Bush pay plan includes bonuses for IT workers

'The federal pay system is in a time warp of over 50 years. The president is committed to fixing it and rewarding people who do more,' OMB's Mark Everson says.

J. Adam Fenster

The Bush administration hopes a proposal for a pay-for-performance fund will give agencies an edge when they compete with industry for IT workers.

In the fiscal 2004 budget request sent to Congress last week, the White House responded to calls from Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.) and Sen. George Voinovich (R-Ohio) to improve the civil service system.

The administration requested a $500 million Human Capital Performance Fund that agencies would use to reward high-performing employees. The White House also wants to raise the top pay level of Senior Executive Service employees to $154,700.

Agencies would be able to tap the proposed fund to reward top workers and those with critical skills, said Mark Everson, deputy director for management at the Office of Management and Budget. The increases would be above the 2 percent across-the-board raise the administration recommended for all civilian federal employees next year, Everson said.

'The federal pay system is in a time warp of over 50 years,' he said. 'The president is committed to fixing it and rewarding people who do more.'

The administration's proposals bode well for IT workers, especially those in senior posts, said Myra Shiplett, director of the National Academy for Public Administration's Center for Human Resources Management.

Underpaid experts

'Senior technical experts or CIOs generally are significantly underpaid,' Shiplett said. 'Sometimes by as much as 20 percent to 50 percent.'

The administration's proposal also received support from the CIO Council and a former federal IT manager.

Ira Hobbs, deputy CIO at the Agriculture Department and co-chairman of the CIO Council's Work Force and Human Capital for IT committee, said the potential increase in compensation would close the pay gap between private- and public-sector IT workers.

'Money is an inhibitor, but if we are in the midstream as far as salaries go, the other benefits we offer should make up for it,' he said.

Miriam Browning, a principal with Booz Allen Hamilton Inc. of McLean, Va., and the Army's former principal director for enterprise and integration, said during her 30-year career in the government, she used a five-level rating system to measure employee performance.

'There were times in the past when I couldn't reward top performers with more money, and it was sad and frustrating,' she said. 'This is an excellent proposal.'

In raising the top end of the SES pay scale to $154,700'the same amount department deputy secretaries make'managers would be able to give employees an increase based on performance, said OPM director Kay Coles James. Currently, 60 percent of all SES workers and 179,000 employees paid under the General Schedule have maxed out at the top of the scale, she said.

'Most people recognize that the pay system is broken and rewards people for longevity,' James said. 'This will give the agencies a tool to recruit and retain employees with needed skills.'

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