Obama Makes It Official: 1.3 Percent Pay Raise for 2016

Spc. Brandon C. Dyer/Defense Department

President Obama issued an executive order Friday implementing a 1.3 percent across the board pay increase for federal employees in 2016.

The salary boost is a slight bump from the 1 percent increase civilian government workers received for 2015 and 2014. Before that, a three-year pay freeze had been in effect.

The order also implements a 1.3 percent pay raise for uniformed military service members.

The $1.1 trillion omnibus bill, which funds federal agencies through Sept. 30, 2016, allows for the 1 percent base pay raise for civilian employees that Obama requested, as well as the 0.3 percent bump to their locality pay. The spending package also allows for troops in the military to receive a 1.3 percent pay increase.

The exact amount of the increase for all career civilian employees will depend on their locality. Most areas' increases will hover around the 0.3 percent average, but some -- mostly large cities like San Francisco, Calif., and Washington, D.C. -- will receive larger pay bumps.

Lawmakers ultimately chose to support Obama’s recommended 1.3 percent total pay raise for federal workers and troops next year -- or at least not stand in its way -- instead of including a specific provision to block it or provide for a different amount. Members of the House initially supported a 2.3 percent raise for uniformed military, but ultimately acquiesced to the lower number.

In an August letter to Congress specifically addressing his military pay raise proposal, Obama said the financial conditions of the country prevented him from giving the troops a larger pay raise.

“As our country continues to recover from serious economic conditions affecting the general welfare, however, we must maintain efforts to keep our nation on a sustainable fiscal course,” Obama wrote. “This effort requires tough choices, especially in light of budget constraints.”

If the president had not informed Congress of his alternative pay plan for feds by the end of August, then the increase mandated by the 1990 Federal Employees Pay Comparability Act would have kicked in. Under FEPCA, the raise would be determined by the change in the Employment Cost Index minus 0.5 percent.

Presidents largely have ignored the FEPCA formula in their federal pay raise proposals, preferring to offer their own figure. Congress created FEPCA, which provides an annual across-the-board salary boost and a locality pay adjustment for General Schedule employees, to close the public and private sector pay gap. The Federal Salary Council has said that federal employees are underpaid relative to private sector workers by 34.9 percent.

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