GAO to move employees to market-based pay

The New Year brings a new pay system for employees at the Government Accountability Office.

GAO, which has been a leader in federal personnel reform and holds an exemption from most civil service rules, is introducing market sensitivity to its pay scale. The audit agency hired the global consulting firm Watson Wyatt to conduct a study of compensation for analysts and is making several changes based on those findings.

This year, the GAO is guaranteeing that all employees with a "meets expectation" or higher rating will receive at least a 2.6 percent salary adjustment, as long as their pay falls within a competitive market range. All pay hikes beyond that will be tied directly to performance ratings. Watson Wyatt found that comparable employers were raising pay 2.6 percent this year.

Analysts will be placed in one of four paybands, rather than three. The middle band is being split into two, with a higher compensation range available in the upper band for employees deemed to have supervisory roles.

The compensation study, which examined similar agencies such as the Office of Management and Budget and the Congressional Budget Office, as well as think tanks, not-for-profit groups and private accounting and consulting firms, found that GAO was paying too much for some analysts but not enough for supervisors.

Comptroller General David Walker, who heads GAO, said the agency should have conducted a market study when it launched the bands in 1989. He is encouraging all agencies moving from the General Schedule to a system of broad paybands to complete a market study at the start.

"Had we done the market-based study in 1989, I believe we would have set up four pay ranges, and we would have never had to have dealt with the…issue," Walker said. "The assumption was the GS pay ranges represented the market. Those assumptions may or may not be valid."

GAO analysts in the newly split band had the option to apply for placement in the better-paid supervisory band. Walker said decisions were made in a multilevel process, are open to appeal and will take effect on Jan. 9.

The decision will be based on three factors, he said: "What were the actual roles and responsibilities that these individuals had over the last several years? What was their actual and relative performance as compared to their peer group over the last several years? And number three, did they have the ability to immediately perform at a 'meets expectation' level or better."

Pay for the supervisory band will be up to $10,000 more than current levels, maxing out at $128,300 for the Washington, D.C., area. Only employees rated in the top half of their peers in this band will be eligible to achieve more than $118,000, however.

The lower, nonsupervisory band's maximum for Washington is $101,600.

Walker said no one's salary will be cut, but some employees' potential future earnings could be lower as a result of the market study.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

  • Cyber Risk Report: Cybercrime Trends from 2016

    In our first half 2016 cyber trends report, SurfWatch Labs threat intelligence analysts noted one key theme – the interconnected nature of cybercrime – and the second half of the year saw organizations continuing to struggle with that reality. The number of potential cyber threats, the pool of already compromised information, and the ease of finding increasingly sophisticated cybercriminal tools continued to snowball throughout the year.

  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

  • GBC Issue Brief: The Future of 9-1-1

    A Look Into the Next Generation of Emergency Services

  • GBC Survey Report: Securing the Perimeters

    A candid survey on cybersecurity in state and local governments

  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.

  • eBook: State & Local Cybersecurity

    CenturyLink is committed to helping state and local governments meet their cybersecurity challenges. Towards that end, CenturyLink commissioned a study from the Government Business Council that looked at the perceptions, attitudes and experiences of state and local leaders around the cybersecurity issue. The results were surprising in a number of ways. Learn more about their findings and the ways in which state and local governments can combat cybersecurity threats with this eBook.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.