2019 White House budget may include civilian pay freeze

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The White House is eyeing a pay freeze in 2019 for civilian federal workers, according to a budget document passed along to a Democratic senator.

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) went public with a document she said was passed along by a whistleblower, and which details budget guidance from the Office of Management and Budget to the Department of Homeland Security for Fiscal Year 2019. According to McCaskill, OMB rejected a request from DHS to boost pay for border patrol agents, Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents and Customs and Border Patrol, instead communicating that the president will be seeking a governmentwide pay freeze for all civilian federal employees.

A report based off the document that was put together by McCaskill's staff quotes OMB telling DHS "per government-wide guidance, no civilian pay raise is included in the recommended level for the FY 2019 Budget."

"This pay freeze includes individuals serving in law enforcement positions throughout DHS, with the exception of those in non-civilian positions with the Coast Guard," McCaskill's report added.

An aide on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee minority staff confirmed to FCW that there are currently no plans to publicly release the underlying passback document on which McCaskill's claims are based.

If a pay freeze is does materialize, it would represent the latest blow to federal workers from an administration that came into office with plans to dramatically reform the civil service. One of the first actions taken by President Trump after he came into office was to institute an immediate hiring freeze on the civilian federal workforce. His proposed budget for 2018 also included provisions that would increase retirement contributions for federal workers and cut or eliminate several cost of living adjustment formulas for benefit programs.

Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) who represents the fed-heavy State of Virginia, took to Twitter following McCaskill's revelations to register his objections.

Noting that Virginia is home to the federal agencies like the CIA, the National Guard, the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency and the U.S. Marshalls, Warner said if the White House was looking to cut salaries, it should start by cutting its own or that of members of Congress, and "leave hardworking Virginians out of it."

"Same goes for the people who work at federal agencies in [Virginia] that support farmers, miners, wounded warriors and more," said Warner. "The unfair and arbitrary attacks on federal employees need to end."

About the Author

Derek B. Johnson is a staff writer at FCW, covering governmentwide IT policy, cybersecurity and a range of other federal technology issues.

Prior to joining FCW, Johnson was a freelance technology journalist. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, GoodCall News, Foreign Policy Journal, Washington Technology, Elevation DC, Connection Newspapers and The Maryland Gazette.

Johnson has a Bachelor's degree in journalism from Hofstra University and a Master's degree in public policy from George Mason University. He can be contacted at, or follow him on Twitter @derekdoestech.

Click here for previous articles by Johnson.

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