In pay debate, call for General Schedule restructuring

Wednesday - 3/16/2011, 5:00pm EDT

Max Stier, President and CEO, Partnership for Public Service

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By Jolie Lee
Federal News Radio

Last week lawmakers clashed in the ongoing debate about federal employee pay during a House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on the Federal Workforce, U.S. Postal Service and Labor Policy hearing.

Out of the debate came a call to restructure the current General Schedule pay system.

The current federal pay system is 60 years old and started when there was an expectation that employees would stay with one organization for their entire careers, said Max Stier, president and CEO of the nonprofit Partnership for Public Service in an interview with In Depth's Francis Rose.

Times have changed. The pay system does not address the shift within the federal government toward a more highly educated and highly skilled workforce.

"What we still don't have is a system that permits you to distinguish between the different occupations and the different levels within those occupations," Stier said.

One of contributors to what Stier calls "management dysfunction" in government is the political appointee. For reform to come to the GS, appointees and careers must work together to envision a new system. The discussion must also include departments outside of human capital, Stier added.

"The truth of the matter is, there's no such thing as a right system. You have to have a system that everybody believes in and that is, therefore, going to work well because people have been part of the process in creating it," Stier said.

In the end, the discussion about federal pay is a discussion about federal performance.

"The end objective should be getting the right talent at the most cost-effective price and for government to achieve what we need out of government," Stier said.