WASHINGTON — President Obama plans to announce a two-year pay freeze for civilian federal workers later Monday morning in his latest move intended to demonstrate concern over sky-high deficit spending.
The president’s proposal will effectively wipe out plans for a 1.4 percent across-the-board raise in 2011 for 2.1 million civilian federal government employees, including those working at the Defense Department, but the freeze would not affect the naion’s uniformed military personnel. The president has frozen the salaries of his own top White House staff members since taking office 22 months ago.
“Clearly this is a difficult decision,” said Jeffrey Zients, deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget and the government’s chief performance officer. “Federal workers are hard-working and dedicated.” But given the deficit, Mr. Zients added, “we believe this is the first of many difficult steps ahead.”
The pay freeze will save $2 billion in the current fiscal year that ends in September 2011, $28 billion over five years and more than $60 billion over 10 years, officials said. That represents just a tiny dent in a $1.3 trillion annual deficit, but it offers a symbolic gesture toward public anger over unemployment, the anemic economic recovery and rising national debt.
Mr. Zients said the president is announcing the plan on Monday because of an approaching legal deadline for submitting a pay plan to Congress. But by doing it now, the president also effectively gets ahead of Republicans who have been talking about making such a move once they take over the House and assume more seats in the Senate in January. Some Republicans have gone further, proposing to slash federal worker salaries.