HERSHEY, Pa. — The Office of Personnel Management is nearing the release of a proposal centered on improving pay for federal cyber and IT workers, the agency’s top official said.
In an interview with FedScoop on the sidelines of ACT-IAC’s Imagine Nation ELC23 event in Pennsylvania, Kiran Ahuja, director of OPM, described the coming proposal as “far-reaching” and said it will focus on where pay needs to be and “flexibilities” that the government can incorporate.
The proposal will come as the latest effort by the Biden administration to close the cyber workforce gap in the public and private sectors. In July, the administration released a cyber workforce and education strategy that included a goal to strengthen the federal cyber workforce.
“We are in a couple of days releasing a proposal where we have really looked at what has worked for the DHS model to create equity across government,” Ahuja said, pointing to the flexibility that agencies like the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Defense have with pay.
“Right now, we have a very inequitable system where DHS and DOD have a certain level of compensation, how they’re able to manage the workforce, how they rank performance, all of that, and it really hurts other agencies. And that’s a big complaint that we’ve heard of,” Ahuja said.
The coming proposal is an effort in conjunction with the Office of Management and Budget and the Office of the National Cyber Director, and would need the support of stakeholders across the federal government and Congress, Ahuja said.
She stressed the importance of congressional support to ensure agencies have “a budget to be able to compete.” That doesn’t happen with the current budget, Ahuja said. “There just has to be this realization that we think these issues are important.”
Ahuja said she’s seen agencies come to dead ends with trying to pursue separate pay tables for subsets of their workforce, such as cyber and IT positions. “Unless you’re able to get those resources, they’re not able to do it,” Ahuja said.
OPM has already been encouraging agencies to come to them and request special salary rates for a block of their workforce if they’re experiencing recruitment or retention issues. The coming “comprehensive” proposal is more of that, she said.