General Schedule (or GS) is the name used to describe a payscale utilized by the majority of
white collarpersonnel in the civil serviceof the federal government of the United States. The GS was enacted into law by the Classification Act of 1949, which replaced a similar act of the same name enacted in 1923. The GS is now codified as part of Chapter 53 of Title 5 of the United States Codesections 5331 to 5338 (usc|5|5331|5338). The GS is intended to keep federal salaries equitable among various occupations ("equal pay for equal work").
The GS includes most professional, technical, administrative, and clerical positions in the federal civil service. The Wage Grade (WG) schedule includes most federal
blue-collarworkers. As of|2004|9, 71% of federal civilian employees were paid under the GS; the remaining 29% were paid under other systems such as the Federal Wage Systemfor federal blue-collar civilian employees, the Senior Executive Service/ Senior Leveland the Executive Schedulefor high-ranking federal employees, and the pay schedules for the United States Postal Serviceand the Foreign Service. In addition, some federal agencies – such as the United States Securities and Exchange Commission, the Federal Reserve System, and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation– have their own unique pay schedules.
Administration of the General Schedule
Office of Personnel Managementadministers the GS pay schedule on behalf of other federal agencies, although changes to the GS must normally be authorized by the president (via Executive Order) or by Congress (via legislation). Normally, the president directs annual across-the-board pay adjustments at the beginning of a calendar year after Congress has passed the annual appropriations legislation for the federal government. Most positions in the competitive serviceare paid according to the GS. In addition, many positions in the excepted serviceuse the GS as a basis for setting pay rates. Some positions in the excepted service use the grade designator "GG" – for example, "GG-12" or "GG-13". The GG pay rates are generally identical to published GS pay rates.
Grade structure and step increases
The GS is separated into 15 grades (GS-1, GS-2, etc. up to GS-15); each grade is separated into 10 steps. Entry-level positions are generally in the GS 1–7 range; GS 8–12, mid-level; and GS 13–15, top-level. A new GS employee is normally employed in the first step of their assigned GS grade, although recent legislation authorizes initial appointment at a higher step (at the employing agency's discretion) as a recruiting incentive. Each step above 1 is normally earned after serving a prescribed period of service (at one, two or three year intervals) in at least a satisfactory manner, although a GS employee can also be advanced to a higher step without regard to length of service based on outstanding work performance (this is referred to as a "quality step increase"). At one time, there were also three GS "supergrades"—GS-16, GS-17 and GS-18. These were eliminated under the provisions of the
Civil Service Reform Act of 1978and replaced by the Senior Executive Serviceand the more recent Senior Level (non-supervisory) pay scale.
In some executive departments, federal civil servants work beside members of the uniformed services. For example, federal civil servants and U.S. Public Health Service (PHS) Commissioned Corps officers work side-by-side in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The following GS grade/PHS Commissioned Officer rank conversion applies within the department:
GS-07/LTJG GS-09 and GS-11/LTGS-12/LCDR GS-13/CDR GS-14 and GS-15/CAPT
The PHS Commissioned Corps and the U.S. Navy share the same grade and rank structure.
Promotions and advancement procedures
Some GS positions provide for advancement within a so-called "career ladder", meaning that an incumbent can advance up the ladder in a particular job, normally on an annual basis, until he/she has reached the full performance level for that job. This is typical for many professional positions designed for college graduates.
For example, a recent college graduate with a bachelor's degree may take a GS position at either the GS-5 or GS-7 level, depending on the job itself, the individual's academic achievement, prior experience (including but not limited to military service) and other factors. On or about the anniversary of the employee's appointment, assuming the employee has performed at least "fully successful" (i.e., adequately) in the job, management most likely will (but is not automatically required to) promote the employee to the next grade in the ladder. Most career ladders advance in two-grade intervals, from GS-5 to GS-7, from GS-7 to GS-9, and from GS-9 to GS-11, such as for IT professionals. After one has reached GS-11 in a career ladder, promotions then progress normally in one-grade intervals, from GS-11 to GS-12, from GS-12 to GS-13, etc. until the full performance level has been reached. In most cases, the full performance target grade for a career ladder will range from GS-11 to GS-13. Promotions to GS-14 and GS-15 are almost always the result of competition for a vacant position. Occasionally, positions that begin at a GS-9 or GS-11 and end at a GS-14 or GS-15 may open up, but typically only people who already have government jobs are eligible to apply for these positions, and openings that end in GS-14 or above are comparatively scarce.Fact|date=April 2008 Clerical and administrative positions frequently are graded between GS-3 to GS-9, with promotion opportunities (when available) in one-grade intervals (e.g., GS-3 to GS-4, GS-4 to GS-5, etc.).
In other cases, particularly in the clerical and administrative fields, a position will have little or no promotion potential and in those cases, an employee desiring to advance will need to compete for a higher-graded vacancy as one becomes available. Many times, particularly outside of the Washington D.C. metropolitan area, a geographic transfer (or transfer to another federal agency) will be necessary in order to advance in GS grade due to the location and availability of vacant positions.
Military rank equivalency
Although GS civilians do not have military rank by virtue of their GS position, regulations include civilian and military grade equivalencies for pay and protocol comparison purposes. For example, a GS-9 is considered comparable to a
first lieutenantor lieutenant junior grade(O-2), while a GS-15 (top of the General Schedule) is the pay equivalent of a colonelor Navy captain (O-6). Senior Executive Service (SES) and Senior Level grades correspond for protocol purposes to flag officers (generals and admirals). These grade equivalencies were also created for the purpose of treating civilians serving alongside the Armed Forces who have been captured as prisoners of war according to the Geneva Convention. They are also used by the Department of Defense and Department of Statefor other purposes, such as assignment of permanent and transient quarters to eligible civilian employees. Military rank or civilian grade often have no bearing on supervisory precedence – generally, precedence and authority are guided by situational expertise.Fact|date=August 2008
General Schedule, FS is for the Foreign Service schedule [ [http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/88722.pdf Microsoft Word - 15fam0260.doc ] ]
Federal Employees Pay Comparability Act of 1990
:main|Federal Employees Pay Comparability Act of 1990Prior to January 1994, GS personnel were generally paid the same amount (for a given grade and step) regardless of where they worked. This system ignored the growing reality of regional differences in salaries and wages across the United States, and this led to a perception that federal civil service salaries were increasingly uncompetitive with those in the private sector, thus affecting recruiting and retention efforts by federal agencies.
In January 1994, the
Federal Employees Pay Comparability Act of 1990(FEPCA) introduced a locality pay system, which provides an additional amount for each grade varying by region within the 48 continental United States (CONUS). Under FEPCA, the Bureau of Labor Statisticsconducts annual surveys of wages and salaries paid to non-federal workers in designated locality pay areas. For calendar year 2008, 31 locality pay areas have been established, most of which are connected to the major metropolitan areas in CONUS. In addition, one "catch-all" locality pay area, designated as "Rest of U.S." (RUS), was established for CONUS-based federal employees who do not work in one of the 31 specified areas. Surveys are used to determine the disparity, if any, between federal and non-federal pay in a given locality pay area. The Federal Salary Council (created by FEPCA) prepares recommendations concerning the composition of locality pay areas and the annual comparability adjustment for each area. The council's recommendations are transmitted to the President's Pay Agent(also created by FEPCA), which then establishes, modifies, or disestablishes individual locality pay areas and makes the final recommendation on pay adjustments to the president, who may either accept the agent's recommendations or (in effect) reject them through the submission of an alternative pay plan (see "Politicization of the Federal pay process" below).
FEPCA also provides for an automatic annual across-the-board adjustment of GS pay rates. A common misconception is that the annual federal pay adjustments are determined according to cost of living fluctuations and other regional considerations. In fact, the across-the-board adjustments to the GS (but not locality pay) are determined according to the rise in the cost of employment as measured by the Department of Labor's
Employment Cost Index, which does not necessarily correlate to the better-known Consumer Price Index, which tracks consumer prices.
Both Republican and Democratic administrations have complained about the methodology used to compute locality adjustments and the projected cost of closing the pay gap (as determined by FEPCA) between federal salaries and those in the private sector. In December 2007, the President's Pay Agent reported that an average locality pay adjustment of 36.89 per cent would be required to reach the target set by FEPCA (to close the computed pay gap between federal and non-federal pay to a disparity of five per cent). By comparison, in calendar year 2007, the average locality pay adjustment actually authorized was 16.88 per cent. As a result, FEPCA has never been fully implemented.
GS personnel assigned overseas
Personnel based outside
CONUS(e.g., Alaska, Hawaii, U.S. territories, foreign overseas areas) do not receive locality adjustments, although they may instead receive certain non-taxable allowances such as cost-of-living allowances, post allowances and housing allowances in accordance with other laws, such as the Foreign Service Act. Federal civilian workers based in CONUS do not normally receive housing allowances or government-furnished housing. Also, some civilian personnel stationed overseas do not receive housing allowances; this may include military dependents working in federal civilian positions overseas, military members that left the service while overseas and were hired into an overseas position, and U.S. citizens hired into overseas positions while traveling abroad.
In contrast, the tax-free allowances paid during overseas assignments (especially the housing allowances) are generally considered to be an incentive to serve overseas, as they can be quite generous. While this situation may be advantageous to some personnel during their assignment overseas, these tax-free allowances are not considered to be part of one's salary, therefore they are not counted when computing a civil service annuity at retirement. CONUS locality adjustments, however, are counted when computing annuities.
Politicization of the federal pay process
Since the issue of federal employee pay necessarily takes place within the larger context of the annual (and highly political) federal budget process, the process of determining the annual federal employee pay raise itself has become very political. Although FEPCA provides for an automatic formula to determine the annual pay raise, this formula has been ignored due to the cost of implementation. The president has authority under FEPCA to submit an "alternative" pay plan with a lower raise than that called for by the FEPCA formula (or none at all) "if because of national emergency or serious economic conditions affecting the general welfare" (5 U.S.C. §5303(b)(1)). In reality, the final pay raise has been decided by Congress, which has authorized higher increases than what were originally requested by the president in his annual budget submissions. The primary reason given by Congressional leaders for a higher civilian raise has been the maintenance of "pay parity" with military pay, where the president has normally been more generous and there has been less controversy, particularly after the
September 11, 2001 attacks. Once the appropriations bill containing the pay raise proposal has been signed into law, the president then issues an executive order to implement the raise.
Pay for performance
In recent years, there have been several attempts to eliminate the GS and replace it with various pay systems emphasizing "pay for performance", that is, pay increases should be awarded based more on merit and work performance and less on seniority and length of service. As with the issue of annual federal pay raises, pay for performance in the federal government has also become very politicized. The best known efforts in this area are the pay systems created for the Departments of Homeland Security and Defense,
National Security Personnel System(NSPS), [cite web | title=National Security Personnel System | url=http://www.cpms.osd.mil/nsps/index.html | publisher= Office of the Secretary of Defense] in 2002 and 2003 respectively. These efforts have been very controversial and are being challenged presently by federal labor unionsand other employee groups. As part of his fiscal 2007 and 2008 budget proposals, President George W. Bushproposed the eventual elimination of the GS to be replaced by a pay-for-performance concept throughout the Executive Branch of the government. The Office of Management and Budgetprepared draft legislation, known as the [http://www.whitehouse.gov/results/agenda/working.html "Working for America Act"] , but as of|2008|1|lc=on Congress has not implemented the proposal.
Office of Personnel Management(OPM) [http://www.opm.gov/oca/pay/HTML/wgifact.asp guide on step increases] .
*The General Schedule for calendar year 2008 (including locality pay charts) is available [http://www.opm.gov/oca/08tables/indexGS.asp here] .
* [http://www.rand.org/pubs/monograph_reports/MR980/MR980.chap4.pdf Department of Defense (DoD) Instruction 1000.1, Table 4.1] contains a table listing rank and grade equivalencies between U.S. military ranks and GS pay grades.
*Official version of [http://www.aschq.army.mil/gc/files/i10001.pdf DoD Instruction 1000.1, 30 January 1974; Administrative Reissuance Incorporating Change 2, 5 June 1991] This the source document for the above abridged table 4.1.
* [http://www.apd.army.mil/pdffiles/r420_1.pdf Army Regulation 420-1, Army Facilities Management, 12 February 2008, Table 3-4] contains a table listing rank and grade equivalencies between U.S. military ranks and GS pay grades.
* [http://dcp.psc.gov/VATS/instructions_hiring_official.htm U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps/GS grade conversion] contains the grade equivalencies between US Public Health Service Commissioned Corps officer ranks and federal civil servant GS grades.
* [http://www.opm.gov/qualifications/SEC-II/s2-e5.asp#e4b General Schedule Qualifications] contains information on how general schedule grade levels intersect with qualifying education levels.
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