Growing the Workforce but Not the Payroll

Steny Hoyer says Bush's proposed 2.9 percent pay hike for civilian workers is
Steny Hoyer says Bush's proposed 2.9 percent pay hike for civilian workers is "simply insufficient." (Brendan Smialowski - Getty Images)
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By Stephen Barr
Tuesday, February 5, 2008

P resident Bush seemingly wants to have it both ways in his final budget -- he wants the federal workforce to grow but he doesn't want the federal payroll to grow too much.

The number of federal civilian employees would increase to 1.92 million in fiscal 2009, according to the budget, which was sent to Capitol Hill yesterday. That represents a 5.2 percent increase in the executive branch since 2005 and more than 10 percent since 2001, Bush's first year in office.

As in most previous years, however, Bush continued an effort to limit the rise in federal civilian pay. For 2009, Bush recommends a 2.9 percent civilian pay increase, including locality adjustments, and a 3.4 percent increase in military pay.

Much of the growth in the federal workforce has been caused by efforts to improve national security and thwart terrorist threats following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, according to the budget. The U.S. Border Patrol would hire and train 2,200 officers, and the State Department would add 500 in jobs related to diplomacy plus another 500 in security, training and other positions.

The Census Bureau is gearing up for the 2010 census and plans to add staff as it opens 150 local offices next year, the budget says.

The departments of Energy and Veterans Affairs would add employees, as would the Food and Drug Administration, the Federal Aviation Administration, the Patent and Trademark Office and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

But it was the president's pay plan that drew the ire of key lawmakers and federal labor unions yesterday.

It goes against a Jan. 30 request from Washington area members of Congress to provide equal raises to both groups next year. The House members believe parity in raises recognizes the contributions of the civil service and the military, especially personnel who work side by side in defense and intelligence agencies.

Jane Lee, a spokeswoman for the Office of Management and Budget, said the civil service and military compensation systems are different: The military system provides for an across-the-board raise to all personnel, while civil service raises vary by locality.

"Civilian and military pay go through two completely separate review processes and have different components, so it may not be useful to compare the two," Lee said.

Washington-area House members are not persuaded.

"It is indefensible that the administration would propose a sharply lower adjustment for federal civilian workers than for uniformed personnel serving in non-combat conditions," House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said. "The proposed 2.9 percent is simply insufficient to ensure that civilian employees receive a fair base increase in 2009 as well as additional adjustments -- where necessary -- to reflect their employment in expensive regions of the United States."

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