Lawmaker Demands Information on Excessive Bonuses Paid to Federal Employees

Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) wants answers from OPM as to how a federal employee was paid bonuses that exceeded 20% of his base salary and how potentially widespread the issue is throughout the government.

Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) is seeking information from the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) about why it appears bonuses have been paid to one of the TSA’s employees in excess of what the law states he was entitled to receive.

The letter was written in response to reports that bonuses were paid to Kelly Hoggan, the former head of security for TSA, via a technique known as “smurfing” despite widespread news of security problems and delays at TSA.

“Smurfing” is a technique that breaks specific financial transactions into something below the reporting requirement to mask them.

“Hoggan’s $90,000 in bonus payments in 13 months is a clear violation of the spirit, if not the letter, of the law,” wrote McCaskill in her letter to acting OPM director Beth Cobert.

McCaskill noted that under federal law, SES bonuses must be paid in a lump sum and not exceed 20% of an employee’s base salary. In Hoggan’s case, McCaskill said that his salary would have had to be in excess of $450,000 per year to legally get the kind of bonuses he had been paid.

An analysis of the data from showed that Hoggan’s annual salary last year was $183,300 in FY 2015 and that total bonuses paid to TSA employees last year was over $12 million. (For more information on searching federal employee salary data, see Search Options for Locating Individual Federal Employee Salaries)

McCaskill added in her letter that she doesn’t think federal employees should be receiving bonuses in a surreptitious manner, nor should the total amounts exceed the 20% cap as stated in the law. She is concerned that if the TSA did it with Hoggan, other agencies might be doing it with their employees.

She asked OPM to provide details on the number of federal workers who received bonuses that exceed the 20% amount or that exceeded 10% of an agency’s base pay for senior executives.

McCaskill Letter to OPM Re: Employee Bonuses; June 2016

About the Author

Ian Smith is one of the co-founders of He has over 20 years of combined experience in media and government services, having worked at two government contracting firms and an online news and web development company prior to his current role at FedSmith.