- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 10, 2002

It's ironic that at a time when the White House is pursuing privatization of government jobs, the new Transportation Security Administration is getting rave reviews from long-suffering airport travelers.

Minimum-wage, no health insurance, non-English speaking "security experts" are gone. They've been replaced by sworn TSA feds who appear to know (and care about) what they're doing. Security without an attitude.

Just about anybody who flew over the Thanksgiving holiday or recently boarded a plane will say it was, compared with this time last year, a piece of cake.

A reader, who spent time in the prestigious Presidential Management Intern program before joining the federal government, has this to say about the Bush administration's effort to privatize federal jobs:

"I'm concerned that this matter continues to fly under the radar screen of many federal workers. The issue of competitive sourcing is important of course, not only because it represents a threat to thousands of federal jobs, but also because it raises important questions about good government and the nature of commercial vs. inherently-governmental positions.

" Far too many federal workers believe outsourcing only involves lawn-care workers and computer help desks! They think it could never happen to them. I am living and breathing proof that it can," she writes.

Pay, Social Security and longevity raises

Despite much hand-wringing about being shortchanged or insulted by President Bush, white-collar federal workers are very likely to get the same 4.1 percent raise next January as military personnel.

They will get 3.1 percent as per presidential directive and the rest which could be applied to locality adjustments when Congress finally approves the Treasury-Postal Service appropriations bill. It provides for a 4.1 percent federal civilian raise.

Also on the unfinished business list of Congress is action on bills to reform or eliminate two 20-year-old formulas that can reduce or eliminate the Social Security benefits of federal retirees.

The so-called windfall formula can reduce (as much as $270 per month) the benefit of a federal retiree who qualified for Social Security, but didn't spend 30 years paying into it. The so-called offset formula can wipe out the spousal/survivor benefit of even a low-income federal retiree.

A record number of House and Senate members signed on as supporters of windfall and offset reform or repeal this year. But that didn't translate into action. Groups that work on behalf of feds, and retirees, plan to build on this year's goodwill gains in the upcoming Congress.

Look for the Bush administration to come up with a proposal to save billions of dollars that could be pumped into merit pay by eliminating automatic longevity federal pay raises.

Under current rules feds, depending on how long they have been in their pay grade, get an automatic 3 percent raise every one, two or three years. That means nearly half the work force gets a raise on top of the regular January adjustment every 12 to 18 months.

Presidents Carter, Reagan and Clinton had impure legislative thoughts when they learned about how the so-called within-grade (longevity) raises operate.

The Bush administration thanks to input from the Heritage Foundation would like to see the so-called "being there" raises eliminated to help finance a pay-for-performance system.

Food for thought: President Carter brokered a historic treaty between Israel and Egypt; President Reagan spent the Soviet Union into ruin and President Clinton presided over the biggest boom in U.S. history. But all of them got burned when they attempted to mess with the within-grade federal pay raise.

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