Equal raises for all

I recently wrote a column advocating equal pay raises for federal civilian and uniformed service personnel — an issue that Congress is currently debating.

The president's budget calls for a 4.6 percent pay raise for military personnel and only a 3.6 percent raise for civilian personnel. I don't think that's fair. Many readers took exception to my remarks.

One reader said, "Next time you see a "fed' who works a 100-hour week without overtime, or spends 180 days aboard a 360-foot-long steel box in the Persian Gulf, or a month in the freezing mud on an exercise in Korea, you let me know."

Another reader says, "It is apparent that Zall IS truly a civil service employee. I believe these are the people that "formed a union,' "take months, even years to fire for incompetence,' "established a grievance system that produces volumes of paperwork for nothing' and in most cases are already paid more than their military counterparts in the same jobs. They are not required to live in substandard housing or sleep on the ground for endless days and nights, or do without sleep at all for extended periods of time."

Another reader said, "As a military officer, I put up with things a fed civilian would never stand for, and I live with situations and conditions a fed civilian could not, and would not, stomach. There may be some within the federal civil service who have lost sight of the fact that there can be no parity between military personnel and federal civil service. Military personnel work longer hours for less pay than just about any other profession I know."

The gist of those comments is that military personnel walk on water and deserve higher pay. That view is certainly not universally held, but even if it was, it has nothing to do with annual pay increases. Those who argue that the military isn't compensated adequately should press for better starting pay and a better career ladder.

The annual pay increases are intended to permit em-ployees to keep up with rising costs. Inflation affects everyone in the same way, so why shouldn't inflation adjustments for feds be the same as inflation adjustments for military personnel? One might even argue that military personnel are less affected by inflation because many get government-provided housing and food.

I really don't think anyone has the right to say they're "entitled" to more pay. Says who? If you don't want to be a soldier or a fed, don't become one. It's certainly difficult to be a soldier; it's also difficult to be a prison guard. If you're not happy with what you're doing or what you're being paid, vote with your feet. In a free-market environment, there's no room for crybabies!

Zall is a retired federal employee who since 1987 has written the Bureaucratus column for Federal Computer Week. He can be reached at miltzall@starpower.net.

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