The aging federal workforce, proposals to reduce retirement benefits and conflicts with Trump administration priorities may all have played a role.
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OPM will also expedite hiring for some occupations.
CSRS retirees will get 2.8 percent increase.
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Memo comes just days after White House ousted OPM director in favor of one of its own top officials.
The White House declined to release details on how officials will formulate its comparison between federal and private sector jobs.
Group hopes that efforts to boost professional development for agency leaders will eventually be adopted by agencies.
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The preliminary agreement for a 1.9 percent pay boost runs counter to President Trump's recommendation for a pay freeze and faces Democratic opposition over other policy provisions.