Pay-for-performance effort begins

House hearing slated for March 9 will examine whether feds are underpaid

Federal employees’ compensation has become a hot topic in the present budget-crunch environment. Although Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry believes that government pay is fair, he also seems open to reforming the General Schedule pay system.

Berry is scheduled to testify at a House hearing titled, “ Are Federal Workers Underpaid?" held by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee's Federal Workforce.  Subcommittee Chairman Dennis Ross (R- Fla.), has said the session will be his first step towards establishing a federal pay-for-performance system intended to facilitate a reduction in the federal workforce of at least 10 percent.

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Pay for performance back on the table

In testimony prepared for the hearing, Berry said, “I have said before that the system is six decades old and could use a reexamination. But even if the system is not perfect, we must reject misleading uses of data that perpetuates the myth that federal employees are as a whole overcompensated.”

Berry said the current system is also not ideal for comparing compensation between federal and non-federal occupations, noting that this “does not reflect the complexity of the world we live.”

“Any reforms we undertake must meet the following principles that the existing GS system does well: transparency, equal pay for equal work, no political influence, ability to recruit and retain a well-qualified workforce,” he adds.

Other witnesses to testify include James Sherk, senior policy analyst in labor economics at the Heritage Foundation, and Colleen Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union.

Max Stier, president and CEO of the Partnership for Public Service and who is also set to testify, says in his written testimony that Congress might be asking the wrong question.

“I respectfully submit that the real question that needs to be addressed by Congress and the Administration is not whether the laws government federal pay should be changed but rather how they should be changed,” Stier says in the prepared testimony.

He offers core principles that include setting federal pay based on the market for talent needed, gathering more complete data, assessing the quality of new hires, reforming the federal job classification system, and designing a pay system that is flexible to incorporate most, if not all, federal organizations.


About the Author

Alyah Khan is a staff writer covering IT policy.

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Reader comments

Thu, Mar 10, 2011

Folks, what's wrong with this picture? CUT COSTS BY IMPLEMENTING PAY FOR PERFORMANCE. Has anyone seriously looked at paying for peformance could INCREASE costs? I can name many cost SAVING intitatives I have either started, or worked on, that I got my USUAL pay- because IT'S MY JOB. Be careful what you ask for!!!!

Wed, Mar 9, 2011 Bill

Another thing you never hear mentioned during these investigations is an attempt to cut down on the number/layers of managers in the government. Over the years there have been more and more managers overseeing fewer and fewer employees. When they talk about doing more with less they don’t mean management. Years ago in the military we had several hundred employees under one GS-15 and now in another branch I work, we have only 14 employees under our FG-15 plus an intermediate supervisor at a FG-14 level. Each of those grade 15 government employees makes $130,000 to $160,000 and the FG-14 makes $110,000 to $140,000. So… in our small department it takes at least a quarter million bucks to directly oversee 14 people! If you really want to save some money, the target needs to be partially redirected from the backs of the lower paid employees who are actually doing all the real work and focus some attention on thinning out management. This to me is the low hanging fruit that could save quite a lot without compromising the government’s ability to get the job done.

Wed, Mar 9, 2011 Philadelphia

It is true you have people at the GS-12 and GS-13 level that just plan parties and not only get payed for party planning but also get awards for how good of a party they coordinated. When did promoting a party or social activity become more important than doing actual work. Also, within the last 10 years, you have people that were just promoted for telling on other people. We all know, we always had employees who suck-up by telling on people but years ago they still had to work. Now it has become an art on how, when and were to snitch. Also, the management pool leaves a lot to be desired. You use to be able to go to your supervisor or manager for guidance. Now, you just wait for the errors to appear and no one especially not even the superviosr is accountable. Now, when you want to give a person a promotion and they don't qualify for a specific set of skill sets, you call the position some type of analyst. Within the past ten years, you have so many positions with the name anaylst, program analyst, program specialist, management & program analyst, management analyst, etc

Wed, Mar 9, 2011

Pay for performance - pitty that this cannot be instituted for Congress as well. We are all civil servants in the end, we should have a level playing field and be held accountable. These types of hearings and proposed legislation are not going to fix the real problem. They are a smoke screen for a federal work force reduction agenda.

Wed, Mar 9, 2011

Sounds like the Republicans pushing for NSPS all over again, and another big waste of millions of dollars. I thought the Republicans were out to save money not waste it. I think an NSPS history lesson should be given to those pushing pay for performance again.

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