Foreign Service staff members assigned overseas get a 3.8 percent pay raise this month. So do white-collar federal civil servants in Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

Generally speaking, overseas feds get only a part of the regular January federal pay raise. That raise is usually divided between national pay adjustments, which go to everyone, and locality pay raises that are based on private-sector salaries (as measured by the government) in dozens of major U.S. cities and metropolitan areas.

For this year, Congress approved a 4.8 percent average pay raise for federal workers. It was up to President Clinton to decide how much of that raise--if any of it--was to be earmarked for locality adjustments. As predicted, he authorized a national raise of 3.8 percent, leaving the rest in a pool to be divided up based on locality adjustments.

Under the national-locality split this year, white-collar federal workers in the Washington-Baltimore area get a 4.94 percent raise. Civil servants in some other cities--such as New York, Houston and Los Angeles--get more. Those in some other cities--such as Richmond and Salisbury, Md.--get less.

Thanks to locality pay raises in recent years, Foreign Service personnel stationed in the Washington area are paid more than their overseas counterparts. On the other hand, overseas workers get allowances and benefits that aren't available to Washington-based staff members. Suffice it to say, each group thinks the other has the better deal.

By the same token, feds in Alaska, Hawaii and some other non-foreign locations have long enjoyed pay differentials ranging from 10 to 25 percent. But they don't get annual locality pay adjustments.

This year, Class 1 salaries for overseas Foreign Service personnel range from $77,614 to $100,897. Class 1 salaries for Foreign Service workers in Washington range from $84,638 to $110,028. Salaries for overseas Foreign Service workers at the starting level, Class 9, range from $21,370 to $31,383. For Foreign Service workers in Washington, the range is $23,304 to $34,223, thanks to locality pay.

Dozens of overseas feds have sent e-mail to the Federal Diary asking about this year's pay rates. They said they got no word from the State Department. Our efforts yesterday to get the information via official channels also failed. Maybe everybody is in Shepherdstown! At any rate, the pay scales are posted on the American Foreign Service Association's Web page,

Thanksgiving Several readers spotted a mistake in the year 2000 annual leave chart that ran in this space Sunday. Our ultimate proofreader (me) failed to note that one of the H's (for holidays) on the chart moved Thanksgiving to a Friday. But Thanksgiving, as usual, will be the third Thursday in November, which this year is Nov. 23.

Like Thanksgiving, Veterans Day and Independence Day, July 4, are not part of the system that observes most national holidays on a Monday, regardless of the original dates.

Double Your Money? Federal workers with money in the C-fund (stock index) of the thrift savings plan--the government's 401(k) plan--got a return last year of 20.95 percent. In 1998, the C-fund, which tracks the Standard & Poor's 500, returned 28.44 percent. In 1997, the return was 33.17 percent.

The F-fund (bond index) had a loss last year of 0.85 percent. In 1998, the F-fund returned 8.7 percent, and in 1997, it returned 9.6 percent.

The G-fund (special Treasury securities) return last year was 5.99 percent. In 1998, the G-fund return was 5.74 percent, and in 1997, the return was 6.77 percent.

Because of big stock market returns since 1995, many feds who have invested exclusively in the C-fund have more than doubled their account balances. A growing number of high-income employees who invested the maximum amount from the beginning of the C-fund have balances exceeding $500,000.

The thrift savings plan open season, when employees can sign up for the savings plan or reallocate future payroll investments, ends Jan. 31. Beginning in May, savings plan participants will have two new options--an international stock index fund and a domestic small-capitalization stock index fund.

Mike Causey's e-mail address is

Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2000