Odds for a 5.2% pay raise for feds in 2024 improve with release of the Senate defense policy bill
The Senate version of the annual National Defense Authorization Act includes an average 5.2% pay raise for both military service members and civilian Pentagon employees.
Members of a key Senate panel last week signaled that they would support President Biden’s plan to grant federal employees and military service members a 5.2% average pay raise next year.
The Senate Armed Services Committee on Friday advanced its draft of the fiscal 2024 National Defense Authorization Act. A committee-published summary of the defense policy bill said the legislation provides an average 5.2% pay raise for both members of the military and Defense Department civilian workers, in line with the proposal set forth in Biden’s fiscal 2024 budget request.
Biden first announced his plan to boost federal worker pay by the largest level since President Carter’s 9.1% average pay raise for the federal workforce in 1980 in March. It remains unclear how that figure will be split between across-the-board increases in basic pay and average changes to locality pay, but traditionally presidents have set aside 0.5% of the overall figure for average locality pay increases.
Elsewhere on federal workforce issues, the draft NDAA expands the Defense Department’s direct hire authority for a number of civilian jobs, including aircraft operations, law enforcement other first responders, as well as within the Defense Department inspector general’s office related to Ukraine oversight. It also would combine two direct hire authorities related to candidates with advanced degrees and bachelor’s degrees seeking jobs in Pentagon science and technology laboratories.
The news out of the Senate comes just one day after a House Appropriations subcommittee advanced a spending bill that remains silent on federal employee compensation, which effectively serves as an endorsement of Biden’s pay raise plan. However, the House bill includes a number of controversial policy riders that could impact federal employee benefits, such as a provision requiring federal agencies to reinstate 2019 pre-pandemic era telework policies and denying federal employees and their family members coverage of gender affirming care through the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program.
The fact that key committees in both chambers of Congress appear poised to advance Biden’s pay raise plan does not guarantee its implementation, however. While House appropriators agreed to advance funding legislation that does not overrule the president, the Republican Study Committee, which is made up of more than 150 GOP lawmakers in the House, unveiled its own budget plan earlier this month, which includes a proposal to end automatic raises for federal employees altogether in favor of targeted “merit-based” pay increases.
The GOP group’s plan also includes proposals to get rid of the General Schedule altogether, as well as steep cuts to feds’ benefits, including less paid leave and requiring federal employees to pay more into both their retirement benefits and insurance coverage through FEHBP.
The next step in the pay raise process, barring congressional intervention, is for Biden to formalize his alternative pay plan, a step that must take place before the end of August. Following that action, Biden then must issue an executive order finalizing the pay raise—and implementing a new map of locality pay areas—before the end of the year.