DOD Civilians Would Get 1% Pay Raise Under 2021 Budget Proposal

Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper participates in a PT session with service members and Civilians at Camp Resolute Support, Kabul, Afghanistan, Oct. 21, 2019.

DoD / U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Nicole Mejia

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Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper participates in a PT session with service members and Civilians at Camp Resolute Support, Kabul, Afghanistan, Oct. 21, 2019.

That's more than the Trump administration's 2020 request, which would have frozen wages, but less than the 3.1% average pay increase enacted by Congress.

President Trump on Monday proposed a 1% pay raise for federal civilian employees in 2021, as part of the White House’s fiscal 2021 budget request.

The raise would mark an upgrade over previous years in terms of the administration’s initial submission to Congress. In each of the last two years, Trump pushed for a pay freeze before ultimately agreeing to a raise. Still, the proposed 2020 figure would represent a significant reduction from the average 1.9% and 3.1% increases that were enacted for 2019 and 2020, respectively.

In the fiscal 2021 budget, the White House said that the 1% raise would be complemented by an increased issuance of performance-based bonuses and other financial awards.

“The administration proposes a 1% pay increase for federal civilian employees for calendar year 2021, while also increasing funds available for on-the-spot and ratings-based performance awards,” the document stated. “The administration has attempted to make pay more flexible and performance-based, since across-the-board pay increases have long-term fixed costs and fail to address existing pay disparities or to target mission-critical recruitment and retention goals. A more targeted approach that rewards the top performers with the most critical skills is needed.”

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Military service members, on the other hand, would receive a 3% raise in 2021 under the White House’s plan.

The Trump administration said that as part of the budget, agencies will have more money and flexibility to offer bonuses to high performers.

“In addition to lifting the cap on the amount of salary devoted to awards, the 2021 budget includes funding for agencies to spend an additional one percentage point of their salary budget on awards for their high performing employees and those with critical skillsets,” the budget stated. “This increase in awards spending will allow agencies to effect an awards and recognition program that drives positive behavior; provides opportunities for employees to develop, grow, and enhance their careers; and recognizes accomplishments in a timely way.”

Late Monday, Trump issued an alternative pay plan for 2021 limiting any federal employee pay increase to 1% and keeping locality pay at 2020 levels. The president is required to submit an alternative pay plan to Congress by the end of August every year, or else significant automatic pay increases will take effect under the Federal Employee Pay Comparability Act. Presidents typically issue alternative pay plans in late August.

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