Public Pensions:

Summary of Federal Pension Plan Data

AIMD-96-6: Published: Feb 16, 1996. Publicly Released: Mar 18, 1996.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the status of public pension plan funding, focusing on federally sponsored defined benefit and contribution plans subject to reporting requirements legislation.

GAO found that: (1) 34 federal government defined benefit plans have over 10 million participants and 17 defined contribution plans have 2.2 million participants; (2) the 34 defined benefit plans vary considerably and have benefits of over $1.2 trillion; (3) most of the defined benefit plans are administered as trust funds which almost exclusively invest in nonmarketable, special issue Treasury securities, while 6 plans pay benefits from their current year appropriations; (4) most agency plans, except for the Federal Employees Retirement System, are underfunded; (5) the 19 nonappropriated fund activity, federal reserve, and farm credit defined benefit plans are fully funded; (6) the use of trust funds has no effect on current budget outlays and is not a measure of the government's ability to pay future retirement benefits out of tax and other receipts; (7) agencies' budgets have not reflected the full cost of their pension plan programs; (8) the 17 defined contribution plans have more than $28 billion invested in stocks, bonds, and government securities, with the Thrift Savings Plan having about $26 billion in Treasury securities; and (9) defined contribution plan obligations are limited to the employee and employer contributions made and any earnings on them.

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