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Uncle Sam scales back on bonuses

The government handed out $43 million less in merit awards in 2011 than in 2010.

The government handed out less bonus money to federal employees in 2011 compared to 2010, according to new data.

Uncle Sam paid at least $439 million in merit awards to federal workers last year, down $43 million from 2010. The Asbury Park Press reported the findings Tuesday.

The data, obtained from the Office of Personnel Management, excludes the military, Defense and Treasury departments, White House, and U.S. Postal Service. The Veterans Affairs Department, the largest agency after Defense, administered the most, according to the analysis, with almost $68 million in bonuses. The Homeland Security Department handed out $61 million in awards, according to the newspaper.

In June 2011, the Office of Management and Budget and OPM directed agencies to scale back on bonuses paid to Senior Executive Service members and other senior-level employees through fiscal 2012. Total spending on individual performance awards for SES and scientific and professional employees must equal no more than 5 percent of aggregate salaries, the memo stated. For bonuses paid to all other workers, that total drops to 1 percent.

At that time, Carol A. Bonosaro, president of the Senior Executives Association, expressed concern that the total number of awards would decrease as a result of the directive. Previously, agencies could spend 10 percent of aggregate salaries on bonuses, and employees were eligible for a minimum increase of 5 percent and a maximum of 20 percent.

A two-year pay freeze on the civilian federal workforce is in effect through 2012, although employees can continue to receive pay increases through promotions. President Obama has recommended a 0.5 percent pay raise for federal workers in 2013 and a 1.7 percent boost for service members.

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