How Well Are Government Employees Paid? Author Responds to Reader Comments

By on July 15, 2012 in Human Resources, News, Pay & Benefits

Several days ago, we ran an article entitled How Well are Government Employees Paid? based on a new article by Dr. Howard Risher, editor of Compensation and Benefits.

The article generated a number of comments from readers. While the comments were numerous and varied, there were several major themes that emerged in the comments. These themes can be summarized as follows:

1. The private sector is in a “race to the bottom” and the federal government should not follow this route. Federal employees are already underpaid by a significant amount;

2. A number of comments were along the lines of “we are already underpaid” and pay-for-performance will make it worse;

3. Pay-for-performance won’t work in government.

While it is not possible to respond to every comment, Dr. Risher has taken the time to respond to these overall themes for the benefit of our readers. Here are the comments from Dr. Risher responding to the themes listed above.

1. The private sector may be in a race to the bottom but that only affects the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) survey.

  • They try to base their survey a representative sample of the US workforce. Actually if lower paid employees are laid off, it would skew the survey results to the remaining higher pay workers.
  • Unemployed individuals would not be counted in the BLS analysis.
  • Salaries in the private sector were frozen for a brief period but it would be rare to find salaries that were reduced permanently. I would not expect average salaries to be lower.
  • The universal approach in every other sector is to compare salaries, using salary surveys, for ‘benchmark´ jobs. That assumes a chemist is a chemist or an accountant is an accountant. The results are transparent and easy to interpret. I’ve recommended that in several columns.
  • Companies conduct market analyses every year to determine how much they need to budget to maintain their planned alignment with market levels.
  • On a related point, I disagree strongly with BLS and the think tanks. Federal agencies are competing for talent with the larger employers, not the mom-and-pop businesses. The small employers should not be included in the market comparisons. The director of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), John Berry, has stated his agreement with that argument. Larger companies tend to pay somewhat higher salaries for comparable jobs.

2. I strongly disagree that federal pay is significantly lower than prevailing market levels. That in no way is to suggest feds are overpaid.

I also reject the conclusions of the think tanks. No one can say definitively until a credible “benchmark” market analysis is completed. There is a very good survey with something like 300 employers conducted each year in the Washington-Baltimore area and I can say with certainty that the job by job comparisons are mixed. But I can also say I do not recall any “gaps” of 30% as BLS claims

I also disagree with the occasional comments about large bonuses, generous pensions, etc. So-called defined benefit plans were ended in most companies years ago and replaced with defined contribution, savings plans. Benefits were grandfathered. Government benefits are definitely more generous. The rich benefits are limited to a few executives.

Bonuses for the ‘normal’ employees (i.e., chemists, accountants, etc) are rarely larger than 20% of salary. Yes there are jobs with significant incentives but for probably 75% of the private sector workforce the average bonus might be 5%. The majority of employees are not eligible for annual bonuses. The large bonuses are reserved for executives, usually limited to the top 1% — 10 in a company of 1000 employees. Keep in mind that the DC area is unique with a bunch of professional firms and lawyers plus the high paid lobbyists.

The big dollars come from stock options but for the typical employee who might be granted an option the annual income is nominal except in a few companies. The exceptions are in startups or high flying companies. Keep in mind that stock values go down as well so appreciation can be wiped away. The media focuses not surprisingly on the big dollar jobs.

For roughly two decades (prior to the recession) the average budget for salary increases was 3-3.5%. A high performer could expect maybe 8% tops.

The budgets are determined each year as the percentage needed to maintain a planned alignment with other employers seen as labor market competitors.

It is important to understand – and I should underline this – that the appropriate comparison each year would be the GS schedule adjustment PLUS the dollars for step increases. That would be a valid comparison.

3. Yes, I am an advocate of pay for performance.

Yes, I agree it is a very complex problem to make it ‘work’ in government. There are hundreds and I am sure thousands of public employers across the country where its accepted. It’s been working in a number of federal demos for years. It’s universal for white collar workers in other sectors.

Anyone who has studied the history of the United States knows it is important to our culture to recognize and reward the top performers. We are or were a meritocracy. We celebrate the ‘best and brightest.’ We pick the most valuable players (MVPs) in almost every field of endeavor. Employers that do not recognize and reward the best performers are the exception.

NSPS was a failure but unfortunately it’s never been adequately studied. I have included several questions at the end and want to invite comments – but only serious comments please. If I learn anything, I will develop a column discussing what I learn.

As a generalization, I am convinced managers and employees need to be heavily involved in planning a new pay system. I also believe top management – the highest levels – has to make the transition planning and implementation a priority. My experience tells me the problem is generally the performance management process. If the ratings are credible, the pay policy is much more likely to be accepted.

I could go on but this is already too long.

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  1. David says:

    I believe the pay for performance is flawed. It may work if you had an honest dialogue of minimum performance expectations, goals, etc., but the second the human element is introduced it’s flawed and biased!

  2. fedemp02 says:

    Pay for performance the Supervisors are only trying to give big awards to the Agents and the professional staff who do the hard work are not being given any consideration. There are a few of the supporting staff who get good evaluation as they are their own people but minority people do not get much benefits. There is still discrimination going on

  3. Itsjustmeagain1 says:

    Let me address 2 comments above:
    #3. Pay for performance simply raised the authority to doll out awards up 2 levels. It also took funds allocated for step increases. My office was a prototype and one of the first to try it. In my Directorate, the three suboffice bosses gathered in a room, put someone’s name on the board and we would argue if the person was exceptional, good or does his job. The people who played golf with the Director had a decided advantage that I attacked. His and others program was simply production with no modifications to deal with. Every one of my people were engaged in programs deep in R&D, fielding or major modifications. Risk management as well as program management was being ignored. I won, but at personal professional cost.
    #2 Although salaries of contractors are not spoken in polite company, my direct counterparts in many corporations all wore $500 suites and drove Mercedes or BMW’s to work. I splurged when I bought a suit in Sears but still drove my old car. What do you think of someone who retires and is hired a few years later as a consultant at $100/hr five years ago?
    A related comment. During the pre pay for performance, I had a Director who believed he could determine what anyone’s performance appraisal should be, based largerly on Education and overruling the Division Chief (me). He claimed anyone without a degree should never receive an Exceptional award. I asked what his degrees were, it was BA in basket weaving. I commented that I had a BA and Masters in Business Management and he should be working for me. I then asked what he thought of someone we dealt with in an entirely different organization. He claimed “A super GS-15!” which was true. I then pointed out they were a HS grad. He called me a liar and I pulled up the bio, and there it was. I was told to leave his office, facts and truth confused him.
    Pay for performance simply enlarged the cash pool and decision level, it did not change biases.

  4. HR Shorty says:

    pay for performance does not work…managers/supervisors are human and they bring their biases and human nature to the equation of determining who gets performance pay. DOD tried the NSPS system and mandated that hardly anyone could get higher then a level 3…statistics will probably show that most of the managers, directors, and supervisors got the higher levels at 4 and 5. Managers seem to forget that the people they are supposed to direct and mentor carry the weight of the organization, if not for the workers the organization may very well run into the ground. Some managers/supervisors are so entrenched in their own self worth and lack of respect for the works that its I this, and I that….those ones do not reward performance fairly because they are too critical and fault finding.

  5. HR Shorty says:

    worked for the federal government for 38 years…made what I thought was a good salary….have advanced degree…..just checked what a guidance counselor in my state makes falling under the education department and the salary is $125, 000 a year for 11 months of work….not 8 hours a day and no contribution to health benefits or retirement fund…….$125, 000 FAR surpassed any salary that the feds made unless a GS-13 and above. the media portrays incorrect information on federal benefits/salaries…yes there are some fed employees that are overgraded and over paid but for the most those I worked with for 38 yrs were dedicated public servants wanting to do the best they can. the lower graded employees suffer the most with the furloughs, lack of cost of living adjustments and increase in health insurance costs. Many agencies forget that outside the beltway there are agencies that hire federal wage system employees and GS employees below the grade of GS-07. They are not under paid but the budget situation hurts them the most.

  6. Smcneil2 says:

    I noticed in my 35+ years of CS, there are professionals who are underpaid such as engineers, physicians, etc.  I was an electronics engineer and always felt my salary was a little low, considering that I have two Master’s degrees.  But then there were electronic technicians who have no more than an Associate degree, if even that, and they are paid almost as much as me.    Further, the contractors pay their technicians at about half the salary.  So I suspect that some people are overpaid and some are underpaid.  Anyway, that has been my observation.  But I am not making any claims for the overall picture.

    • Fedbens says:

      That’s it exactly.  Smcneil2 is 100% correct.  In a vast 3,000,000+ workforce spread all over the country and even around the world, doing risky, demanding work or simple, sendentary stuff, it is simply not possible to make a general statement about whether they are over-paid, under-paid, or whatever. 

      I’ll bet everybody reading this knows of federal jobs where the incumbents are doing significantly better than they would in private industry, AND other feds who are truly over-worked and under-paid, by any standard.

  7. Jim says:

    I am a veteran of the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. During that time, the draft caught most young men or for people like me, I decided to enlist for a choice of school (either way I was obligated). Prior to entering the service, I had a permanent job and was paid $102 a week which was abruptly reduced to $54. for my partial 1st months Army pay ($94/month) and in addition, my private industry peers, who did not enter the service, continued to learn and gain seniority in their chosen career path vice mine which came to a halt. Not long after entering the service my monthly pay began to rise to $99./month, $104/month, $124/month and finally when I was ready to ETS (“end time of service”) several years later and earning 4 new lower pay grades, I was making $254./month. So, all during this time, my private industry peers continued to gain experience (with pay raises) which made it hard for me to compete when I rejoined the business (in which I had to wait a few months with no pay before the Company could find a opening for me). Bottom Line to all this is that the “blue collar” veterans sacrificed much more than putting our lives in harms way, much more than living in poverty with my wife, much more than the separation from family, friends and familiar location of home…..

    As for the negative comments about veterans, I suggest you sign up as an enlisted person to experience the sacrifice before you make comments. You have done the “EASY PART” and provided your uneducated / inexperienced opinion for all to hear, which some people might not question and even possibly believe. Now its time for you to walk the walk vice the “talk”….

  8. Treeearthsky says:

    Is this pay disparity using the large bonus that upper management receives when “staff” dot all the I’s and cross all the T’s.   We do our work and at least part of the work load of another person because of a lack of staff, our pay is frozen but apparently the large bonuses keep rolling on.

  9. HR Manager (Retired) says:

    The problem with these “pay experts” is that they lack the basic foundation to determine how federal pay is calculated.  In fact, I dare say that probably no ne has this basic foundation since federal agencies use different formulas to determine how much they pay their employees; thus one can not simply using an agency’s “payroll budget.”   Some agencies include such items as training, supplies and travel costs in their payroll budgets, some do not and still some others include arbritation, complaint processing etc. Attempting to compare federal pay with private sector pay is a waste of time.  For one there are many job in both the federal and pvt sectors which have no corresponding match and pvt sector companies have an equally diverse way of determining their payroll costs.  Plus, while federal cost information is available to the public the reverse is not true for the pvt sector – in fact for most pvt sector companies it is a firing offense if one even discusses pay. 

  10. Opinionated_Lady says:

    Pardon me, but I am so tired of the notion that pay for performance compensation systems will “fix” the government.  The underpinning for such systems is almost always the performance management system and, unless the job is truly quantifiable, which many gov jobs are not, the resulting appraisal is almost always a subjective one. 

    The underlying presumption of the author is that somehow the government is deficient and that if the work gov employees do could only be measured and totted up scientifically all would be well in America.  Jimmy Carter started this line of reasoning when he was running as a government outsider.  Ever since then politicians have learned that they can deflect criticism by turning the ire of the citizens against government workers.  Pointy-headed academics and contractors, salivating at the piles of dough they can make by teaching us how it’s done in the private sector, have piled on. 

  11. SKGrammy says:

    I am interested in answering Dr. Howard Risher’s questions; however, I can not locate the question he said he included at the end of his article.  I have worker for pay-for-performance systems and am willing to share my experience.

  12. Veteran says:

    A person in the military gets double or more the pension of a FERS employee after 20-years. I am former military and a current FERS employee. I don’t see how the pension was just cut for a FERS new hire and the Military gets 40-75% of their pay from 20-30 years service and raises every year. The base pay for the miliary is the same or more then I get in FERS. It used to be-military pay was far less and you are serving your country-like when I served. If the government wants to save money they need to take a look at military pay and the raises. Its not right the pensions of the military are 2-3 times that of a FERS employee, and its the FERS employee pay being cut all the time to save money. I am a disabled VET. 

  13. Spam says:

    “Salaries in the private sector were frozen for a brief period but it would be rare to find salaries that were reduced permanently. I would not expect average salaries to be lower.”

    Flight Attendants and most of the airline industry had wages reduced.

  14. Outside_the_beltway says:

    Dr. Risher wrote, “I have included several questions at the end and want to invite comments – but only serious comments please.”  Given what I’ve read among these (often inane) comments, it’s reasonable to not only infer that Feds may be overpaid but also that we’re not yet ready for a sophisticated pay-for-performance system.  If these are serious comments, imagine serious performance evaluations!!

  15. Tcoll1 says:

    This debate concerning federal salaries was started because Congress wants to justify salary freezes. This is the same type of game it plyed in the 1980’s when it wanted to reduce military retirement pay. It claimed that military retirees pensions were too high and retirement benefits too costly. It used the example of a full colonel with thirty years of service to prove it’s claim. Very few officer’s retire at this rank, one grade from general, and most retire with only twenty years of service. Most retirees, in fact, are retired enlisted at the rank of E-7 and draw much less than a colonel. However, just as most American’s know little about the military, few understand the federal employee sysyem. Congress is once again relying on the public’s ignorance to convince people that a group of it’s citizen’s earn too much money. Just as in the past example, Congress uses twisted logic to try to sell it’s scheme to the public. For example, it shows that the average of all federal salaries is about $86K. It then goes on to imply that the average employee makes this avergage salary. This is nonsense. There is a difference between salary and employee. The average employee and average salary are apples and oranges. In fact, the average federal employee is probably a GS7 or at best GS9, which makes quite a bit less than $86K. Yet, the public will never be told the truth. So, Congress continues with it’s mistatements and lies to advertise it’s plans. Some things never change. The lack of credibility in Congress is certainly one of those things.

  16. HR Manager (Retired) says:

    I am always amused at the reaction created by articles about the pay of Federal employees.  Hundreds of individuals always take the time to express their indignation towards the information in these articles. Yet articles about such things as a pay freeze or the extension of a pay freeze or the reduced in future retirement benefits or reduction in the size of the federal workforce seldom create such interest.  It would seem that employees would be more interested in expressing their dissatisfaction and dismay about such issues as opposed to concentrating on issues which have little to no real meaning.  Employees should remember that the bills introduced in Congress to reduce their benefits are real and have a good chance of passing and that figuring the “average” salary is, at best, a very inaccurate guessing game.  Anyone who actually thinks she/he can figure out the how well or poorly Federal employees are paid and compares their calculation to the pay of non Federal employees should be ignored.  As someone who was in charge of the conducting Federal wage surveys, I can tell you without a doubt that no two agencies or private sector companies use the same method to calculate their employees’ pay.  In fact for the majority of private sector companies it is a “firing offense” to release any pay related information.  As for Federal agencies some even include TDY, training and supply expenses in their “payroll” budget. 

    • Tcoll1 says:

      I can’t evaluate other’s comments. However, my comments are based on facts concerning the historical behavior of Congress. As I mentioned, it is full of falsehoods, exagerations and outright lies. Therefore, any claims it makes cocernining salaries is suspect at best. It can play all of the shell games with statistics that it desires. However, when it’s intent is to justify it’s actions rather than to truly determine salary comparisons, then there is no logic in it’s analysis. For example to list the average of all federal salaries and then to claim that this is the salary of the average employee is simply nonsense. Remember that this salary study was performed by the Congressional Budget Office. If you know who this office works for, you understand that any findings it reports will be biased toward the goals of Congress in asking for the so called study. Unless a study is performed by a private company that is not paid by the government, we can’t believe the conclusions that we are being fed.

  17. S Nelson says:

    #2 is a ridiculous response.  I know what my counterparts make in the private sector, and I know what their benefits are as well – we make nothing close to it.

  18. workmoregetpaidless says:

    sorry but pay for performance doesn’t work.  I have been with the government for less then 5 years.
    I do more work and are responsible for more groups and people.  I still get paid 10,000 less tehn the person who worked here longer.  Sorry but this pay systemm doesn’t work 6 groups and 140 plus peopel i am responsible for.  and they other people have 1 group or 2 and get paid alot more then me.  its total bs.
    at least with steps you are going to get a raise if you perform- i overly perform and get paid crap.
    I am the lowest paid worker in the agency and do the most amount of work

    • Theparthian says:

      Just read your own post to understand why you are paid less.  So many mistakes make you sound like a must hire minority.

      • Bjrigg says:

        Just what is a “must hire minority” and why do they make so many mistakes?

        • worker says:

          Because government agencies love statistics and that is one of the “goals” they have.
          This is nothing against minorities who deserve to be hired based on their job skills and nothing else.  However, there should be no stats on how many of these people and those people should be hired. 

        • Theparthian says:

          A must hire minority is a person who does not meet the qualifications to do a given job.  Yet the selection official (or committee) is/are not permitted to select the best individual.  Their instuctions are to select the minority of the day, month, year, etc.  The ultimate objective is to meet the standards established to meet diveristy goals.  Say for example the president signs an executive order saying that a certain group will not be selected and only those of a given race, religion, sex, etc. may be hire until further notice.  Whom do you think will be selected?  I have been the selcting officer, and have served on selection committees, I have been tasked to teach groups how to fill out employment applications, many using guide paragraphs or model letters, and how to respond to interview questions.
          Then when they are hired, they resent the fact that they are expected to actually do any work, except join a union and march for higher pay and better fringes.

      • Guest says:

        Am I the only one that got your point, lol…

    • Aaron D Bush says:

      You probably get paid less because your attitude stinks! You don’t know what the people who have been there longer went through before you got there, and you really don’t know what difficulties they are dealing with now, even though they might have fewer groups or whatever. If you feel you should be paid more, apply for a higher position stating your merit. A good employer will recognize your hard work and be excited to have you aboard.

  19. Guest says:

    Overpaid because I have in addition to my current salary a military pension?  I don’t see it that way.  My 20+ years was a different career, period.  My current position is based off the merit system, I went through a comprehensive selection program, and do my very best to ensure my work meets organizational goals and productivity.  If we are so concerned about retirees “double dipping”, then lets make military service mandatory for all.  Besides, freedom isn’t free, right?

    • Picknaul says:

      If everyone collects their pension at 62… then no problem.  But the current military benefits are not sustainable nor fair.  We should bring back the draft and we will eliminate all of this nonsense (and unnecessary wars too)

  20. mememe27 says:

    for the job that i hold, that is written in my job description, i’m probably overpaid.  however, i have a PhD for a job that requires only a BA, so i’m probably underpaid for the knowledge, skills and abilities i bring to the job.  and….for the work that i actually do, i’m definitely underpaid.

  21. Debra Banker says:

    I’m sick and tired of being lumped in with the average federal employee pay, when I’m clearly the minority as a GS-7. I just wrote my senator that all federal employees should not be overlooked for salary raises. I’m not where near $75,000/year. My senator replied with generalities, but remember if he serves just ONE term, he gets his annual salary for LIFE.

    • Ray says:

      No! he does not get “his annual salary for LIFE.”  He gets the same retirement as any federal employee including serving for a minimum of five years to be eligible for any retirement.

      I am tired of the false attempts to discredit our Representatives through lies about their retirement and health benefits.

      Debra please do your research before you post “facts” on the internet…. Thanks.

      Retired 2002

      • Tired Fed says:

        Sir, you are wrong. Congress participates in the same plans, but their accrual rate is higher.  For example, if they are under CSRS, their rate is 2.5% every year, whereas a civil servant accrues 7.5% in the first 10 years and 2% thereafter.  See… .  Please get YOUR “facts” straight.

        • William Rogers65 says:

          She’s a GS 7. Cut her some slack! She only regurgitates what she hears on FOX 🙂

          • Fed with 34 years says:

            Really….a FOX slam…why don’t you turn on NBC or CBS and listen to their brainwashing. Just watched the NBC news tonight and watched them slam Romney and then they show an “ahh” moment with Barrack and MIchele kissing at the US Olypmics basketball training game. Please…at least FOX gives both parties a chance to talk on their subjects.

    • The Truth says:

       Senators do not get anywhere close to annual salary for life. Most are covered by FERS and the calculation is based on 1.7% of high 3 for each year of service up to 20 and 1% for each year of service over 20. Your Senator must also meet the age requirement to begin collecting retirement. There are a few that have been since before 1884 that are covered by CSRS. You can get a good description of the congressional plan here:

      • Guest says:

        I don’t mean to sound incredulous, but I doubt anyone has been in crongress since 1884.
        OK, I know you ment 1984, couldn’t resist the temptation.

    • Guest says:

      No he doesn’t. Propagating lies such as this does not help the situation.

    • DoD Employee says:

      You might suggest to your senator that he or she propose government raises in absolute dollars one year (divide the total amount of wage increase by the number of gov’t employees to determine each employees raise) and in percentages the next (divide the total amount of wage increase by the total amount of curretn salaries of gov’t employees to determine the percent of raise for each employees).   Thus one year each gov’t employee might get a $2000 raise and the next year they would get a 2% raise (i.e., $1000 for someone making $50,000 and $3000 for someone making $150,000).

    • Marty0415 says:

      You got that right!! Im a GS 6 and I have a husband out of work and I am trying to feed our 6 children. With my pay-I have to file for food stamps every 6 months. I need a pay raise.

  22. Retiredtman says:

    Most Feds are paid well. Many are overpaid. The only group consistently paid less than industry counterparts is the SES.

    • worker says:

      Really.  Glad you think so.  Many positions are grossly underpaid.  I deal mostly with CPA’s on an equal basis.  I bet they make much more than I do.

  23. good_reader1 says:

    When a military member retires and able to walk into a management roll, keeping his military retirement and full benefits, passing over career civil servants yes they may be paid too much. Full bird colonel into a GS-15 position yes too much.
    When a GS-6 or 7 working at the VA Hospital making $45K are paid too little.
    So you can’t lump all Federal Employees into the same bed.

    • Vlthomas28 says:

      Military Retirees do not, I say again do not keep their full benefits.  They get a percentage of their base pay determined by the number of year they complete 20+ and they only get cost of living raising each year which hasn’t been much the last 5 years and pay for their medical and dental, so your comment regarding “Keeping his military retirement(he earned), and full benefits(not true) and passing over GS-6′ and 7’s (in college while the retiree was covering their backs).

      • says:

        Wait a minute!  You say they get the pension, the cost of living raise each year, medical and dental, and yet… they do not get “full” benefits.  How do you figure?

        Fifty percent of salary starting after just 20 years of service, regardless of age, is incredibly lucrative, by any standard.

        If above is not “full” benefits, then what, pray tell, would full benefits BE?!

        • Independent 176 says:

          If the benefits are so great than why didn’t you sign up?  I guess tours of duty in Somalia, Iraq or Afghanistan weren’t to your liking.  I receive 55% of BASE PAY for completing 22 years of active duty.  I pay for dental insurance through Delta Dental which really doesn’t cover very much and the government pays 0, and Tricare covers 75% of my medical costs after I pay the deductable of $300 for the family and then I pay over $100 per month for a supplemental medical plan to cover the cost that Tricare doesn’t cover since they only cover what is considered reasonable which is normally about half of what is charged.  I am very proud of my service to my country, but don’t make it sound like we get these amazing benefits at the expense of slackers like you.

          • kentjax says:

            I SALTUTE YOU SIR and our wonderful government Workers! I am seriously considering politics. The disdain, misinformation and slander that is out there by those unwilling to do their homework is unbelievable, to say the least. Get off your lazy, media feed, unpatriotic butt and get your facts straight. Some of these remarks sound like DNC sound bites and their constitutents. Someone once said, if joining the military was so easy and great, then hear is a pen sign up! Let’s see, who is willing to work 18 hour days while in a hostile environment other than a police officer? Who is willing to move every 3 or 4 years to dangerous, remote areas of the world in cultures unfamiliar? Be away from family, friends and support at moments notice? Train, train and more training? Take on collateral duties, long arguous duties? Take care of your uniforms, haircuts and inspections all the time. Ask permission for anything you do outside your job (unlike the public)? All of this and much, MUCH more for any salary! If this was a PUBLIC job description in any newspaper, NOT many if ANY would sign up for anything less than 1M annually, let alone only 30K, 40K or 50K annually. The folks that talk the talk, thats all they do TALK. Those that serve, well WALK the WALK! I love our Troops and I for one will GLADLY pay what it takes to get the job done. And for these panzy naysayers making their outrageous claims about pay for any government worker, I am just tickled pink that you are not in the Service or working in our government, if you were I would have sleep deprivation and worry my tail off.  

        • Kentjax says:

          Get a life. Sign up for 20 years and then get back with me.

        • kentjax says:

          I respectfuly disagree. He/She earned this retirement and I for one will gladly pay it! What if this person got a pension in the private sector, then worked for the government? Do we exclude their salary too? I am sick of persons making this claim. If your willing to take serve your country for 20+ years and do all the stuff these warriors are willing to do (i.e. lose marriage, deploy, under fire, long, LONG work days, duties, collateral duties, to name a few), then you DESERVE a million dollar retirement! Grow up and give some respect to our Men and Women in uniform.

    • LVRichardson says:

      A military retiree’s pay and benefits should be his or her exclusive business, and no one else’s.  If I’m hired somewhere at the age of 45 or 50 or 55 based on my resume and endorsements, the benefits I’ve secured for myself up to that point should be nobody’s business but mine. (Full disclosure: I’m NOT a military retiree, just a GS-7, currently employed.)  When a person spends 20 years in the service taking the chance of being sent to war and maimed or killed in the line of duty, then he or she is entitled to whatever rewards society chooses to grant.  In this case, a retirement pension, medical benefits, and a 5-point hiring preference. 

      • kentjax says:

        I agree. He/She earned this retirement and I for one will gladly pay it! What if this person got a pension in the private sector, then worked for the government? Do we exclude their salary too? I am sick of persons making this claim. If your willing to take serve your country for 20+ years and do all the unbelievable things these warriors are willing to do (i.e. lose marriage, deploy, under fire, long, LONG work days, duties, collateral duties, to name a few), then you DESERVE a million dollar retirement! Grow up and give some respect to our Men and Women in uniform.

    • Kentjax says:

       I respectfuly disagree. He/She earned this retirement and I for one will gladly pay it! What if this person got a pension in the private sector, then worked for the government? Do we exclude their salary too? I am sick of persons making this claim. If your willing to take serve your country for 20+ years and do all the stuff these warriors are willing to do (i.e. lose marriage, deploy, under fire, long, LONG work days, duties, collateral duties, to name a few), then you DESERVE a million dollar retirement! Grow up and give some respect to our Men and Women in uniform.

      • Enchanted says:

        Yes, the military have earned their retirement and I do not deny them that .  I believe what irks a lot of people is the no colonel left behind program (now pretty much dead because of personnel cuts) There may be someone more qualified to take the position , but the ole buddy system being alive and well assures them a job that perhaps someone else may also be qualified.  They retire on a Friday in uniform and come back to work on Monday in a shirt and tie, sometimes in the same position.  I have sat on many selection boards and have gotten into a few arguments with other  panel members over their selecting someone (I believe the term is pre-selection but try and prove it) and there are personnel on that roster that are actually more qualified.   

      • Bookaboo says:

        Get over yourself, your choice. military or civilian fed, were  all still federal empoyees/civil servants by CHOICE. Problem is its considered unpatriotic to question the military and its benefits.  The rich get richer and the poor get poorer! 

        From a 31+ year federal law enforcement officer and a Combat Infantry veteran!

  24. says:

    I don’t know how you feel, but I am sick and tired of the “are they overpaid” discussion.  There is no way on earth this can be settled.  Far too many variables and far too many ways of weighting them.  Plus most – not all, but most – of the persons/organizations “studying” this topic have their own ax to grind.

    How about empirical evidence? It would work like this:

         1.  when positions go unfilled, despite being heavily advertised, a conclusion that the positions are
              underpaid might be justified.  I say might.

         2.  when there is no active recruitment, due to a large backlog of qualified applicants, it appears you
              are paying plenty.  I say appears.


    • Management Attorney says:

      I agree there is no way to objectively settle this issue but I don’t agree with your measures.  In my experience as a hiring manager, I found no shortage of “qualified” applicants for each vacancy but was lucky if there were one or two I would consider hiring.  To me, the best way to get a sense of where the balance lies is to compare positions that are the same either in public or private settings:  accountant, auditor,  attorney, IT Specialist, secretary, physician, scientist, petroleum engineer, park ranger.  Then let’s see if there’s a discernible trend.  My experience would indicate that most of the above positions pay more in the private sector.  Off the top of my head, I can only think two disciplines – lower level support staff and HR staffing specialist – where the feds are paid more than their private sector counterparts.

      • says:

        Good points.  The “measures” I mentioned were like a good starting point, not the entire picture.
        Example:  in a certain city, it is almost impossible to find & hire (whatever).  Upon checking, management finds the actual problem is a severe shortage of housing.

      • Guest says:

        I see a few problems with your approach to comparing positions.  

        The first is job title.  For example, at one DoD warfare center, the union negotiated that a large number of employees would be labeled “scientists”, according to criteria that wouldn’t fly in normal settings.  So one can’t assume that equivalent job titles really mean equivalent work.

        Secondly is that you don’t seem to take into account the quality of the employees in your comparison.  There’s some conventional wisdom in the software development community that some programmers are, without exageration, 10x-100x more productive than others.  My experiences seem to bear that out.  This productivity has little to do with education level or years of experience.  One superstar programmer like that is in many cases worth the salary of literally 10 mediocre programmers, but this wouldn’t be picked up by your comparison criteria.

        Now you might argue that both the private sector and public sector are going to get the same distribution of low/medium/high -quality employees for a given job title, and so it’s still reasonable to compare salaries *average* based merely job title.  That might be a reasonable position, but it could still lead to some absurdities, such as the federal government basing its maximum salary on the industry average salary, and thus making superstar programmers (or other professionals) unwilling to work for the government.  I.e., if you refuse to budge from mediocre pay, you shouldn’t be surprised to only attract mediocre talent.

  25. Raheem40 says:

    since this is a pubic news feed that writes about government workers and their jobs, I wonder how objected that this documentation of what we feel about being slighted by our leadership concerning pay and performance will be.

    • says:

      “objected”?  You probably meant objective.  By the way, this word is misused a lot.  It actually means assessment in terms of conventional measurement indicators, like feet and inches, or pounds and ounces, dollars and cents, etc., as opposed to subjective, i.e., “she is the prettiest girl in the whole world.” 

      Objective does NOT mean fair-minded, even though it is frequently used this way.