No raise for civilian federal employees

  • Published
  • By Billy Webb
  • 52nd Mission Support Group installation support group deputy director
President Barack Obama proposed a freeze for federal employees' salaries for two years and in December 2010, Congress passed the salary freeze proposal into law.

The law reads: "Notwithstanding any other provision of law ... no statutory pay adjustment which (but for this subsection) would otherwise take effect during the period beginning on January 1, 2011, and ending on December 31, 2012, shall be made."

During President Bill Clinton's administration, the national debt had grown to $5.7 trillion. During the eight years President George W. Bush was in office, the country experienced the start of a downturn in the economy; first, when the 2000 "tech bubble" burst, and shortly thereafter the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001, lead to our involvement in two wars. Facing financial crisis and in need of funding for the war effort, the Bush administration and Congress were forced to borrow money in order to keep the government operating. By the end of the Bush administration, the national debt had grown to $10.7 trillion.

The country faced yet another financial crisis as President Obama took the reins of the U.S. government. During the past two years of his presidency, the country has witnessed the failure of major financial institutions as well as the near-failure of banks and corporations. It seemed as though the country was headed into an economic depression similar to the Great Depression of the 1930s. The Obama administration took drastic measures to bolster the failing economy and major corporations but not without a price. By the close of President Obama's second year in office, the country's debt had ballooned to $14 trillion.

That said, no raise doesn't mean no additional compensation. Although the pay freeze stops increases in cost-of-living allowance for two years, it does not affect normal step increases or bonuses for those in the General Service and Wage Grade systems. The 1.4 million federal employees on the GS scale are still eligible for step increases of 2.6 to 3.3 percent that will automatically take place and, by law, start every one, two, or three years, depending on an employee's time-in-grade. Some WG employees will also get step increases, and employees who receive promotions will also receive increases. Furthermore, employees who are in a pay retention status or have reached step 10 of their grade scale may still receive bonuses for good performance.

The private sector is not pulling ahead of federal employees' salaries. They have been negatively impacted by the sluggish economy. Sarah Needleman, a reporter for The Wall Street Journal, reported the average salary in the U.S. in 2009 decreased by 1.8 percent. In 2010, the average was up only by 2.5 percent, the second lowest level on record.

In my personal opinion, and given these three facts, freezing my base pay for two years is a small price to pay if it will help get the U.S. back on a responsible fiscal track. After all, I am not one of the "statistics" in the 9.1 percent unemployment population. I have a job ... no, strike that ... I have a career; a career where I proudly serve my country.

No cost-of-living raise for two years ... no problem!