WASHINGTON, DC – House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (MD) released the following statement this morning after remarks by President Bush on the first anniversary of the creation of the Department of Homeland Security:
“The men and women of the Department of Homeland Security – which includes Coast Guard officers, Secret Service agents, Border Patrol agents and other dedicated public servants – surrounded President Bush today as he lauded their efforts over the last year. And their heartfelt appreciation and patriotism were apparent.
“But even as the President was giving these civilian federal employees a collective pat on the back, he was trying to reach his other hand into their wallets and deny them a fair pay adjustment.
“Once again this year, the President is shunning the bipartisan principle of pay parity between civilian and military employees that has been followed by Congress for 19 of the last 21 years. In his budget for Fiscal Year 2005, the President proposed a 1.5 percent pay adjustment for civilian federal employees, while asking for a 3.5 percent adjustment for military employees.
“If the federal government is going to meet the challenges of the 21st century, it must be able recruit and retain the best civilian workforce possible, and pay undeniably is an important part of that effort. Pay parity carries both symbolic and economic significance. It recognizes that thousands of our civilian federal employees are on the front lines in the war on terrorism, and that they are paid far less than private sector counterparts. It is simply not tenable to suggest that civilian federal employees working in the Pentagon next to uniformed employees are not as deserving of a fair pay adjustment.
“This morning, the President told our civilian federal employees just how important their work is to keeping our nation safe from harm. This afternoon, he ought to back up his rhetoric with action, and join Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle who support pay parity between civilian and military employees.”
There are 1.8 million civilian federal employees across the country - in the Department of Defense alone there are over 600,000 civilian federal employees. For 19 of the last 21 years, both the House and Senate have consistently recognized that Congress and the Executive Branch should not undermine the morale of dedicated Federal public servants by failing to bring their pay adjustments in line with military personnel.
The principle of parity stems from the recognition that the pay for civilian and military employees simply has not kept pace with increases in the private sector. According to the most recent studies, a 32 percent pay gap exists between the civilian employees and their private sector counterparts and an estimated 5.4 percent gap exists between the military service members and the private sector.