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DoD Eyes Targeted Pay for Civilian Workers, Abell Says

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 23, 2002 – Senior DoD personnel officials think a different compensation system could be used to target pay to certain defense department civilians, much like the current military pay system provides extra money to some noncommissioned and commissioned officers.

Charles S. Abell, the principal deputy under secretary of defense for personnel and readiness, told reporters at a Pentagon media roundtable today "that's a free suggestion from us." He was acknowledging that the Office of Personnel Management and the Office of Management and Budget have priority over the management of government civilian pay matters.

"We have made some recommendations just to help our friends at OPM and OMB, that we have found the targeted pay for the military to be so effective that we would recommend that they consider, if not in '04, then in the future, looking at how one might target civilian pay," Abell said.

However, Abell also cautioned that the department would have to first devote more study to any civilian targeted-pay concept. DoD civilians are slated to receive a 3.1 percent raise Jan. 1, 2003.

In other news, Abell noted that 2002 was a banner year for enlisted recruitment and retention with all the services making their quotas. The military still faces challenges keeping aviators, but he said that the affected services are doing a good job in a tough situation.

The military pay and compensation arena is also bright, he added: On Jan. 1, 2003, service members are garnering a 4.1 percent across-the-board pay raise, as well as targeted pay hikes for persons in certain ranks, mostly noncommissioned officers.

Abell noted that military pay tables still aren't where officials want them, predicting more targeted pay raises for some NCOs and other military leaders.

"Retention of NCOs is key" to the organizational health of the military services and national security, Abell said.

Bonuses that are paid to service members with special skills will probably continue to be part of the military's compensation package, he added.

Abell remarked that military pay is measured against compensation for comparable education and skill levels in civilian life. Thanks to recent, robust military pay raises, he said, pay for most entry-level privates and lieutenants is now "significantly" more than what is paid for comparable age, skill and education levels in the civilian sector.

Right now, he noted, military pay is figured at the Employment Cost Index, plus one-half of a percent.

Abell pointed out that service members will spend even less sums over the coming year for housing expenses, thanks to recent military housing allowance hikes.

The deputy under secretary also talked about an ongoing study of the reserve components, which he said may be made public sometime in January next year. DoD, he noted, could transfer some jobs now done by the Guard or Reserve to the active components, or recommend that particular skills be given to DoD civilians or contracted out.

At the same time, he added, DoD personnel officials are looking at ways to make the department's personnel management operations more efficient. This, he said, involves a look at all of the jobs DoD civilians perform, whether those jobs are still valid in the 21st century or might be more efficiently done by the private sector.

However, he cautioned that the objective isn't to contract out the jobs performed by DoD's civilians, but to analyze how the workforce performs its missions and to make that workforce more efficient.

Answering a reporter's question about whether the U.S. military is prepared for a possible war with Iraq, Abell noted: "Our forces are ready."

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