A Balanced Pay System Serves Our Nation

Source: Colleen M. Kelley, Public Administration Review, Volume 72, Issue 6, November/December 2012
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As I watched NASA scientists erupt into cheers at the successful landing of the Curiosity rover on the surface of Mars this summer, several questions came to my mind: How do you compensate someone whose job is to reach for the stars or eradicate a disease from this planet? What price do you put on protecting our borders or halting an outbreak of a food-borne illness?… As a longtime member of the Federal Salary Council, I have spent years examining the issue of federal pay, federal pay studies, and fair compensation systems. Given the great diversity in the jobs performed by employees and the fact that taxpayer dollars are at stake, the system for setting appropriate compensation must be fair, credible, and transparent, and it must attract and keep highly skilled workers. That is why the current federal pay system aims to find a balance between offering competitive wages and benefits, a secure retirement, and a satisfying work environment.

Still, some critics claim that federal employees are overpaid and offer very carefully selected data, artfully presented, to make a seemingly convincing case. In the end, however, those methodologies are flawed, and using them could lead to bad policy decisions….

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