A group that represents career federal executives has lodged a protest with the Bush administration, contending the Pentagon violated federal law by giving slightly higher pay raises to political appointees in the Senior Executive Service than to career SES members.
The Senior Executives Association, in a letter to the Office of Personnel Management, said the Pentagon on Jan. 12 approved a 2.5 percent pay raise this year for political appointees in the SES but only a 2 percent raise for career executives. The career executives can qualify for the higher raise only if they received a bonus or a presidential rank award during 2004.
By the association's count, that means at least 45 percent of the career executives in the office of the secretary of defense will not be eligible for the higher raise.
"We cannot imagine a more negative message about relative worth and appreciation being sent to career executives than the one now being sent by" the Defense Department, the letter said.
"Political appointees will all be fully rewarded without regard to any differences in individual performance, but only a relatively small number of career appointees will receive a full raise," the letter said.
OPM oversees the government-wide SES system and last year issued a series of regulations and directives informing agencies about the conversion to the new pay system. The guidelines said raises for federal executives should be based on what the executives accomplish on the job and how well their agencies stack up against various performance measures, including a White House scorecard that tracks how well agencies are meeting the president's goals.
"No mention is made in the OPM regulations of allowing an adjustment solely because of the political character of an appointment," the association said in a letter signed by its president, Carol A. Bonosaro, and its general counsel, William L. Bransford.
The Pentagon violated a law that prohibits discrimination based on political affiliation and statutory merit principles that require equal pay for equal work and protect employees from arbitrary action undertaken for partisan purposes, the letter said.
An OPM spokesman declined to comment, saying that officials had not seen the letter, dated Wednesday.
The Bush administration sought an overhaul of the SES pay system as part of a larger effort to reward the government's best workers with higher raises. This week, the Department of Homeland Security announced a new personnel system that changes the way Homeland Security employees are paid, promoted and disciplined. The Defense Department also is planning significant changes in its rules for civil service employees.
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Gony Frieder, legal counsel for the American Federation of Government Employees Local 1, representing screeners at the Transportation Security Administration, and Peter Winch, coordinator of AFGE's TSA organizing campaign, will be the guests on "FEDtalk" at 11 a.m. today on federalnewsradio.com.
Gen. John Handy, commander of the Defense Department's Transportation Command, will be the guest on the "IBM Business of Government Hour" at 9 a.m. tomorrow on WJFK radio (106.7 FM).
"OPM Allows Workplace Collections for Tsunami Relief but Not Charity at Home?" will be the topic for discussion on the Imagene B. Stewart call-in program at 8 a.m. Sunday on WOL radio (1450 AM).