There has been a concerted campaign by corporate-influenced groups and others to introduce the dangerous lie that federal employees are “overpaid” relative to their private sector counterparts. According to Bureau of Labor (BLS) statistics, federal salaries lag behind those in the private sector for almost all jobs in almost all locations throughout the US. The biggest pay gaps are in the biggest cities, and the biggest cities are where most federal employees work.
The fact is that federal government agencies are facing serious retention challenges. A recent USA Today article criticized the pay for those civilians at the very top salary range. These are the doctors that care for our nation’s veterans, the scientists making breakthroughs in crops that would increase the safety and reliability of the world’s food supply, and the researchers who work to find ways to defend our soldiers from IEDs, cyber war and the threat of chemical warfare. Retaining employees with these kinds of skills requires payment of competitive salaries.
At the Department of Veterans Affairs, nurses and physicians are two professions facing recruitment and retention problems. As Senator Richard Burr (R-NC), ranking member, Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs stated, “The VA… needs to attract and to keep quality doctors and nurses. This means that pay and benefits need to be competitive.”
The federal government has been able to create a highly-skilled, dedicated workforce in spite of the fact that it pays modest salaries. Attacking the pay of federal employees is a cheap political shot that does nothing to address any real or perceived problems and does a great disservice to the American public.