Lawmakers Look to Pay Parity to Give Federal Employees a Higher Pay Raise

A group of House lawmakers are calling on pay parity with the military to give federal employees a bigger raise next year.

A group of House lawmakers are citing pay parity with the military in an effort to give federal employees a higher pay raise next year.

In a letter to House leaders, they note that military service members are getting a 3% pay raise this year under the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act. They said that federal employees should get the same pay increase rather than the 1% raise that has been proposed by the White House.

“We write to respectfully urge you to include a 3% pay increase for the civilian workforce to ensure continued pay parity between military and civilian employees,” reads the letter.

The letter also notes that Congress will often maintain pay parity between the military and federal workforce when authorizing pay increases in its annual spending bills.

Congressman Gerry Connolly (D-VA) is one of the authors of the letter. He introduced legislation earlier this year which would give federal employees a 3.5% pay raise in 2021. As he does most years, Connolly introduces a bill that would provide a higher pay raise than what is proposed by the White House, although the bills in the last few years have not been passed into law.

In 2019, however, Congress did override the White House’s proposed pay freeze and retroactively gave federal employees a 1.9% pay raise.

The latest action on the 2021 pay raise was that a draft of next year’s budget from the House Committee on Appropriations did not contain a pay raise for the federal workforce. Ultimately, if Congress does not pass legislation that overrides the president’s proposed pay raise, whatever raise proposed by the White House is what will stand for the coming year (1% in this case).

A copy of the letter is included below.

July 10, 2020

Dear Chairwoman Lowey, Chairman Quigley, Ranking Member Granger, and Ranking Member Graves:

Included in the Fiscal Year 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) is a 3.0 percentage pay increase for our service men and women. As in previous years, we support the biggest pay increase possible for our military members. We also want to note that with very few exceptions Congress has maintained pay parity with respect to pay raises for military and civilian federal employees. We write to ask that this pay parity continue – particularly in light of the continued work of our federal employees throughout a global pandemic.

We write to respectfully urge you to include a 3% pay increase for the civilian workforce to ensure continued pay parity between military and civilian employees. 

The federal civilian workforce is comprised of dedicated individuals who have demonstrated their critical value to this nation each day throughout this pandemic. During this global crisis, our federal government never shut down. Instead, its civilian workforce ramped up: delivering mail, providing healthcare to veterans, inspecting meat and poultry facilities, and researching cures for COVID-19. We should not take these dedicated employees for granted. 

Throughout this Administration, federal civilian employees have been vilified. Public sector unions have been attacked.  Just last year these civilian employees endured the longest government shutdown in this nation’s history.

In January 2019, the House passed the bipartisan Federal Civilian Workforce Pay Raise Fairness Act. And in the bipartisan funding deal reached last December, Congress once again provided for pay parity between our federal civilian employees and service members.

We feel strongly that federal employees have demonstrated they are invaluable to this nation and that they deserve parity with respect to pay increases provided by the federal government. The pay increase equates to less than one-tenth of one percent of the federal discretionary budget – spread across 12 appropriations bills. And Congress has historically maintained this pay parity. This year, in particular, our federal civilian workforce has served this nation at the time when services were most needed. Congress must step up and ensure that the federal workforce is treated with the respect it deserves.


Gerald E. Connolly
Carolyn B. Maloney
Eleanor Holmes Norton
John Sarbanes
Donald S. Beyer, Jr.
Brian Fitzpatrick
Anthony G. Brown
Jamie Raskin
Jennifer Wexton
David Trone

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.