Stay the Equal Course on Raises, They Tell Bush

The Washington Post - - Local - Stephen Barr

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 barrs@wash­post.com.

Steny Hoyer seeks pay-raise par­ity for the mil­i­tary and civil ser­vice.

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