OPM includes worker incentive fund

As expected, President Bush's fiscal 2004 budget request proposed a $500 million Human Capital Performance Fund that would be managed by the Office of Personnel Management.

The fund will allow agencies to reward employees who do outstanding work and attract workers to critical, hard-to-fill positions.

OPM Director Kay Coles James called the fund a down payment on overhauling the federal pay system.

"How we pay federal workers is outdated, antiquated, outmoded—what other words can I throw in?" James said. "Our system is in dire need of reform. It is going to require legislation for the long haul. But that's OK, it needs to be done—we need to get the conversation going and we will."

Pay raises from the fund would be in addition to any annual, across-the-board pay raises given to civilian federal employees and would be permanently added to an employee's base pay. Federal workers are slated for a 2 percent raise next year.

The current General Schedule pay system would remain the same and employees would remain at their existing GS grade and step levels. They also would continue to receive annual across-the-board pay increases and within-grade increases. OPM must approve an agency's request to use money from the fund.

In addition, the fiscal 2004 budget request also included funding for the five e-government initiatives that OPM is managing.

OPM would receive:

* $4.3 million for e-Clearance—a $300,000 increase from the fiscal 2003 request. E-Clearance will automate the clearance process governmentwide.

* $2.5 million for e-Training—the same amount as the fiscal 2003 request. The initiative will provide one-stop shopping for e-training services and programs.

* $2.5 million for e-Payroll—the same as last year's request. E-Payroll will consolidate government payroll processing.

* $6.7 million for Recruitment One-Stop—a decrease of $2.5 million from fiscal 2003 request. The program will streamline the hiring process in the government.

* $2 million for Enterprise Human Resources Integration—a $22 million decrease from last year's request. This initiative will minimize the HR data that agencies must send to OPM.

OPM also would receive $36.7 million in fiscal 2004 for the retirement system modernization program, which will automate the current paper-based record-keeping system. The program will reach full capacity in 2010. Next year's request is nearly $10 million more than the fiscal 2003 request.

John Stein Monroe contributed to this story.

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