The senators from Virginia and Maryland have asked the Senate Appropriations Committee to include a 4.1 percent pay raise for federal employees in an interim spending bill or catch-all appropriations measure when Congress convenes next month.

"Federal employees are an integral part in our fight against terrorism and protecting our homeland security. They fully deserve the additional one percent increase to the 3.1 percent pay adjustment currently scheduled for federal employees in 2003," the senators said in a letter.

The letter was organized by Sen. John W. Warner (R-Va.), who will serve as chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. He was joined by Sens. George Allen (R-Va.), Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.) and Paul S. Sarbanes (D-Md.). The letter was sent to Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), the incoming chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Warner and Stevens are staunch supporters of the military and the civil service, partly because they served in the military and have held jobs in the executive branch. As senior Republicans, they will have a strong voice in shaping spending priorities next year, including the adjustment in federal pay.

Congress appeared on track to provide the civil service with a 4.1 percent raise -- the same as that provided to the military -- when spending bills stalled because of a variety of fiscal and political disputes. Unable to complete its work, Congress has used a "continuing resolution" to keep most of the government operating at fiscal 2002 spending levels. The CR, as it is called, expires Jan. 11, shortly after Congress returns.

On Nov. 29, without a congressional decision on the pay raise, President Bush announced an alternative pay plan that provides for a 3.1 percent raise in basic pay but no increase in the "locality pay" adjustment.

Bush opted for a smaller raise as a way of saving money for more pressing issues, such as the war on terrorism. But the senators from Virginia and Maryland told Stevens that too often, civil service employees are treated as a cost rather than an asset.

"Federal employees have been relocated, reassigned and worked long hours under strenuous circumstances with no complaints since the September 11 attacks. Their loyalty is first and foremost to their country. Federal employees have proven this time and again," the four senators wrote.

With the military assured of a minimum 4.1 percent raise, "we must give our federal civilian employees the same consideration," the four told Stevens.

IRS Hoping to Trim Workforce For the next few weeks, the Internal Revenue Service will be offering cash buyouts and early retirement to selected groups of employees in an effort to reduce overhead costs.

The offers will be made to about 150 headquarters employees in IRS financial and personnel offices and about 200 employees in the agency's technology modernization and technology services division. About 280 "transitional" employees who once worked in regional and district IRS offices and did not find or want permanent jobs after the recent IRS reorganization also will be offered buyouts and early outs.

In addition, the incentives will be made available to employees at the Brookhaven Service Center on Long Island, which will close in late 2003 or early 2004 because of a declining workload. Because more people are filing their tax forms electronically, the IRS plans to close the paper-processing part of the center.

About 400 full-time employees and 2,000 seasonal workers will lose their jobs at Brookhaven. The IRS plans to transfer as many of them as possible to other parts of the agency but also wants to use buyout and early retirement as a way to help avoid layoffs there.

"No front-line tax administration employees are being offered buyouts or early outs. We need every one of them," an IRS official said.

Federal Diary Live What are the challenges facing the Bush administration as it builds a Department of Homeland Security? What first steps should be taken by the administration to make the reorganization a success? Join me for an online discussion at noon tomorrow on www.washingtonpost.com.

Stephen Barr's e-mail address is barrs@washpost.com.