Government vulnerable to loss of top ranks

The federal government is in danger of losing droves of talented executives to private industry because pay for senior employees in government pales in comparison to salaries offered by private companies, according to a study released today by the consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers.

The study, which involved a telephone survey of 347 executives drawn randomly from a list of 5,600 members of the Senior Executive Service, found that while 72 percent of the surveyed executives think that raising pay is critical, only 5 percent of the respondents believed that the government would successfully tackle the pay issue.

"In today's economy, with this war for talent, it's going to become increasingly difficult for the federal government to compete," said PricewaterhouseCoopers partner Carl Weinberg at a news conference Wednesday.

The problem deepens in the information technology community, where competition in the work force is very intense, according to the firm.

The threat of losing senior executives with high-tech expertise constitutes a "crisis" within the government that needs to be addressed quickly, said Mark Abramson, executive director of the firm's Endowment for the Business of Government.

"Government is going to have to compete for highly skilled workers," he said. "And there will be more and more jobs in those categories" in the future, he added.

Ian Littman, another partner with the firm, urged lawmakers to "at least give the federal government some ammunition...to compete."

The "convoluted maze of a system" that determines pay needs to be revamped, he said. Senior executives should be paid more, and there should be more pay disparity between different-level executives. According to the study, for example, the chief information officer of the Internal Revenue Service makes the same $175,400 salary as Vice President Al Gore.

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