Why is Another Pay Freeze Being Proposed?

OMB’s acting director explained the rationale behind proposing another pay freeze in 2020 at a recent Congressional hearing.

The head of the Office and Management and Budget recently explained the Trump administration’s rationale for proposing another pay freeze in 2020.

OMB Acting Director Russ Vought said at a hearing before the House Appropriations Committee on Tuesday that it’s part of a push for performance based pay, something he said that federal employees have indicated that they want.

“We think it’s important to ensure that we have a healthy federal workforce,” said Vought.

He cited feedback that has been given in the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey as evidence for the push for performance based pay:

If you look at the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey… only 25% of the current federal workforce thinks that pay has any connection with performance. We think that that is the wrong way to be able to align incentives, so what we have said in putting forth the proposal in this budget is to give agencies more discretion to be able to have bonus payments, increased salaries for recruitment and retention. What we have rejected is just to do an across the board cut because we think that is the wrong way to align incentives.

Congressman Sanford Bishop (D-GA) was asking Vought questions on this subject, and he asked for details on how this would work, such as if only certain positions would receive increased pay.

“We would be working with the agency heads to be able to design plans to ensure that high priority areas are addressed but also high performers across the agency are also receiving the kinds of incentive payments that their merit, their performance had justified,” said Vought.

Vought noted that federal employees also received an across the board pay increase in 2019 which he said is something that is there “to benefit from as well.” Bishop retorted that the raise in 2019 came from “the wisdom of Congress” and was not what the administration wanted to which Vought agreed.

Bishop concluded the conversation by saying that he thinks that OMB is “doing everything it can to cleverly conceal an effort to reduce the federal workforce” and that it “seems to be very disingenuous.”

About the Author

Ian Smith is one of the co-founders of FedSmith.com. 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.