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A group of federal employee and public interest groups is asking key members Congress to significantly lower the cap on payments to Defense Department contract workers.

Currently, the government can pay individual contractors up to $763,029, an amount that should be substantially reduced because of “fiscal responsibility and fairness,” said the letter from the 10 organizations.

The message to the top Democrats and Republicans on the House and Senate armed services committees said that “with budget cuts and sequestration looming, it is fiscally irresponsible to allow private contractors to charge escalating and exorbitant rates to the government.”

J. David Cox, president of the American Federation of Government Employees, said his union is the “driving force” behind the letter. It calls on Congress to limit contractor compensation to $230,700, as proposed in the National Defense Authorization Act of 2013.

“This is important because of the taxpayers,” Cox said in an interview. “Nobody in the federal government makes that kind of money, so why should we pay contractors that?... If you want to find savings for taxpayers, this is a good place to find it.”

Basic pay rates for federal employees have been frozen for nearly two years. In May, Stan Soloway, president of the Professional Services Council, which represents contractors, said they “are feeling the effects of the fiscal environment directly and significantly.”

Under the legislation, contracting companies would be allowed to pay their employees more than $230,700, just not with taxpayer funds. The current cap was set through a formula determined by law.

President Obama has proposed replacing that formula with one that would tie contractor pay to that of Cabinet officials, which now is $199,700.

federaldiary@washpost.com

Twitter: @JoeDavidsonWP

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