Under the bill to be considered by a House Appropriations subcommittee, federal employees would receive the same 3.1 percent total raise that the White House proposed for military personnel — called “pay parity.”
The federal raise would be broken down as 2.6 percent across the board with 0.5 percent split up by locality, resulting in raises ranging from slightly below to slightly above 3.1 percent. Employees in the Washington-Baltimore locality traditionally have received one of the larger annual raises under such arrangements.
If the raise ultimately is paid — and the House bill is just an initial step in a long process — it would be the second straight time that Congress has enacted a raise contrary to the White House’s request for a freeze. A freeze took effect at the start of this year by default because no figure had been enacted by the end of 2018, but a later budget agreement provided for a 1.9 percent average raise, paid retroactive to the start of this year.
The administration’s plan to abolish the OPM as a stand-alone agency was first proposed last summer as part of an initiative to reorganize and consolidate numerous agencies. One part of that plan, shifting to the Defense Department the conducting of background investigations for security clearances, already is in progress, with the move to be completed in September.
However, the other elements of the plan have been more controversial, especially the intent to put federal personnel policy in the hands of the White House’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB). At a recent House hearing, several Democrats and representatives of employee unions called the plan a ploy to politicize the civil service, while several Republicans present showed little support for it.
“This is a reckless and potentially dangerous proposal that would further the administration’s efforts to politicize the civil service and undermine our democracy,” the American Federation of Government Employees, the largest federal employees union, said in praising the move to block the plan.
The plan also calls for the GSA to take over the OPM’s operations of federal benefit programs and the personnel services it provides to other agencies on a reimbursable basis. Acting OPM director Margaret Weichert, also a senior OMB official, contended at the hearing that the GSA is better equipped to handle those tasks.
The bill before the Appropriations Committee would bar the administration from spending any money to “reorganize or transfer any function” of the OPM to the GSA or the OMB, or to “enter into or carry out any outsourcing or interagency agreement” to shift work currently done by the OPM.