One expected emphasis of the Trump administration regarding the federal workforce is a closer link between performance ratings and both basic salary and awards, a long-standing theme of Republicans regarding the civil service. The Bush administration gained passage of laws to install pay for performance systems in two major departments, DHS and DoD, but the former never got off the ground before being canceled even during his administration and the latter operated only several years before meeting the same fate early in the Obama administration. Attempting to revive such major programs could be a long and difficult process, given the opposition of unions and Democrats in Congress. However, such an effort might start on a smaller scale. An expected House bill would ban an employee who does not receive a score of four or five out of five (or an equivalent rating) on his or her latest performance review from receiving a pay raise. Also, the White House could act on its own to steer various types of incentive payments to only the top performers. Republicans have criticized agencies in recent years for paying awards on a widescale basis, suggesting that agencies are not making distinctions between levels of performance. They cite OPM data that show, for example, that in 2014, 45 percent of federal employees received individual ratings-based awards averaging nearly $1,000 (HUD that year paid performance awards to 92.4 percent of its employees) and 25.5 percent received time-off awards averaging 19.5 hours (several agencies including the NLRB and FCC averaged more than one such award per employee that year). Group rating-based awards, time-off awards and quality step increases each were paid to about 3 percent of employees. The GOP has raised the same argument regarding the other side of the coin, stressing that well below 1 percent of federal employees have within-grade raises denied on the basis of performance.
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