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SEA criticizes Pentagon bonus limits

Dec. 10, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
By SEAN REILLY   |   Comments
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Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel (Getty Images)

The Senior Executives Association is protesting the Defense Department’s decision to clamp down on the amount of money available for fiscal 2013 performance bonuses for top career officials, scientists and engineers.

That approach “is very short-sighted and, at best, is ‘penny wise and pound foolish,’” SEA President Carol Bonosaro said in a letter to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel made public Tuesday. “Significantly, we know of no other major department taking DoD’s approach.”

For 2013, the Pentagon is limiting the bonus pool both for career Senior Executive Service members and Senior Professionals (SP) to 1 percent of the cumulative salaries of those participating in the pool, according to a Nov. 26 memo from Michael Rhodes, director of administration and management in Hagel’s office. For both groups, only those rated at Level 5 (“Outstanding/Exceptional Results”) are eligible for extra money, he added.

In general, bonuses may be no more than 20 percent and no less than 5 percent of an employee’s base pay as of the end of the fiscal year in September. For SP employees, any award over $25,000 needs White House approval, Rhodes wrote.

The Pentagon’s policy is at odds with Office of Management and Budget instructions issued last month, Bonosaro said. That guidance capped bonus pools at 5 percent of total salaries, the same as in 2012.

Career senior executives and professionals don’t get the same longevity-based raises as employees in the General Schedule system, making performance award programs “all the more important in ensuring fair compensation for the extra risk and difficulty involved in highly demanding jobs,” she wrote. Except for a select few, Bonosaro added, the DoD’s approach “effectively rejects the notion of pay-for-performance for its senior civilian leaders.”

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