USA — Defense Official Outlines Pay Freeze Details

WASHINGTON, Jan. 10, 2011 — Defense Depart­ment civil­ian employ­ees affect­ed by the fed­er­al pay freeze for 2011 and 2012 will still have the oppor­tu­ni­ty to receive per­for­mance awards, pro­mo­tions and nor­mal longevi­ty increas­es, a senior defense offi­cial said.

Pasquale “Pat” M. Tam­bur­ri­no Jr., deputy under­sec­re­tary of defense for civil­ian per­son­nel pol­i­cy, told Amer­i­can Forces Press Ser­vice in a recent inter­view that senior lead­ers are work­ing to ensure that employ­ees are treat­ed fair­ly dur­ing the freeze.

“We val­ue the con­tri­bu­tions of our career fed­er­al employ­ees, and we val­ue their ser­vice to the nation. Noth­ing has changed there,” he said. From the time the pay freeze was announced, Tam­bur­ri­no added, the empha­sis has been on ensur­ing all fed­er­al employ­ees receive equal treat­ment.

“Whether you’re the most junior civ­il ser­vant on the first day of the job or you’re a mem­ber of the exec­u­tive lead­er­ship team, it applies to you,” he said. Defense lead­ers, he not­ed, have been “very clear” in direct­ing that the freeze should affect all employ­ees equal­ly.

“Not every­thing is cov­ered by statute,” he said, not­ing that heads of agen­cies have some admin­is­tra­tive dis­cre­tion in some dimen­sions of pay. But guid­ance on the pay freeze instructs agency heads to man­age admin­is­tra­tive priv­i­leges the same way the pres­i­dent treat­ed gen­er­al pay increas­es in the exec­u­tive order, he added. “You should not use that priv­i­lege to grant a pay raise,” he said.

Tam­bur­ri­no said he encour­ages man­agers to use the tools that always have been avail­able to them -– and still are -– to reward employ­ees.

“When it’s appro­pri­ate, you give some­body a per­for­mance award,” he said. “If you tell them the orga­ni­za­tion has five or six goals, and they do a lot of heavy lift­ing to help you get to those goals, then I think you should sit down as a leader and say, ‘We have to rec­og­nize that.’ ”

Most employ­ees, he said, want three things: clear guid­ance on the man­age­ment team’s pri­or­i­ties, the tools and resources nec­es­sary to com­plete their work, and coach­ing and feed­back. “Finan­cial com­pen­sa­tion is impor­tant because it is; we all have finan­cial oblig­a­tions that have to be sat­is­fied,” he said. “But what’s real­ly impor­tant as well is [that] you want to tell your employ­ees, ‘You’re doing a real­ly fine job.’ ”

Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma announced his intent for a two-year pay freeze for fed­er­al civil­ian work­ers Nov. 29. Con­gress approved the pro­pos­al, and Oba­ma signed it into law Dec. 22. The Office of Per­son­nel Man­age­ment issued a mem­o­ran­dum Dec. 30 to heads of exec­u­tive depart­ments and agen­cies, detail­ing how the freeze applies to the fed­er­al work force in accor­dance with exist­ing law and pres­i­den­tial guid­ance. The Defense Depart­ment issued guid­ance in line with OPM’s the same day.

“It’s a response to the dif­fi­cul­ties the coun­try is fac­ing, and I think what’s real­ly good about it is [that] it’s uni­ver­sal,” Tam­bur­ri­no said. “You have to have a very clear under­stand­ing of what’s in and what’s out, because that’s what affects employ­ees.”

The freeze cov­ers what have tra­di­tion­al­ly been known as gen­er­al pay increas­es, he said, which nor­mal­ly take effect each Jan­u­ary and con­sist of a com­bi­na­tion of base pay and local­i­ty pay increas­es for most civil­ian employ­ees. Fed­er­al civil­ian pay increased an aver­age of 3.5 per­cent in 2008, 3.9 per­cent in 2009, and 2 per­cent in 2010, accord­ing to gov­ern­ment fig­ures.

“The pres­i­dent deter­mined, based on the state of the econ­o­my, that those pay rais­es that are statu­to­ry in nature should not be grant­ed [dur­ing the two-year freeze],” Tam­bur­ri­no said.

Accord­ing to the OPM guid­ance, the freeze, which extends though Dec. 31, 2012, affects some 2 mil­lion fed­er­al civil­ian employ­ees in most pay sys­tems: gen­er­al sched­ule, exec­u­tive sched­ule, senior exec­u­tive ser­vice, senior for­eign ser­vice, senior-lev­el and sci­en­tif­ic, and pro­fes­sion­al. Postal employ­ees and mil­i­tary ser­vice mem­bers are not affect­ed by the freeze.

How­ev­er, OPM offi­cials said, the pay freeze pol­i­cy may not apply to any increase that is required by a col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing agree­ment that has already been exe­cut­ed.

Except for minor instances in Alas­ka, Hawaii and oth­er non­for­eign areas, local­i­ty pay also is frozen, Tam­bur­ri­no said.

“I think every­body rec­og­nizes [the pay freeze] was a real­ly dif­fi­cult deci­sion,” he said. “I think we did a tremen­dous job in issu­ing some very clear guid­ance, and I think the lead­er­ship of the Depart­ment of Defense did a real­ly good job in mak­ing it very lev­el and even across the depart­ment.”

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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