OMB Raps FBI Pay Reform Plan

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Despite the Clinton administration's call for more flexibility for federal agencies in managing people and programs, the Office of Management and Budget has announced its opposition to an FBI plan to reform its personnel management system.

In the Senate-passed version of the Commerce, Justice and State appropriations bill, which includes spending for the FBI, the law enforcement agency won approval for an exemption from certain personnel laws and regulations under Title 5 of the U.S. Code. The agency would like to shift from the General Schedule, the classification system governing federal employees' pay, to "broad banding," a pay system that gives managers more flexibility in hiring employees and giving them salary increases.

The FBI contends that the broad banding system would make it easier to recruit and retain high-quality employees, particularly in its laboratory, its information systems division and its counter-terrorism programs.

"While there are some flexibilities available under Title 5 (recruitment and retention bonuses and special pay rates), they are cumbersome, time-consuming and inefficient ways of managing our workforce," the FBI says.

But in a statement on the FBI's proposal, OMB says "there is insufficient evidence of a recruitment problem at the FBI that would be solved by exemptions from Title 5 provisions for employee classification, pay and performance. Such exemptions would not address significant non-pay recruitment problems, such as the large number of applicants that fail drug and/or polygraph tests."

The administration also opposes the plan on the grounds that it would remove the FBI from Office of Personnel Management oversight.

The Federal Aviation Administration is exempted from certain Title 5 restrictions, as are the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency. The FBI contends that it is "the only U.S. intelligence agency still subject to the provisions of Title 5."

Other agencies, including the Commerce Department and several military installations, are testing or will test broad banding under demonstration project authority granted by Congress and OPM.

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