White House Seeks 1.3 Percent Pay Raise for Civilians, Troops

Boost would be the most generous in the past few years, but still small relative to most raises since the 1970s.

This story has been updated. 

President Obama called for a 1.3 percent pay raise for civilian federal employees and military members in his fiscal 2016 budget request released Monday. 

The raise will help the federal government "remain competitive in attracting and retaining a high caliber workforce," the proposal stated. 

This marks the highest such pay bump put forward by the Obama administration since the 2 percent suggestion the president made in his first ever budget. While that fiscal 2010 proposal called for a higher raise for military personnel, the most recent fiscal 2016 plan would give the troops the same 1.3 percent bump as the civilian workforce.

After a three-year pay freeze in 2011-2013, Congress and Obama have agreed to give feds a 1 percent raise in both 2014 and 2015. The raises throughout the Obama administration have been historically small, with most pay increases since 1972 falling above 2 percent.

Federal employee groups have supported Democratic proposals in both the House and Senate to raise feds’ pay 3.8 percent in 2016, and reiterated that support in a statement Monday. "Let’s be real – a 1.3 percent pay raise will be eaten up by higher costs for groceries, health care and other essentials," said American Federation of Government Employees National President J. David Cox Sr. "Like other middle-class workers, federal employees need a meaningful pay raise to make up for years of stagnant wages, and unfortunately the president’s proposal falls short."

While Congress has the final say on the ultimate size of the pay increase, the 3.8 percent measure is unlikely to become law.

Under the 1990 Federal Employees Pay Comparability Act, federal employee raises are determined annually by the change in the Employment Cost Index minus 0.5 percent. Presidents can ignore that figure and present their own plan to Congress, which most administrations have opted to do.

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 an average of 35.2 percent.

Obama will have to formally submit his plan to Congress by August. Lawmakers can then stay mum on the issue -- thereby allowing the president’s proposal to take effect -- suggest no raise at all, or put forth their own figure. 

(Image via Kritchanut/