Members of the House Appropriations Committee moved June 3 to give federal employees a significant increase in overall pay in 2020, directly contradicting the White House budget proposal for the same year, which called for a federal pay freeze.
Under the committee’s first public draft of fiscal year 2020 general government appropriations, federal employees would receive a 2.6 percent increase to their basic rates of pay and an average .5 percent increase to locality pay, well above any pay increases granted to federal employees in the last 10 years.
“Federal employees earn less today than they did at the start of the decade, due to years of pay freezes and incremental adjustments that have failed to keep pace with inflation. Many agencies are struggling to recruit and retain employees due to noncompetitive salaries that lag private-sector standards,” American Federation of Government Employees National President J. David Cox. Sr. said in a statement.
“This pay raise is a critical investment in our government’s most valuable resource — its workers. It also maintains the decades-long principle of providing equal pay adjustments to the government’s civilian employees and service members, since it matches the 3.1 percent raise the Trump administration has proposed for the military next year.”
The vice president and members of the executive schedule would also receive a 3.1 percent pay increase, lifting a freeze kept in place since 2013.
The committee also took the first steps to block the Trump administration’s planned transfer of authorities from the Office of Personnel Management to the General Services Administration.
The bill would specifically forbid any funding approved by the Congress from being used to break up OPM and move its operations to either GSA or the Office of Management and Budget.
It would also prevent administration attempts to circumvent the legislative authority needed to fully break up OPM by ensuring that agency officials cannot “carry out any outsourcing or interagency agreement between the Office of Personnel Management and the General Services Administration not in effect before October 1, 2018.”
Administration officials have said that the reorganization of OPM is necessary to ensure that federal personnel operations continue in a modern and efficient manner, in part because a planned transition of OPM’s National Background Investigation Bureau to the Department of Defense would strip the personnel agency of a sizable chunk of IT funding.
But opponents of the move worry that it is an attempt by the Trump administration to politicize the civil service by reducing the power of the OPM director and moving policy authority under the Executive Office of the President.
“This is a reckless and potentially dangerous proposal that would further the administration’s efforts to politicize the civil service and undermine our democracy,” said Cox.
In total, the proposed appropriations would give OPM $148.7 million for salaries and expenses, an increase over the $132.2 million authorized for fiscal year 2019 after the 35-day government shutdown and subsequent continuing resolution interrupted normal appropriations.
Of that funding, $9 million would be made available for IT infrastructure improvements, less than the $14 million made available for FY19.
The bill does offer some support for initiatives that have become central to Trump administration policy, such as the Technology Modernization Fund, which would receive an additional $35 million. That’s a $10 million increase on what the fund was appropriated for 2019, when some members of Congress expressed hesitation for contributing more money before agencies could demonstrate positive results from their TMF-funded projects.
The bill would also grant the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency an additional $1 million to make improvements and enhancements to oversight.gov, the online repository for agency inspectors general reports and investigations.
The general government appropriations bill must pass consideration in its own committee and survive a House and Senate vote to become law, meaning that most such legislation receives significant edits before reaching the president’s desk.
Jessie Bur covers federal IT and management.