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August 15, 2001
G-Men Staging Pay Revolt
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A group representing nearly 10,000 FBI agents plans to seek creation of a separate salary system for the government's law enforcement officers, according to the Washington Post, which calls it another sign that the federal pay system needs fixing.

Nancy L. Savage, president of the FBI Agents Association, told the Post that the pay system has gone "out of whack" by failing to provide enough incentives to attract and retain young law-enforcement officers.

For instance, FBI offices in Seattle, San Francisco and San Diego are finding it harder to hire and keep agents with computer science skills, Savage said.

In the high-cost Silicon Valley area, where the FBI investigates software theft and hackers, young agents commute three hours a day from homes in lower-cost communities and sometimes are hard-pressed to pay for groceries, she said.

After two years on the job, agents making $45,000 a year take jobs in the computer industry that pay $150,000, Savage said. "We've hired a lot of good people in the last six years or so, and we're losing a lot of valuable talent that we don't need to be losing," she said.

A big sore spot for the agents is the federal government's locality pay system, which was designed to close the pay gaps between federal jobs and their private-sector counterparts in 32 designated labor markets.

Under the system, a law enforcement officer in Houston at grade 13, step 1, receives $66,899 annually. In San Francisco, an officer at the same grade makes $183 more. In Washington, the pay is $3,688 less than the Houston rate.

The problem, according to the Post, is that the system has never been fully implemented. In addition, the take-home pay of many FBI agents shrinks when they are transferred from a low-tax state, such as Texas, to states with hefty state and local tax rates.

Problems in locality pay are compounded by so-called pay compression, which primarily affects senior executives who bump up against statutory limits imposed by Congress, Savage said.

"We've had problems with our managers not wanting to move to San Francisco and not wanting to move to some of the high-cost cities because they would take major cuts" in take-home pay," she said.

More than 35,000 federal employees work in the 1811 law enforcement job series, primarily officers in the Justice and Treasury departments. Because law enforcement officers work under different retirement rules and must leave at age 57, "we believe there is already a good precedent for a separate pay system," Savage said.

To view the Washington Post story, click here.

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