More Than 15,000 Federal Employees Make at Least $200K


National Journal
Eric Katz, Government Executive
See more stories about...
Eric Katz, Government Executive
April 16, 2014, 1:56 p.m.

Most of the dis­cus­sion of pay for fed­er­al em­ploy­ees in re­cent months and years has been about in­suf­fi­cient or non-ex­ist­ent raises, pay gaps and budget short­falls.

Not all feds are mak­ing out so poorly, however.

A new data­base com­piled by Fed­, us­ing data from the Of­fice of Per­son­nel Man­age­ment and oth­er agen­cies, shows more than 15,000 fed­er­al em­ploy­ees earned at least $200,000 in 2013. That’s roughly 1 per­cent of all fed­er­al work­ers on the list; some em­ploy­ees in na­tion­al se­cur­ity po­s­i­tions were not in­cluded in the data­base.

The vast ma­jor­ity of the top 1 per­cent of feds were doc­tors at the Vet­er­ans Af­fairs De­part­ment. The highest earn­ing em­ploy­ee was a Vet­er­ans Health Ad­min­is­tra­tion doc­tor in Pitt­s­burgh, who took in just more than $400,000 last year. More than 1,200 em­ploy­ees made more than $300,000.

Oth­er agen­cies that re­quire a highly spe­cial­ized work­force paid sev­er­al em­ploy­ees at least $200,000, in­clud­ing the Na­tion­al In­sti­tutes of Health, Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion, Food and Drug Ad­min­is­tra­tion, Of­fice of the Comp­troller of the Cur­rency, Fin­an­cial Hous­ing Fin­ance Agency, and the Se­cur­it­ies and Ex­change Com­mis­sion.

All of these em­ploy­ees are paid on sys­tems spe­cif­ic to their agency or oc­cu­pa­tion. Some of these sys­tems have much high­er pay caps than the Gen­er­al Sched­ule, which sets the salar­ies for the vast ma­jor­ity of fed­er­al em­ploy­ees and capped an­nu­al pay — be­fore ad­just­ing for loc­al­ity — at just less than $130,000.

Even mem­bers of the Seni­or Ex­ec­ut­ive Ser­vice have their pay capped at $181,500 for 2014. The highest paid feds on the Ex­ec­ut­ive Sched­ule, such as agency heads and the vice pres­id­ent, will earn $201,700. Deputy heads will re­ceive less than $200,000.

This pie chart breaks down the per­cent­age of em­ploy­ees on each of the fed­er­al pay scales, ac­cord­ing to the latest data from OPM:


Many fed­er­al em­ploy­ees are able to boost their base salar­ies each year through bo­nuses.

Most bo­nuses are re­l­at­ively small — few­er than 1,000 feds re­ceived a five-fig­ure pay bump, ac­cord­ing to the data­base. Some top ex­ec­ut­ives, however, were able to really cash in.

Six­teen fed­er­al em­ploy­ees re­ceived bo­nuses of more than $50,000. The highest award was nearly $63,000.

Ban­ning Bo­nuses?

Some law­makers want to en­sure that cer­tain fed­er­al em­ploy­ees do not re­ceive such a pay bump.

A group of con­ser­vat­ive law­makers wrote a let­ter to House Ap­pro­pri­ations Com­mit­tee Chair­man Hal Ro­gers, R-Ky., to cut off any fund­ing for In­tern­al Rev­en­ue Ser­vice work­ers in­volved in the polit­ic­al tar­get­ing of mostly con­ser­vat­ive groups when con­duct­ing audits.

The con­gress­men — Reps. Dan Ben­ishek, R-Mich.; Kerry Bentivolio, R-Mich.; Paul Gos­ar, R-Ar­iz.; Tim Huel­skamp, R-Kan.; Wal­ter Jones, R-N.C.; Pete Olson, R-Texas; and Steve Stock­man, R-Texas — said no em­ploy­ee in the Tax Ex­empt and Gov­ern­ment En­tit­ies Di­vi­sion should be eli­gible for a bo­nus.

“The power to tax is the power to des­troy, and these em­ploy­ees at the IRS com­mit­ted a grave in­justice to count­less Amer­ic­ans,” the law­makers wrote. “It sends the wrong mes­sage to the Amer­ic­an people that Con­gress would al­low these ‘per­form­ance awards’ to be doled out after the wrong­do­ing oc­curred.”

The IRS agreed in Feb­ru­ary to par­tially re­in­state its bo­nus pro­gram after it had pre­vi­ously an­nounced plans to can­cel it.