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Classification & Qualifications Appeal Decisions

Washington, DC

U.S. Office of Personnel Management
Classification Appeal Decision
Under section 5112 of title 5, United States Code

Michael E. Riddle
Information Technology Specialist (Application Software) GS-2210-13
Information Technology Services
Office of Management and Planning
Office of the Inspector General
National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Washington, DC
Information Technology Specialist (Application Software)

Linda Kazinetz
Classification Appeals and FLSA Claims
Program Manager
Agency Compliance and Evaluation
Merit System Accountability and Compliance



As provided in section 511.612 of title 5, Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), this decision constitutes a certificate that is mandatory and binding on all administrative, certifying, payroll, disbursing, and accounting officials of the Government.  The agency is responsible for reviewing its classification decisions for identical, similar, or related positions to ensure consistency with this decision.  There is no right of further appeal.  This decision is subject to discretionary review only under conditions and time limits specified in the Introduction to the Position Classification Standards (Introduction), appendix 4, section G (address provided in appendix 4, section H).

Since this decision lowers the grade of the appealed position, it is to be effective no later than the beginning of the sixth pay period after the date of this decision, as permitted by 5 CFR 511.702.  The applicable provisions of parts 351, 432, 536, and 752 of title 5, Code of Federal Regulations, must be followed in implementing the decision.  If the appellant is entitled to grade retention, the two-year retention period begins on the date this decision is implemented.  The servicing human resources office must submit a compliance report containing the corrected position description and a Standard Form 50 showing the personnel action taken.  The report must be submitted within 30 days from the effective date of the personnel action to the OPM Agency Compliance and Evaluation (ACE) Washington, DC, office.


 The appellant’s position is currently classified as Information Technology (IT) Specialist (Application Software), GS-2210-13, and is located in Information Technology Services (ITS), Office of Management and Planning (OMP), Office of the Inspector General (OIG), National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), in Washington, D.C., with duty station at Kennedy Space Center in Brevard, Florida.  The appellant believes his position should be classified at the GS-14 grade level.  We have accepted and decided this appeal under section 5112 of title 5, United States Code (U.S.C.).

General Issues

The appellant makes various statements about the agency’s review and evaluation of his position.  In adjudicating this appeal, our responsibility is to make an independent decision on the proper classification of the appellant's position.  By law, we must make that decision solely by comparing his current duties and responsibilities to OPM standards and guidelines (5 U.S.C. 5106, 5107, and 5112).  Therefore, we have considered the appellant's statements only insofar as they are relevant to making that comparison.  Because our decision sets aside all previous agency decisions, the appellant's concerns regarding his agency’s classification review process are not germane to this decision.

The appellant certifies to the accuracy of his official position description (PD) of record, number 1003070.  The Assistant Inspector General (AIG) for the OMP also certified to the accuracy of the appellant’s PD.  With regard to the accuracy of the appellant’s PD, his immediate supervisor (Supervisory IT Specialist (Application Software), GS-2210-14) stated that the PD is accurate for the most part but does not reflect the other Federal agencies the incumbent serves in the performance of his work.  A PD is the official record of the major duties and responsibilities assigned to a position by an official with the authority to assign work.  Classification appeal regulations permit OPM to investigate or audit a position and decide an appeal on the basis of the actual duties and responsibilities currently assigned by management and performed by the employee.  An OPM appeal decision classifies a real operating position, and not simply a PD.  This decision is based on the work currently assigned to and performed by the appellant.

Our fact-finding disclosed that the appellant’s PD is not completely accurate.  The PD describes responsibilities the appellant does not perform primarily in relation to programmatic responsibilities not vested in his position, and which imply a higher level of difficulty and complexity than reflected in his assignments.  For instance, the appellant does not develop agency policy and/or prepare and implement metrics for measuring policy effectiveness as indicated in his PD.  Also, under “IT Project Planning and Management,” we did not find the appellant “designs cost-benefit studies to implement projects with the most efficient use of human capital and material resources at the lowest cost.”  Further, under “IT Business Research and Development,” we did not find the appellant “reviews and approves terms and conditions set forth in acquisition negotiations, contract plans, budgets, and changes to the scope of the work to be accomplished by the contractor.”  The appellant also does not “lead the development of OIG-level internet policies,” he is not responsible to identify internet policy needs and priorities or “formulates a vision for future applications of internet services to meet the agency’s mission.” He does not lead “multi-disciplinary teams of Government employees and contractors to develop plans for major new Web initiatives” as indicated under “Website Creation and Maintenance.”  Moreover, the appellant’s assignments as described under Factor 1, Knowledge Required by the Position do not reflect our findings as addressed later in this decision.  Specifically, we did not find that the appellant “evaluates the content of new or modified legislation and regulations for projected impact upon current and future agency programs and resources, and translates basic legislations into organizational program goals, actions and services.  For the aforementioned reasons, the PD does not meet the standard of adequacy addressed on pages 10 and 11 of the Introduction and must be revised to reflect our evaluation.  

Position information

The NASA Office of the Inspector General (OIG) consists of a workforce of 195 employees including auditors, program analysts, criminal investigators, attorneys, administrative professionals, and support personnel.  It comprises four Offices:  Audits, Investigations, Counsel, and Management and Planning.  In addition to the headquarters in Washington, D.C., there are field offices located nationwide.  The mission of the OMP is to provide financial, procurement, human resources, administrative, special projects, and information technology services support to OIG staff.  The OMP ITS ensures state-of-the art IT capabilities for the OIG including development and maintenance of management systems and information security.  It also provides technical support to Federal reimbursable customers using NASA’s OIG criminal investigation case management system application.  The appellant is part of the OMP ITS consisting of the ITS Director, GS-2210-15; an Infrastructure Manager, GS-2210-14; two IT Specialists (Network Services), GS-2210-13; one IT Specialist (Security), GS-2210-13; one IT Specialist (Customer Support), GS-2210-12; a Supervisory IT Specialist (Application Software), GS-2210-14 (i.e., appellant’s supervisor); and three IT Specialists (Application Software), GS-2210-13 (one being the appellant’s position). 

The appellant is responsible for the design, documentation, development, modification, testing, installation, implementation, and support of new or existing applications software for OIG internal and reimbursable clients.  These responsibilities require using programming languages and database management systems for writing and maintaining code and enhancing, testing, and debugging existing custom OIG applications.  The appellant’s work primarily involves designing, maintaining, and upgrading the NASA Office of Investigations Reporting System (NORS), a web-based criminal investigation case management system.  NORS also incorporates modules that are unrelated to investigation management and serves as a centralized location for storage, tracking, and reporting of agent activities.  The appellant develops and tests the modules, ensuring proper performance, accuracy of data, user ease, and conformity with security and privacy guidelines.  In addition to supporting NASA’s OIG internal customers, the appellant also serves two reimbursable customers using the NORS application, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and Amtrak OIGs, with 5 and 30 users respectively.  Further, due to his technical expertise and experience in software application and Structured Query Language (SQL) database server platforms, he often leads projects providing technical guidance to other less experienced IT specialists.  In the course of writing applications software he performs database management functions for OIG databases including performance monitoring, data backup, and security and restoring of SQL database servers.  Further, applications software specialists of ITS, including the appellant, have overall technical knowledge of Internet technologies and design web pages to provide user interfaces.  As requested, he may also make presentations explaining the functionalities of NORS to agencies that may be interested in using the NORS code as the base for their own investigative management systems within their IT programs.

The above position information narrative is intended only as a brief summary rather than a detailed description of the appellant's duties and responsibilities.  However, in reaching our classification decision, we have carefully reviewed all information provided by the appellant and his agency including the official PD which, although not completely accurate, we find sufficient for purposes of classification when relied upon in conjunction with information obtained from our fact-finding.  Thus, we have incorporated the PD by reference into this decision.  In addition, to help decide the appeal we conducted separate telephone interviews with the appellant and his first-line supervisor, including follow-up requests for additional information from the appellant.  Further, to clarify information from the record, we also conducted an interview with the appellant’s second-line supervisor. 

Series, title, and standard determination

The agency has placed the appellant’s position in the GS-2210 Information Technology Management Series and titled it Information Technology Specialist (Application Software) based on application of the GS-2200 Job Family Standard (JFS) for Administrative Work in the Information Technology Group.  The appellant does not contest the title, series, or specialty allocation or the Position Classification Standard (PCS) used to evaluate his position and based on careful analysis of the record, we concur.

Grade determination

The 2200 JFS uses the Factor Evaluation System (FES) under which factor-levels and accompanying point values are assigned for each of the nine factors, with the total then being converted to a grade level by use of the grade-conversion table provided in the JFS.  Under the FES, each factor-level description in a PCS describes the minimum characteristics needed to receive credit for the described level.  Therefore, if a position fails to meet the criteria in a factor-level description in any significant aspect, it must be credited at a lower level unless the deficiency is balanced by an equally important aspect that meets a higher level.  Conversely, the position may exceed those criteria in some aspects and still not be credited at a higher level. 

The appellant disagrees with his agency’s assignment of Levels 1-7, 2-4, 4-5, and 5-4, but agrees with the agency’s crediting of Levels 3-4, 6-3, 7C, 8-1 and 9-1.  After careful review, we concur with the agency’s assignments under Factors 3, 6, 8, and 9 and have credited the position accordingly.  However, we disagree with the agency’s assignment under Factor 7.  Therefore, our evaluation will focus on Factors 1, 2, 4, 5, and 7.    

Factor1, Knowledge Required by the Position

This factor measures the nature and extent of information or facts a worker must understand to do acceptable work and the nature and extent of skills needed to apply that knowledge.  To be used as a basis for selecting a level under this factor, the knowledge must be required and applied.  Assignments at Level 1-7 require knowledge of, and skill in applying, most of the following:  IT concepts, principles, methods, and practices; the mission and programs of customer organizations; the organization’s IT infrastructure; performance management/measurement methods, tools, and techniques; systems testing and evaluation principles, methods, and tools; IT security principles and methods; requirement analysis principles and methods; commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) products and components; internet technologies to analyze the Internet potential of systems, networks, and data; new and emerging information technologies and/or industry trends; acquisition management policies and procedures; cost-benefit analysis principles and methods; analytical methods and practices; project management principles and methods; and oral and written communication techniques.  At this level, employees plan and carry out difficult and complex assignments and develop new methods, approaches and procedures; provide advice and guidance on a wide range and variety of complex IT issues; test and optimize the functionality of systems, networks, and data; identify and define technical requirements applied to the design, development, implementation, and support of systems and networks; ensure optimal use of commercially available products; evaluate proposals for the acquisition of IT products or services; prepare and present reports; represent the organization in interactions with other organizations; and provide technical leadership on group projects. 

Work illustrations in the JFS at Level 1-7 for employees specializing in applications software include knowledge and skill in software design principles and methods; development concepts, techniques and methods; methods and procedures for integrating and optimizing components; infrastructure requirements; and applications and systems test and evaluation methods; requirements analysis methods; new software design technologies; test and evaluation methods; and project management methods.  At this level, employees specializing in applications software also apply knowledge and skill in database management principles and methodologies, including data structures, data modeling, data warehousing, and transaction processing.  Employees apply Level 1-7 knowledge to design, write, test, debug, and maintain software applications that meet technical and functional requirements; design and develop efficient and effective applications through use of reusable components; ensure that applications comply with regulatory requirements; and ensure applications are consistent with the current and planned infrastructure and data environments. 

Assignments at Level 1-8 require mastery of, and skill in applying, advanced IT principles, concepts, methods, standards, and practices sufficient to accomplish assignments, such as develop and interpret policies, procedures, and strategies governing the planning and delivery of services throughout the agency; make decisions or recommendations that significantly influence important agency IT policies or programs; provide expert technical advice, guidance, and recommendations to management and other technical specialists on critical IT issues; and apply new developments to previously unsolvable problems.  At this level, employees have mastery of, and skill in applying, the interrelationships of multiple IT specialties; the agency’s IT architecture; new IT developments and applications; emerging technologies and their applications to business processes; IT security concepts, standards, and methods; project management principles, methods, and practices including developing plans and schedules, estimating resource requirements, defining milestones and deliverables, monitoring activities, and evaluating and reporting on accomplishments; and oral and written communication techniques.  Level 1-8 knowledge is applied to ensure the integration of IT programs and services and develop solutions to integration/interoperability issues; design, develop, and manage systems that meet current and future business requirements and apply and extend, enhance, or optimize the existing architecture; manage assigned projects; communicate complex technical requirements to non-technical personnel; and prepare and present briefings to senior management officials on complex/controversial issues.

Work illustrations in the JFS at Level 1-8 for employees specializing in applications software include demonstrating mastery of, and skill in applying, systems engineering concepts and factors; software design concepts and methods; relationships among multiple IT disciplines; the IT infrastructure; and project management principles and methods sufficient to lead a multifunctional development project in software analysis, design, development, and implementation for a new system or major enhancement to an existing system; identify resource requirements; assign tasks to project members; ensure customer and management involvement throughout the software development process; resolve critical issues affecting the configuration of the IT infrastructure; and coordinate the demonstration of new and enhanced applications to customers and management.

The position meets Level 1-7.  Like at this level, the appellant’s work requires knowledge of IT concepts, principles, methods, and practices; the mission and programs of customer organizations; and the organization’s IT infrastructure.  He applies knowledge of and the ability to use programming languages, practices, and methods (e.g., Cold Fusion, Fortran, Object-Oriented Programming) to design modules used in the NORS application.  The appellant’s position requires an understanding of network operating system environments and interfacing programs and database management systems.  He must possess knowledge of the OIG’s IT infrastructure including various Web server software and databases operating on IT systems (e.g., Audits Case Information System), and knowledge of NORS application which involves integration and/or interfacing of databases and internet technologies.  His work includes developing, coding, testing, and debugging locally-developed OIG programs and writing programs to interface with NORS.  He must follow testing and security principles and ensure that completed application programs comply with security access requirements and are accessible to users on the internet. 

Similar to the work illustrations at Level 1-7, the appellant has developed design schema and designed enhancements for NORS.  In application software the appellant has knowledge of and applies user requirements and workflow, software and database capabilities and limitations, programming and scripting languages (SQL, JQuery), programming frameworks (.NET), programming practices and methodologies, and software development packages.  The appellant must use knowledge and skill in database management functions by applying database management principles such as data structures when developing software applications.  He must also apply knowledge of web features and capabilities, such as graphical user interfaces in his work. 

The appellant’s position does not meet Level 1-8.  The appellant’s assignments and responsibilities are within the OMP organization; he does not develop services or make decisions or recommendations throughout the agency (i.e., a Department or comparable independent agency such as NASA) on IT architecture, policies, procedures, or strategies.  These responsibilities are vested in higher management officials.  Although the appellant is recognized as a technical expert, his expertise does not control or permit crediting of Level 1-8.  To properly credit a position at Level 1-8 or any other level, it is necessary to determine the actual degree of knowledge required to perform the work assigned to and performed by the incumbent of the position.  The appellant’s development or programming work does not require a mastery of requirements engineering since it does not require or permit the appellant to make decisions or recommendations that significantly influence critical agency-wide IT policies or programs; develop and interpret policies, procedures, and strategies that govern the planning and delivery of services throughout the agency; provide expert technical advice, guidance, and/or recommendations on critical IT issues; make decisions or recommendations significantly changing, interpreting, or developing important public policies or programs, or apply experimental theories and/or new developments to problems not susceptible to treatment by accepted methods as described at Level 1-8.

Unlike the applications software work illustrations at Level 1-8, the appellant does not apply the level of systems engineering concepts and software design found at that level, and he does not lead multifunctional development projects in software analysis and design characteristic of Level 1-8.  Also unlike Level 1-8, the resource requirements, drafts of project plans, other team members, network and project management methods, cost, schedule, and performance goals are already established or pre-determined by upper management. 

This factor is evaluated at Level 1-7 and 1250 points are assigned.

Factor 2, Supervisory Controls

This factor covers the nature and extent of direct or indirect controls exercised by the supervisor, the employee’s responsibility, and the review of completed work.

The appellant asserts he meets Level 2-5 because he works without supervisory direction on projects; his supervisor considers him a technical authority for the underlying application framework of all applications and database architecture and design; and because his work is accepted without significant change.

At Level 2-4, the supervisor establishes overall objectives and available resources for the work, and the employee and supervisor together develop the scope, time frames, stages, and possible approaches to accomplish the work.  The employee determines the approach to take, degree of intensity, depth of research, and the most appropriate principles, practices, and methods to apply in each phase of the assignments.  The employee also independently interprets and applies regulations; applies new methods to resolve complex, intricate, unique and/or controversial problems; resolves most conflicts that arise; and keeps the supervisor informed of progress and potentially sensitive and/or controversial issues.  Completed work is reviewed from an overall standpoint for soundness of approach, feasibility, compatibility with other projects, and effectiveness in meeting requirements and producing expected results.  At this level, the supervisor does not usually review the methods used by the employee to complete assignments.

At Level 2-5, the supervisor provides only policy and administrative direction in terms of broadly defined missions or functions of the agency.  The employee is responsible for a significant agency or equivalent level IT program or function, interprets and applies policies established by senior authorities above his supervisor’s level, independently plans and carries out the work to be done, and is a recognized technical authority regarding the work.  At this level, the supervisor reviews the work for its potential impact on broad agency-level program goals, and policy objectives, and the work is normally accepted without significant change or technical review.

The position meets Level 2-4.  The appellant works with a considerable degree of technical independence typical of Level 2-4, which describes the level of the experienced IT specialist who works largely independently within the established parameters of the work.  Similar to that level, the appellant determines the approach to take, depth of research, and the most appropriate principles, practices, and methods to apply in all phases of assignments.  For instance, the appellant is responsible for the development of code/modules, testing that they meet client requirements and providing further IT support for end-users.  Also as at this level, the appellant discusses with his supervisor policy requirements and potentially controversial or problematic matters.  For instance, in the case a customer requests a feature that if put into effect would compromise the security of the system, the appellant would propose solutions to his supervisor to resolve the matter.  Work is assigned through requests received at the IT Help Desk for technical assistance from internal customers (e.g., NORS users such as auditors), requests from reimbursable customers (i.e., GAO and Amtrak OIG users), via assigned projects primarily involving the development of a new module or upgrade version of the NORS application and/or via management approved self-initiated projects.  At this level, the supervisor does not review the methods used by the employee to complete assignments.  However, comparable to Level 2-4, the appellant’s completed work is reviewed from an overall standpoint for soundness of approach, feasibility, compatibility with other projects, and effectiveness in meeting requirements and producing expected results. 

The appellant’s position does not meet Level 2-5.  Unlike this level, his work does not lend itself to the “administrative and policy direction” expected at Level 2-5 to assess its potential “impact on broad agency policy objectives and program goals.”  The appellant’s work represents a relatively narrow technical IT assignment in that it is limited to software application functions of established software systems (e.g., NORS, OACIS).  Thus, his actions and recommendations relate exclusively to technical considerations and decisions or proposals being made.  The appellant is not responsible for oversight or implementation of a broad program or function such that the review of his work would consist of an assessment of the policy or programmatic decisions being made.  Similarly, he does not interpret policies to determine broad IT program needs, but rather works within established parameters to determine and recommend individual system needs related to NORS or other OIG custom or commercial off- the- shelf applications.  Further, the nature of his work is not such that it would have an impact on "broad agency policy objectives and program goals."  Although the appellant may be considered a technical expert for the NORS system, he is not a technical authority within the meaning of that term, i.e., he is not delegated responsibility to define the basic content and operation of the program or function beyond just the technical aspects of individual project assignments.  Technical authority represents not merely a high degree of technical independence but also a corresponding management role that is well beyond the scope of authority inherent in the appellant's position.  Thus, neither the absence of immediate supervision in day-to-day operations and projects, nor the fact that technical recommendations are normally accepted without review, serves to support a level above 2-4.

This factor is evaluated at Level 2-4 and 450 points are assigned.

Factor 4, Complexity

This factor measures the nature, number, variety, and intricacy of tasks, steps, processes, or methods in the work performed; the difficulty in identifying what needs to be done; and the difficulty and originality involved in performing the work.

At Level 4-4, the work consists of a variety of duties that involve many different and unrelated processes and methods pertinent to the IT field.  Employees at Level 4-4 decide what needs to be done by evaluating unusual circumstances, considering different approaches, and dealing with incomplete and conflicting data.  The employee interprets data, plans the work, and refines the methods and techniques being used. 

Illustrative assignments in the JFS at Level 4-4 for specialists engaged in applications software include performing work that consists of analyzing work processes and operations to determine the feasibility of developing new or upgrading existing systems to improve the efficiency and productivity of business processes; developing and presenting automation options to management that take into account time, cost, and resource availability; finalizing requirements; preparing design documents; writing code; testing, implementing, and maintaining applications; and making decisions at various stages in the process including  recommending software (e.g., COTS vs. customized applications), determining technical training requirements, defining the number or programs and program interfaces, and developing production procedures.  The employee exercises judgement and originality to facilitate active customer involvement throughout the design and development process and ensure that changing customer requirements are addressed.

At Level 4-5, work consists of various duties requiring the application of many different and unrelated processes and methods to a broad range of IT activities or to the in-depth analysis of IT issues/problems.  Employees make decisions that involve major uncertainties regarding the most effective approach or methodology to be applied, and work assignments typically result from continuing changes in customer business requirements or rapidly evolving technology in the specialty areas.  At this level, employees develop new standards, methods, and techniques; evaluate the impact of technological change; and/or develop solutions to highly complex technical issues.  The work frequently involves integrating the activities of multiple specialty areas.

The position meets Level 4-4.  As at this level, the appellant’s work consists of a variety of duties involving many different and unrelated processes and methods pertinent to the IT field.  He researches various data alternatives and circumstances, considering different approaches and dealing with incomplete and conflicting data to determine if they are of value and can be adapted or combined when creating applications that will support the business process of different OIG programs.  The appellant’s work is a precise match to the illustration provided in the standard of Level 4-4 complexity for specialists who perform applications software work.  His work consists of analyzing work processes and operations to determine the feasibility of developing new or upgrading existing software applications to improve the efficiency and productivity of business processes.  He engages in internal projects involving the development of applications to automate business processes, considers variables such as time and resource availability, and makes recommendations to management that meet the needs of their program.  For instance, the AIG for the Office of Investigations (AIGI) requires that all employees holding criminal investigator positions participate in a physical fitness program which requires medical evaluations, various physical fitness tests, and other approved conditioning and training activities.  For an automated application to be used for tracking and documenting physical fitness requirements, the appellant developed a Physical Fitness Module under Agent Activity in NORS which allows for documenting all agent physical fitness program documentation, to include certificates of medical examination, physical fitness test scores, and conditioning program weekly and final testing documentation.  To do this the appellant prepared design documents, wrote code, testing plans, and technical training requirements, and served as the primary liaison to the program manager (i.e., AIGI).  Further, he facilitated customer involvement through the design and development process to ensure any changing customer requirements were addressed.  Since the data stored in the system may contain sensitive or private information, the appellant also researched and obtained guidance regarding which data required protection under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) to be able to set authorized permission settings to the application.

The position does not meet Level 4-5.  The appellant’s efforts to develop new approaches and improvements primarily through modifying, adapting, refining, and tailoring existing software methods, precedents, and techniques do not meet Level 4-5, where employees develop new standards, methods, and techniques or develop solutions to highly complex technical issues.  The appellant works within the parameters of an established system where upgrades consist of adding features or creating modules to meet business requirements.  Unlike at this level, there are a number of requirements engineering process concepts, tools, techniques, methods, and precedents available to the appellant for application to software development work.  Although the appellant described creating an application that could be used from any mobile-friendly device as being a development project “without precedent, establishing a new approach for the organization,” in developing the module for NORS he applied existing engineering requirements and concepts, techniques, and methods such as use of HTML5, CSS3, and JQuery platforms to develop a tailored application to meet ITS objectives for keeping up with technological advancements. 

The appellant believes there is a much higher level of complexity involved when developing solutions for a single agency versus developing solutions that will work for multiple agencies.  However, our fact-finding revealed the purpose and structure of NORS and other OIG systems are well-defined and the appellant works within the parameters of an established system.  Further, once the source code is disseminated to another agency, that agency’s IT Specialists are responsible for customizing the applications according to the needs of their specific organization and programs with no involvement from the ITS or the appellant.  As for the reimbursable clients, if a request for a feature or upgrade does not comply with the underlying NORS framework or conflicts with security protocols, other options are provided so as not to jeopardize the integrity of the system.  Thus, the appellant is not developing new standards, methods or solutions to highly complex technical issues as intended at levels above 4-4.  

This factor is evaluated at Level 4-4 and 225 points are assigned.

Factor 5, Scope and Effect

This factor covers the relationship between the nature of the work, and the effect of the work products or services both within and outside the organization.

At Level 5-4, work involves establishing criteria; formulating projects; assessing program effectiveness; and/or investigating/analyzing a variety of unusual conditions, problems, or issues.  The work affects a wide range of agency activities or the activities of other organizations.

Illustrative assignments in the JFS at Level 5-4 for specialists engaged in applications software involve analyzing and translating technical specifications into integrated applications that automate business processes.  The work also involves executing the life cycle change process of applications and implementing design changes in response to changes in customer functional requirements.  Such work results in the reduction of costs and improvement of the quality of a wide range of customer business processes.

At Level 5-5, work involves isolating and defining unprecedented conditions; resolving critical problems; and/or developing, testing, and implementing new technologies.  The work affects the work of other technical experts or the development of major aspects of agency-wide IT programs.

The appellant’s position meets Level 5-4.  Similar to this level, the appellant is responsible for developing and implementing processes and procedures to improve the services provided to the users of NASA OIG business systems.  The appellant makes user-requested changes to locally developed software applications, recommending, initiating, and implementing process improvements which would improve system processes and lower costs, and serves as the point-of-contact for issues dealing with his reimbursable clients using the NORS application.  Like the illustration at this level, the appellant uses software design and technical specifications in response to life cycle changes to meet customer functional requirements and to reduce the number or errors in the OIG applications.  Also, like Level 5-4, his work results in improvements in the efficiency and quality of business system processes and affects the activities of other organizations through the quality of user assistance provided to external OIG clients.  

The appellant’s position does not meet Level 5-5.  There is no indication that the appellant’s work regularly involves isolating and defining unprecedented conditions or resolving critical problems.  Like Level 5-4, the appellant works within the parameters of an established system.  The core system that is utilized for NORS and shared with outside Federal organizations has not changed since its creation and no new databases have been developed to replace it.  However, coding updates and enhancements are performed to upgrade, maintain, and keep current with existing technologies or create new functionalities as requested by internal and external customers.  Any unprecedented or critical problems that occur are referred to the designated management official.  For instance, if an interested agency requests the incorporation of a feature that cannot be incorporated into NORS due to an unprecedented condition limiting application, the final decision for authorizing any actions to be taken is made by program management officials at higher echelons of the organization (i.e., AIG or ITS Director).  Also, only higher-level officials are authorized to approve or disapprove dissemination of the NORS source code to external agencies.  Moreover, the work of the appellant does not affect the development of major aspects of agency-wide IT programs.  These requirements and program limitations preclude crediting Level 5-5 to the appellant’s position.

This factor is evaluated at Level 5-4 and 225 points are assigned.

Factor 7, Purpose of contacts

These factors measure the types of personal contacts that occur in the work and the purpose of these contacts.  These factors include face-to-face contacts and telephone dialogue with persons not in the supervisory chain.  Levels described under these factors are based on what is required to make the initial contact, the difficulty of communicating with those contacted, how well the employee and those contacted recognize their relative roles and authorities, the reason for the communication, and the context or environment in which the communication takes place.

At Level 7-B, the purpose of the contacts is to plan, coordinate, or advise on work efforts, or to resolve issues or operating problems by influencing or persuading people who are working toward mutual goals and have basically cooperative attitudes.  Contacts typically involve identifying options for resolving problems.

At Level 7-C, the purpose of the contacts is to influence and persuade employees and managers to accept and implement findings and recommendations.  The employee may encounter resistance as a result of issues such as organizational conflict, competing objectives, or resource problems.  He/she must be skillful in approaching contacts to obtain the desired effect, e.g., gaining compliance with established policies and regulations by persuasion or negotiation.

The appellant’s position matches Level 7-B.  The PD evaluation makes unsubstantiated statements regarding the position’s personal contacts.  For instance, we did not find the purpose of the appellant’s contacts is to ‘interrogate, or control persons or groups,” nor are his contacts “fearful, skeptical or dangerous” as described under this factor.  Contrary to this, the appellant’s contacts are made to coordinate and advise on technical work efforts, resolve technical problems, and fulfill user requests having to do with such issues as user application software needs.  Through influence and persuasion, the appellant convinces staff and managers to accept his IT recommendations and/or implement OIG policies and guidelines.  The appellant applies his technical expertise to help explain and resolve issues with his contacts before issues become problems.

The position does not meet Level 7-C.  Unlike this level, the purpose of the appellant’s contacts is not to persuade others to accept his recommendations in situations where there are competing interests between department needs, thus creating resistance resulting from issues such as organizational conflict or resource problems.  The appellant’s position does not require him to resolve conflicts that arise due to competing objectives or to prioritize limited resources.  This responsibility is vested in higher-level management.  The IT director resolves management-related issues, such as changes in project goals with proponents and approval and dissemination of NORS source code.  Self-initiated projects must receive management approval prior to commencement.  For external projects, most often the scope (i.e., system need) is predetermined for the appellant before assignment.  Thus, and as verified by the appellant during our interview, those individuals contacted have basically cooperative attitudes.  Therefore, we find there is no significant need to negotiate on a regular and recurring basis to gain compliance with policies or regulations.

The combined factors are evaluated at Levels 3B and 110 points are assigned.

Factor Level  Points
1.  Knowledge required by the position 1-7 1250
2.  Supervisory controls 2-4 450
3.  Guidelines 3-4 450
4.  Complexity 4-4 225
5.  Scope and effect 5-4 225
6/7.  Personal Contacts/Purpose of Contacts 3B 110
8.  Physical demands 8-1 5
9.  Work environment 9-1 5
Total 2720

The total of 2720 points falls within the GS-11 point range (2355-2750) on the grade conversion table provided int he standard.


The appellant's position is properly classified as Information Technology Specialist (Application Software), GS-2210-11.

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