Federal Pay and Personnel Systems

Gao ID: 129767 April 30, 1986

Testimony was given on three senate bills concerning pay and personnel systems. GAO found that: (1) fiscal year 1986 marked the 8th year in which the President and Congress adopted alternative pay rates for white-collar employees and, as a result, General Schedule salaries have dropped significantly compared to salaries in the private sector; (2) the value of white-collar employees' federal retirement and annual leave benefits is offset by the lag in other federal benefits, such as health and disability benefits and salary; (3) the federal white-collar special rate program has helped agencies to be more competitive in certain occupations and labor markets; and (4) S. 1327 proposes that agency heads be permitted to authorize special rates to meet their staffing needs since higher private-sector pay rates are causing significant problems in recruiting and retaining well-qualified individuals. GAO also found that: (1) the current law authorizing special rates does not allow the government to pay starting salaries above the 10th step of each grade of the General Schedule or use the rates to correct staffing problems caused by undesirable working conditions and locations, or by differences in federal and private sector benefits; (2) additional proposed legislation is intended to remedy pay disparities with selected scientific, technical, and acquisition personnel, although separate personnel systems for certain occupations could create enormous administrative problems as varying standards and processes are applied for hiring, paying, and training these personnel; and (3) if alternative personnel systems are needed, it would be preferable to establish them on an agency-by-agency basis.

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