Stay the Equal Course on Raises, They Tell Bush
The push-and-pull over the 2009 federal pay raise is underway. Ten Washington area House members, led by Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.), urged President Bush yesterday to provide equal raises to the civil service and the military next year, a practice they said Congress has encouraged for the past two decades.
The president is to send his fiscal 2009 budget recommendations to Congress on Monday, and a pay proposal will be a part of the package. It is not uncommon for Congress and the White House to differ on pay raises: Bush proposed a 3 percent average raise for this year, and Congress bumped it up to an average 3.5 percent for federal employees and the troops.
In a letter to Bush, the House members pointed to the fight against terrorism as a key reason for linking civil service and military raises. “We cannot express strongly enough the importance of continuing the tradition of pay parity between military and civilian employees in the coming fiscal year,” they wrote.
Hoyer said in a statement that pay is a critical factor in hiring and keeping government employees who perform “a myriad of services,” such as military service, intelligence-gathering and environmental protection.
“It is imperative that we continue to provide the federal workforce with a fair pay adjustment,” he said.
“As in previous years, the regional delegation will lead the effort to secure a fair 2009 pay adjustment in the tradition of pay parity for both military and civilian federal employees,” Hoyer added.
Although Bush has proposed equal adjustments in pay for the civil service and the military in some years, his aides have stressed that separate decisions are made in reaching pay recommendations. Their objection to the parity policy is that such across-the-board raises do not address the differing recruitment and retention needs of federal agencies.
Under a 1990 federal pay law, government employees would be in line for a 3.4 percent raise next year. But the formula, based on data from the Labor Department’s employment cost index, which measures private-sector wage growth, is not always followed by Congress or the White House.
The Military Officers Association of America has called for a 3.9 percent pay raise for the armed forces next year. A raise of that size would help “narrow the pay gap between military pay and the civilian sector,” said retired Air Force Col. Michael Hayden, the association’s deputy director of government relations.
A decision on the raise probably will not be made until late this year, after Congress and the White House have jousted over appropriations bills for fiscal 2009 and reached an accommodation on spending priorities.
In addition to Hoyer, Reps. Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.), Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.), James P. Moran Jr. (D-Va.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Albert R. Wynn (D-Md.), Frank R. Wolf (R-Va.), John Sarbanes (D-Md.) and C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.) and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) signed the letter.
Federal salaries are a key ingredient of the Washington area economy, and Moran noted yesterday that “in this volatile economy, the pay parity tradition is just that much more important to maintain.”
The projected civil service payroll for the region is $30.1 billion for this year. The figure does not include the military, intelligence community and U.S. Postal Service.
New Recruitment Campaign
The Bush administration launched a campaign yesterday to recruit college graduates for jobs in the federal acquisition workforce, which was hollowed out in the 1990s by budget cuts and downsizing.
Those interested in careers in the contracting field can search for internships, find job openings and learn about job fairs by going to www.fai.gov/careers.
As part of the recruitment campaign, agencies are banding together in a Federal Acquisition Intern Coalition to make the government more competitive in hiring for jobs in procurement. The coalition is being led by the Federal Acquisition Institute in partnership with the Office of Management and Budget and the Office of Personnel Management.
Paul Denett, head of government-wide procurement policy at the OMB, said the administration is studying data on how many hires are needed to fill gaps in the acquisition workforce.
Spending on government contracts has jumped in recent years, to more than $400 billion. A substantial part of the growth is in response to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“We know there is a [baby boom] retirement wave. We know the procurement function is growing. We know we need to do this,” Denett said. Stephen Barr’s e-mail address is email@example.com.
Steny Hoyer seeks pay-raise parity for the military and civil service.