OPM's Berry blasts Washington Times editorial on federal pay
Office of Personnel Director John Berry blasted a Friday Washington Times editorial critical of the federal pay system and bonus system.
The newspaper criticized the 2.4 percent annual pay raise workers earned earlier this year and $285 million in incentive payments to keep employees from retiring or transferring to other agencies.
"The left shrieks about the unfairness of the large bonuses handed out to Wall Street executives even though shareholders alone have the right to decide what compensation is appropriate and necessary," the editorial stated. "As effective shareholders in the federal enterprise, we think the federal incentive structure must come to an end."
Berry picked apart the editorial during an emotional interview with Federal News Radio on Friday.
For example, the editorial stated, "The only thing that seems to be growing during the current economic downturn is the government, and that's cause for alarm."
In response, Berry said: "There will be 2.1 million full time federal employees in this year. That is less than there were in the federal government when Lyndon Johnson was president in 1967. If you compare the growth in the size of our country, there are over 100 million more Americans today that those workers are serving."
The Times also noted that federal workers earned a 2.4 percent raise "for successfully sitting at his desk for a year."
"When I heard that and I read that -- it just steams me," Berry said. "Do they think that the researchers at NIH who are developing cures for cancer today are bureaucrats sitting at their desks? Do they think the TSA employees who are screening people who are sitting next to you on the airplane today -- are they just sitting at their desks? Are the Customs and Border Patrol that are screening tractor trailers coming over our boarders that might carry a nuclear device -- are they just sitting at their desks? This is the kind of stuff that is just a denigration of public service and there should be no place for it in our country."
More than half of federal employees work for the departments of Defense, Homeland Security and Veterans Affairs, Berry said.
"I would ask The Washington Times which of those they would like to cut," Berry said. "Do they want to compromise our national security, our care for our veterans or the protection of our people against terrorism? I don't."
Berry's comments came at the end of a week of critical editorials and analyses of the federal pay system. Office of Management and Budget Director Peter R. Orszag made a similar defense of the pay on Wednesday following a USA Today report. The Bureau of Labor Statistics later refuted that analysis. Federal unions have also raised concerns that recent anti-government rhetoric is putting federal workers at risk.
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| March 12, 2010; 3:25 PM ET
Categories: Administration, Workplace Issues
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