On Dec. 19, the president signed legislation ordering that the administration report to Congress by April 30 laying out options for fixing the government's outdated law enforcement pay and benefits system.

The Bush administration missed the deadline.

Even though Congress voiced concerns about differences in law enforcement pay and retirement benefits two years ago in the debate over creation of a Department of Homeland Security, the administration has kept to a slow, measured pace on the issue.

A draft report, prepared at the Office of Personnel Management, is under review at the Office of Management and Budget, with no firm date for release.

Chad Kolton, an OMB spokesman, said he could not predict when the report would be finished because the administration continues to gather comments from agencies.

"We're talking about an extensive review of pay and retirement issues for people who put their own safety on the line in the protection of others," Kolton said. "While we are mindful of being after the deadline, we want to make sure that we are as thorough as possible to produce the best possible study."

The missed deadline has added to the frustrations of associations and other employee groups that have been urging Congress to adjust pay and retirement benefits for federal officers for much of the last decade, said John Amat, a spokesman for the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association.

Because of a tangle of laws and court cases that go back to 1947, thousands of federal law enforcement officers are covered by different pay scales and retirement programs. They also work under a range of policies governing overtime, holidays and time off and receive different disability and locality pay. The lack of a unifying definition of "federal law enforcement officer" also is a sore point with many officers.

At a House civil service subcommittee hearing last summer, FBI agent Nancy Savage, representing the FBI Agents Association, said many federal agents and officers cannot make ends meet in high-cost cities.

Savage said a starting FBI agent in San Francisco can make about $56,000 a year, including overtime. But she said the median cost of single-family homes in the San Francisco area is about $439,000 -- far too expensive for most agents to afford.

An agent in New York told the FBI association that he has had to borrow money from his family to cover his living costs. In responding to an association survey, Savage said, the agent wrote, "The bottom line is that presently I am forced to move from room to room, often being homeless for days or weeks at a time."

Richard J. Gallo, past president of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, testified that some first-year officers cannot afford homes near where they work and "commute before dawn to the city in which they work, then sleep in their cars to catch up on their sleep before reporting to work, because they live so far away."

Others quit to work for state and local law enforcement agencies "so they can make a better salary and have better benefits," he said. "These things are happening."

Sen. George V. Voinovich (R-Ohio) and Rep. Jo Ann S. Davis (R-Va.), who chair federal workforce subcommittees, plan to use the administration's review of law enforcement compensation to determine what kinds of changes may be needed. Aides said they were informed that the report would not make its deadline.

NAGE Urges Rumsfeld to Quit

The National Association of Government Employees, which represents about 10,000 workers at the Defense Department, yesterday called on Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld to resign because of the outcry over prisoner abuse in Iraq.

Union President David J. Holway faulted Rumsfeld for an "inadequate response" to the abuse at Abu Ghraib prison. "Thousands of Department of Defense employees and their families are suffering the egregious fall-out that is due to your lack of leadership," Holway said in a letter to Rumsfeld.

Diary Live

Please join me at noon today for a discussion of federal employee and retiree issues on Federal Diary Live at www.washingtonpost.com.

E-mail: barrs@washpost.com