At their recent meeting, members of the Federal Salary Council disagreed over potential changes to the methodology behind its estimate of the federal/nonfederal pay gap, which it reported as 30.91 percent.

The annual figure, of around that same number, is always controversial, even though it is based on procedures required in the 1990 federal pay law creating the GS locality pay system, in the face of other studies concluding essentially the opposite, or something in between.


Because of such disputes, the council in the spring had agreed to examine other options, resulting in a “working group” document presenting five possibilities. Those ranged from making no changes, to two ways of adding in factors such as turnover, to conducting a study modeled on the military’s quadrennial reviews of compensation. The two options to add other data were presented as being within current authority but it’s unclear how that might happen, given that unions, which hold the majority of seats on the council, oppose any changes.

Creating such a commission—or the fifth option, to take the value of benefits into account—would require a change in law. That would seem to have little chance of passing in the House with Democrats, who generally support union positions on federal employment matters, in control there starting in January.

However, members of the council chosen by President Trump indicated that they would recommend that the President’s Pay Agent consider such changes, which they characterized as making the comparison more accurate. The council reports to the Pay Agent—the heads of OMB, OPM and Labor—which in turn reports to the president.