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Stan Soloway of the Professional Services Council, a contractors group, said it is the latter that causes them consternation.

“The issue we’re most concerned about is expanding it to include all employees, because if I’m required to get really high-end technology or analytic skills, I can’t get them on a government contract.”

The limits on defense contractor pay don’t have an effect because the cap is so high, but lowering the limits to $250,000 would have a visible effect, he said.

Mr. Amey said the issue is coming to a head because the cap has nearly doubled in recent years and because for public employees, “we’re talking about reductions, furloughs, and everything else. Meanwhile if trends follow, the 2013 compensation cap is going to be higher than $800,000.”

The Eyak Corp., an Alaska Native business that uses its minority status to get contracts and is the sole bidder for most, paid its top five executives nearly $4 million last year, including $1.1 million to Keith Gordaoff.

Eyak’s Brennan Cain said by email that companies must be able to “pay compensation they deem necessary to competitively retain executive talent against their commercial counterparts.” He said the proposed reforms mean little to his company because it pays its executives out of corporate profits and does not bill the government directly at all for executive salaries.

“The compensation limits being discussed relate only to cost reimbursement contracts,” he said, not the contracts with which his company deals, which are “firm-fixed-priced revenues which are subject to the government’s price reasonableness analyses.”

The proposed cap is calibrated to major publicly traded companies with at least $50 million in annual revenue, but advocates such as Mr. Amey point out that many government contractors are much smaller.

Harper Construction Co. of San Diego has 120 employees and paid its top executives $3.5 million last year, including $1.1 million for David Golden. No companies other than Eyak would return calls about their executives’ compensation, despite the reliance on taxpayer funds.

Truland Systems Corp., an electrical contractor that said last year it had annual revenue of $56 million and has received roughly $223 million in federal contracts since 2007, including work for the General Services Administration and the Department of Homeland Security, paid its top five executives $11 million, including $5.9 million to Robert Truland. For most of its contracts, it was the only bidder.

Propulsion Controls Engineering, another firm that gets more than 80 percent of its revenue from the government, had as few as 120 employees and revenue of $27 million in 2012, yet paid its top five executives nearly $8 million, including $3.6 million to David P. Clapp.