Twice as many federal employees are earning $150,000 than just two years ago, according to a new analysis from USA Today.
The report, released Tuesday, found that the number of highly paid federal employees has increased tenfold in five years and doubled during President Obama's term. Nearly 4 percent of the government workforce currently earns more than $150,000, compared to just 0.4 percent in 2005.
According to the report, based on data from the Office of Personnel Management, highly-paid staff increased at every agency. The Defense Department has 994 workers currently earning at least $170,000 compared to just nine in 2005. Salaries for employees who have 15 to 24 years of federal service have risen 25 percent, and government physicians earned an average of $111,000 in 2005 but make $179,500 today, the analysis found.
OPM Administrator John Berry noted in a statement that only 3 percent of federal employees make more than $150,000. "The clear majority of high earners are highly specialized experts in their fields and many of them hold positions where lives are on the line," he said. "These include doctors who are treating our wounded veterans, scientists who are researching cures for diseases, and counterterrorism experts who are protecting the American people every day. And, in almost all cases, they earn less than their counterparts in the private sector." The findings come as Republicans prepare to take over the House. GOP lawmakers have pledged to cut spending on the federal workforce through measures like pay and hiring freezes.
Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, said a key Republican priority is capping spending on the federal workforce.
"I feel like we're paying too many people too much money," Chaffetz said. "That doesn't mean every single federal worker is going to see a decrease in their pay. We're going to have to figure out how to do more with less."
Leaders of unions and employee groups said the newspaper's conclusions were misguided and the findings lacked transparency.
According to Bill Bransford, general counsel for the Senior Executives Association, the number of Defense employees receiving top pay is small and applies to people who would be making far more money in comparable private sector jobs. Jessica Klement, government affairs director for the Federal Managers Association, said if government continues to underpay physicians and lawyers who would receive higher pay in the private sector, agencies will no longer be able to retain top talent.
Klement also noted the analysis compares salary increases to inflation, when those increases actually are based on the Employment Cost Index.
"The [ECI], the measure of non-federal workforce wages, rose 1.4 percent last year. That is the modest pay raise amount the president proposed, and it should be implemented," National Treasury Employees Union President Colleen Kelley said.