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The National Security Agency (NSA), established in 1952 as a separately organized agency within the Department of Defense, has evaluated its experiences using pass/fail appraisal and concluded that it needs to use more than two levels to appraise and summarize employee performance.
Since 1992, the NSA has used a pass/fail appraisal program to evaluate its employees. (NSA is not covered by chapter 43 of title 5 of the United States Code and thus is not subject to that appraisal law and regulations and could use pass/fail before the Office of Personnel Management revised the performance management regulations in 1995.) NSA's pass/fail program includes these design features:
After several years under this program, NSA has found that:
In addition, the intelligence community leadership and Congressional oversight committees have expressed concern that the Intelligence agencies have failed to establish personnel evaluation systems that objectively evaluated the performance of each of their employees.
As a result, NSA established a task force in May 1995 to redesign its performance management program. From February to May 1996, it conducted a pilot of a revised program. Based on an evaluation of that pilot, NSA's proposed appraisal program contains the following design features:
NSA's experience illustrates some of the very real limitations that can occur with a pass/fail appraisal. It also illustrates the need to be able and willing to adapt appraisal programs as changes are needed.
NSA's proposed performance appraisal program will be implemented gradually, with full implementation scheduled by June 1998. For more information about the NSA program, you may contact the Personal Performance Evaluation Team at 410-684-7486.
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