Two national pension organizations announced plans to combine operations, while at the same time keeping their individual identities.

Under the plan, the National Tax Sheltered Accounts Association (NTSAA) will become a semi-autonomous division of the American Society of Pension Professionals Actuaries (ASPPA).

The NTSAA, based in St. Louis, is an independent non-profit association dedicated to the 403(b) and 457 marketplaces. It has about 1,000 members.

The Arlington, Va.-based ASPPA, with about 6,500 members, is an association of professionals who provide consulting and administrative services for qualified retirement plans.

ASPPA will maintain the "goodwill" and "brand identity" of NTSAA, officials said.

"This is not a merger or acquisition," ASPPA Executive Director/CEO Brian H. Graff said in a prepared statement. "Our intent is to bring together the best of both organizations."

The union of the two organizations was an outgrowth of a partnership that began with the recent launch of the Tax-Exempt and Governmental Plan Consultant (TGPC) credential. The credential was initiated by NTSAA, but ASPPA manages the education and examinations of candidates.

"Because of this success, we recognized that by combining future resources with NTSSA, we have the opportunity to not only strengthen our industry position, but also to provide enhanced benefits that will keep our members at the top of their profession," ASPPA President Stephen L. Dobrow said in a prepared statement.

The NTSAA stands to benefit from ASPPA's lobbying muscle on Capital Hill, according to NTSAA President Christopher M. DeGrassi. "ASPPA is well known in Washington, so gaining representation through its advocacy program-while encouraging greater NTSAA member political involvement-is in the interests of both organizations," he said.