Pentagon gives retroactive pay raise to career executives

A handful of career executives at the Defense Department will receive a pay raise to put them on par with their political counterparts.

The retroactive raise will affect 358 employees in the Senior Executive Service, with an average biweekly pay raise of $13.66, according to the Pentagon.

Those employees did not receive the full 2.5 percent pay increase in January that noncareer executives in the department who received the same performance ratings were granted.

Charles Abell, principal deputy in the office of the undersecretary of Defense, wrote a memo July 1 requiring the retroactive pay raises in order to comply with a bill (H.R. 1268) signed into law on May 11. A provision in the legislation prohibits providing a greater pay increase for workers "on the basis of their status as career or noncareer employees," Abell wrote.

That provision was added to the fiscal 2005 Defense Department emergency supplemental appropriations bill by Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine; Carl Levin, D-Mich.; and John Warner, R-Va., according to a spokesperson from Levin's office.

Carol Bonosaro, president of the Senior Executives Association, a group representing career federal executives, said her organization learned of the pay gap and brought the issue first to the Office of Personnel Management and then to Capitol Hill.

"I'm glad, obviously, that DoD finally decided to make the retroactive payments," Bonosaro said. "The issue for us and I think for the executives involved was certainly not the money…it's really the principle."

Starting this year, pay increases for senior executives in the Defense Department are given through a pay-for-performance system. Until now, executives all received the same raise every year.

However, the guidance for measuring performance for some managers in the department was "interpreted as making distinctions based on career versus noncareer," a Pentagon spokesperson said.

Bonosaro said the ability of a pay-for-performance system to work for executives in the Defense Department is critical to the system working for all employees, as new personnel regulations in the department propose.

"The importance of what transpired is that Congress has demonstrated its concern that the system be run properly and its willingness to intervene," Bonosaro said. "We really wanted to see this system get off on the right foot."

Abell's memo required that managers "process these retroactive 2.5 [percent] pay increases immediately."

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