Thousands of feds "trapped" in the wrong retirement plan are likely to stay where they are until at least next year.

Most misplaced feds were hired or rehired in the mid-1980s when Uncle Sam switched from the Civil Service Retirement System to the Federal Employees Retirement System. Annuities are more generous under CSRS. But FERS allows employees to invest more of their money (with a 5 percent federal match) into the the thrift savings plan, the federal 401(k) plan.

Last year and again this year, the House approved a Republican-backed plan that would allow misplaced workers to switch, retroactively, from CSRS to FERS. Most would jump at the House offer if it became law. Under the House plan, federal agencies--that is to say the taxpayers--would make up both employee contributions and earnings on those contributions for the entire period when the employee could have been under FERS. For some longtime, high-income workers, the offer would be worth $100,000 or more.

Since FERS replaced CSRS, all employees under CSRS have had at least two opportunities-- including one this year--to switch from CSRS to FERS.

The problem for the misplaced workers: The Senate favors a Clinton administration proposal. The White House would have those misplaced employees who want to switch come up with the money they would have contributed to the savings plan. The government would still make up the lost earnings.

Bottom line: The House is on one side, and the Senate and White House are on the other. No doable compromise is in sight.

Show Them the Money

Surveys can be revealing. Example: A study of 347 of the government's 6,010 career Senior Executive Service members shows that most would be happier if they were paid more! Another revelation: Higher pay would improve recruiting and retention.

Next we learn that SES members prefer good food to bad and enjoy nice weather.

Chances are a similar survey (of dishwashers, reporters or astrophysicists) would reveal that they, too, would like more money. What really would be news is a survey in which an occupational group complained that it was overpaid. That study is still pending.

The Office of Personnel Management said it would study the survey, made by the PricewaterhouseCoopers Endowment for the Business of Government, as part of its effort to reform the SES.

For the record, SES members in the Washington-Baltimore area are paid $110,351 to $125,900 a year.

NFFE to Wed IAM?

The National Federation of Federal Employees is engaged in "Should we affiliate?" talks with the much larger AFL-CIO-affiliated International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers. NFFE was founded in 1917 and is one of the last white-collar federal unions (the National Treasury Employees Union is the other) outside the AFL-CIO fold.

NFFE says its membership includes workers in 52 federal agencies, with major concentrations in the Defense and Veterans Affairs departments and the Forest Service.

GSA is 50

A belated happy birthday to the General Services Administration, which passed the half-century mark July 1. The GSA honored two employees--Nancy Potter and Rosamond Cardreon--who have been with the agency since it was established in 1949. Potter, the GSA's deputy budget director, works in Washington. She was 16 when she took a typing and filing job with Uncle Sam to help out at home and raise money for college. Cardreon, a World War II paratrooper, joined the GSA for what he thought would be a temporary assignment. He's now a utilization officer in Bell, Calif.


Mara T. Patermaster has joined the Office of Personnel Management as operations director for the Combined Federal Campaign, the giant federal charity fund-raiser. Patermaster comes from the INDEPENDENT SECTOR, a coalition of 800 foundations and corporations with gift-giving programs. Before that, she was with the National Puerto Rican Coalition.

Albert R. Byrd has retired from the Health and Human Services Department's Center for Mental Health Services after more than 30 years of federal and state service. He was cited for playing a longtime leadership role in developing mental health programs and programs for the aging at the federal, state and local level.

Public affairs officer Ben Smith, the voice of Walter Reed Army Medical Center, is retiring this month after 34 years with Uncle Sam, including 26 at Walter Reed.

Mike Causey's e-mail address is

Wednesday, July 14, 1999