any "Schedule F" type hiring authority for any part of government especially SCIENCE.

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