A key House Republican pledged yesterday to revamp pay and personnel rules for the FBI as part of an effort to improve its intelligence and counterterrorism programs.
Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R-Va.), chairman of a House Appropriations subcommittee that oversees the FBI, said he would seek to increase locality pay for FBI personnel in high-cost areas, create a streamlined method for bringing FBI retirees back during times of crisis, and exclude bonuses awarded high-performing FBI employees from a statutory restriction on compensation.
Wolf rolled out his proposal at a hearing on the FBI's efforts to strengthen its intelligence analysis and intelligence-sharing across the government after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
In his testimony, FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III said he supported Wolf's plan, which draws heavily on recommendations made by the National Academy of Public Administration.
Mueller said federal pay scales "really hurt tremendously our agents" who live in high-cost areas of New York and California, and he signaled support for higher locality pay for FBI agents. But, he noted, "it's not just important for the FBI; it's important, I would say, across the board for agents that are not only in the FBI but agents in other agencies."
Wolf said he intended to revamp FBI pay and personnel rules in the fiscal 2005 spending bill for the agency, and the subcommittee's ranking Democrat, Rep. Jose E. Serrano (N.Y.), said he would support the changes.
To underscore his fast-track approach, Wolf's colleague in the Virginia delegation, Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (R), the chairman of the House Government Reform Committee, joined the hearing to endorse the changes.
The Defense Department, Securities and Exchange Commission and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration have been granted personnel flexibilities in the last year, Davis said. "It just makes a lot of sense that we set the precedent, and I think this is a great place to expand it," he said.
Mueller told Wolf that the FBI is losing intelligence analysts to the CIA, Defense Intelligence Agency, Department of Homeland Security and the private sector because his agency does not have a "career track" that takes analysts into the senior executive ranks.
A lack of competitive pay also hurts the FBI, Mueller said. "I have had some very good, competent people who have left because they are good and competent and can be paid two, or three, or four times what they are paid in the bureau, although they'd much prefer to stay in the bureau."
In its recommendations to Wolf, the national academy, which is headed by C. Morgan Kinghorn, said the FBI should establish an intelligence career service that would allow the agency to attract and retain talent.
On pay, the academy recommended an increase in locality adjustments for FBI personnel so that field offices in high-cost cities could have an easier job recruiting agents and support staff members. The academy also called for excluding performance-related bonuses from the congressional pay cap so more generous incentives are available to help retain staff members.
On retirement issues, the academy proposed that the FBI set up a "reserve program" to quickly bring back retirees with specialized skills during a crisis. The FBI would gain "surge capacity" at crucial times, and the retirees, in turn, would be permitted to draw full pay and full pensions.
In addition to being able to call back retirees, Mueller said, he would like to have the option of keeping some agents on the job until they are 65. Under current rules, agents must retire at 57, and, if given a retirement waiver by the FBI director, must leave at 60.
FBI special agents Gary Dagan, Tim Delaney, Karyn Feeney and John Gillies discuss financial crimes on "FEDtalk" at 11 a.m. today on federalnewsradio.com.
Mark Kneidinger, deputy assistant administrator for management at the U.S. Agency for International Development, will be the guest on "The Business of Government Hour" at 9 a.m. tomorrow on WJFK radio (106.7 FM).
"How Secure Is Your Agency?" will be the topic for discussion on the Imagene B. Stewart call-in program at 8 a.m. Sunday on WOL radio (1450 AM).