Some are more equal

Some are more equal

Thomas R. Temin

Every time one of my kids plaintively begs for some new game, gewgaw or sugar-laden gunk he or she absolutely must have, my stock answer is, 'Yeah, and I want $1 million.'

Everybody wants more money. But there's a corollary law of nature. When you publicly and ceremoniously grant more money to one group, someone else will grumble'sometimes just as publicly. And often justifiably.

So it is that the pay raise for some federal information technology workers has raised hackles among groups that didn't get a bump. Some at the same GS level don't hold an eligible job title. Some are at agencies that, for one reason or another, don't deem them eligible'such as the Federal Aviation Administration. And some who supervise raise recipients wonder why they aren't equally deserving.

At a recent dinner, the chief information officer of a major agency groused: 'The salary increase isn't applied to high enough grades. It keeps your systems running, but it doesn't keep the managers.'

Some FAA employees have gone so far as to sue for the IT raise granted late last year by the Office of Personnel Management [GCN, Feb. 19, Page 1].

Clearly, OPM, Congress and the president have more work to do on federal salaries, which is never a politically palatable undertaking.

The recent and valid IT raises were in response to a staffing shortage caused by the confluence of retirements and a hot economy. For government recruitment and retention, it was the perfect storm.

Now, President Bush and Congress must take a longer view and ask what sort of federal work force the nation needs in the long run. Federal executive, managerial and technical talent is growing scarce in many functions.

Outsourcing everything, as I've noted before, is not the answer. It merely shifts but doesn't reduce long-term costs.

The last comprehensive overhaul of the federal service, during the Carter administration, resulted in the Senior Executive Service, a durable institution. The machinery is due for another tune-up, and that could be one of IT's biggest contributions to government.

Thomas R. Temin

Editorial director

E-mail: editor@postnewsweektech.com

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