Federal White-Collar Special Rate Program
GGD-84-54, Mar 30, 1984
In response to a congressional request, GAO evaluated the special rate program for federal white-collar positions.
Presently, about 2.6 percent of the federal white-collar work force under the General Schedule pay system are authorized rates of pay higher than the statutory pay rates. Although the number of positions with special rates increased from about 8,000 in fiscal year (FY) 1977 to 34,000 in FY 1984, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has limited special rate pay adjustments during the last 3 years. OPM believes that its decisions have not harmed the government's ability to attract and retain employees in hard-to-fill positions. However, several agencies believe that OPM decisions to limit or deny adjustments have affected their agencies' performances. Engineering positions constitute more than half of the special rate positions and show the greatest pay disparity between the private and pubic sectors, particularly in entry-level positions. GAO found that there is general agreement among OPM, the Department of Defense, and other agencies that managers need increased pay flexibility to deal with staffing problems. Several options have been suggested which include: (1) expanding the special rate authority and step range, (2) establishing special occupational schedules, (3) authorizing recruitment and retention bonuses, and (4) expanding the flexibility of the classification levels and pay ranges.