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News Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, July 16, 2004
Contact: Michael Orenstein
Tel: 202-606-2402

OPM Report to Congress on Federal Law Enforcement Recommends Pay and Retirement Systems Modernization

OPM Director James calls for "fair and consistent treatment" for those who enforce the law and protect the public

Washington, D.C. -- The U.S. Office of Personnel Management recently sent to Congress a report that addresses the pay and retirement systems for federal law enforcement personnel as they relate to the government's ability to recruit and retain top officers.

The report recommends Congress give OPM broad authority to establish a governmentwide framework for federal law enforcement retirement, classification, and basic pay and premium pay systems that would better support mission requirements. OPM would exercise this authority in consultation with employing agencies and other stakeholders, and with the concurrence of the Attorney General.

"Federal law enforcement agencies need greater flexibility to establish pay and benefits systems that are strategically designed to support mission requirements and that are more market- and performance-sensitive," said OPM Director Kay Coles James. "At the same time, flexibility needs to be exercised within a central framework to appropriately balance agency and governmentwide interests. In today's environment, when interagency cooperation is critical to our nation's efforts to combat terrorism, we should avoid unwarranted disparities in pay and benefits flexibility that can potentially harm morale, create staffing disruptions and increases costs unnecessarily. The men and women in law enforcement who put their lives on the line each day to protect the public should be given fair and consistent treatment in regard to pay and benefits."

Contained in the congressional report (www.opm.gov/oca/leo_report04.pdf), which is required by the Federal Law Enforcement Pay and Benefits Parity Act of 2003, is OPM's recommendation for broad regulatory authority to establish and maintain, in consultation with employing agencies and with the concurrence of the Attorney General, a retirement benefits structure.

The new structure would support the government's need to maintain a "young and vigorous" corps of law enforcement officers, while providing greater agency flexibility to deal with variations in law enforcement mission requirements in the post 9/11 world. Broad regulatory authority will allow OPM, working with the Attorney General and other law enforcement agencies, flexibility to develop a retirement structure that reflects our current law enforcement environment. One option under consideration would be the establishment of a second tier of law enforcement retirement benefits that falls somewhere between current law enforcement officer benefits and regular retirement benefits.

In the area of compensation, OPM notes that the half-century-old General Schedule pay and classification system is inflexible and ill-equipped to address classification and pay problems in the law enforcement community. As a result, some law enforcement agencies have been granted pay and classification flexibilities, potentially leaving other agencies at a disadvantage.

As a remedy, OPM recommends Congress give the agency authority to establish a governmentwide framework for law enforcement job evaluation and basic pay systems, in consultation with employing agencies and with the concurrence of the Attorney General. Within this framework, OPM would work with law enforcement agencies to establish flexible and contemporary pay systems that can be adjusted to compensate for mission needs and market conditions. These pay systems would be similar to those envisioned for the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Defense National Security Personnel System, with OPM playing a central, coordinating role to ensure that governmentwide interests are considered.

And finally, OPM recommends it receive administrative authority to establish a governmentwide framework for law enforcement premium pay, also in consultation with employing agencies, and with the concurrence of the Attorney General. This would enable the government to more easily make modifications to address problems and emerging needs based on new mission requirements or changes in prevailing practices in the broader labor market.

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Our mission is to Recruit, Retain and Honor a World-Class Workforce to Serve the American People. OPM supports U.S. agencies with personnel services and policy leadership including staffing tools, guidance on labor-management relations and programs to improve work force performance.


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