Federal Manager's Daily Report

The Federal Salary Council faces several important decisions regarding operation of the GS locality pay system, the GAO has said, although noting that the council currently is dormant because the Biden administration has not named its members.

The salary council, made up of union and administration officials and outside experts on compensation, oversees data used to compare federal and non-federal jobs for determining the pay gap by locality. It also sets standards for creating new city-area localities—with higher pay by grade and step—and attaching outlying areas to existing localities.

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One issue on the council’s plate, the GAO said, is whether to use the most recent changes in metropolitan area definitions from OMB, dating to March 2020. The council at one time made those adjustments automatically but has not in recent years, it said. Adopting those new definitions would result in some federal employees moving into or out of city localities and the catchall locality, while some others would move between localities—all changes that would affect their pay.

Another change in definitions is expected within two years based on results of the 2020 census, it added.

GAO also cited options raised by members who had been appointed by the Trump administration that the council did not adopt during those years. Those included changes to the salary survey methods currently used that involve Bureau of Labor Statistics data; keeping the current method but adding other considerations such as attrition; a “total compensation” approach taking into account the value of benefits; and replacing the council with a commission like the one that examines military pay and benefits in depth on a four-year cycle.

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