Great news: Sequester not impacting federal bonuses; Update: GSA responds

For months, we’ve heard practically nothing from the Obama administration except how awful the sequester will be for ordinary Americans.  Fortunately, it won’t be so awful for our dear leaders in the federal government — especially in the General Services Administration.  The reduction of 2.3% in federal spending, which is actually a reduction in planned increases in federal spending, won’t take a bite out of the bonuses paid out to our betters in Washington:

An elite group of federal employees is set to receive cash bonuses despite this year’s automatic budget cuts, according to a report that a Senate subcommittee issued Friday.

The report revealed that members of the government’s highly paid Senior Executive Service _ who make up less than 1 percent of the federal workforce _ had received more than $340 million in bonuses from 2008 through 2011. The bonuses came on top of annual salaries that ranged from $119,000 to $179,000. …

But by law, agencies still must pay bonuses to Senior Executive Service employees who meet certain performance criteria, the report said.

When put into place, the bonuses made some economic sense.  For one, it provided a more competitive position for government agencies so that they could compete against the private sector for the best talent.  The bonuses were supposed to be tied to performance measurements so that enterprising executives could shake up hidebound bureaucracies and introduce more efficiency and value.

How’s that working out?  Bear in mind that the biggest recipient of these bonuses is the same agency that blew huge wads of cash on conferences and parties in Las Vegas and you begin to see the issue.  Unless these bonuses are awarded on the basis of winning the most bribes and kickbacks, there’s little justification for them.

Senator Claire McCaskill wants the bonus program ended during the sequestration, and has proposed a new law to accomplish it:

“The idea that some of the highest-paid federal government employees could be getting bonuses while others are being furloughed is outrageous,” McCaskill said in a statement. “This legislation will ensure that doesn’t happen.”

Maybe we need to rethink the entire bonus program, or at least the metrics that trigger payment.  If this band of geniuses can’t figure out how to reduce spending by 2.3% after watching the budget expand by more than a third since 2007, then “efficiency” isn’t exactly being produced in abundance from this program.

Update: The GSA sent us this statement in response:

“Last year as part of a review of all agency operations, Acting Administrator Dan Tangherlini cut executive bonuses by 85 percent. Additionally, the entire performance awards system has been reviewed, and the new leadership at GSA has worked to reform the system. As a result, GSA no longer has peer to peer awards. Under this Administration, GSA bonuses are coming down to their lowest levels in five years.” — Dan Cruz, GSA Spokesman

Jazz Shaw Jun 22, 2021 6:01 PM ET