Why are the salaries of over a quarter of a million federal employees kept from the public?
In an op-ed by Adam Andrzejewski, the CEO & founder of OpenTheBooks.com, a non-profit, nonpartisan government financial watchdog group, he points out that the salary information for 255,000 employees is being withheld from the American people.
This year, our auditors filed our standard Freedom of Information Act request for the same information in Fiscal Year 2017 – and we got a big surprise.
For the first time, the government’s response involved massive and targeted deletions of salary data. A total of 254,839 federal salaries were removed from the Civil Service payroll. That’s a huge increase from the 3,416 salaries redacted in total in Fiscal Year 2016.
Considering that there are 1.35 million people employed by executive agencies, about one out of every five salaries are now hidden from the public.
In military terms, that’s the headcount equivalent of 17 Army divisions. It’s about equal to the urban population of Buffalo, New York, or Madison, Wisconsin.
Worst of all, it’s an affront to taxpayers who have the right to know who makes how much and in what position in the federal bureaucracy. It’s our money, and we should be able to follow it.
What we can’t follow now is truly a mammoth sum. We calculated – using median salaries for the departmental numbers the government did cough up – that about $20 billion in total federal payroll costs now lacks transparency. The number could be lower, of course – but it could also be a lot higher.
The obvious question is, why is this not transparent? Why can the American people not know where their money is going? It reminds me of the scene in Independence Day where the ridiculous numbers of toilet seats and hammers are discussed for funding of Area 51.
According to the report, no fewer than 68 federal agencies had redacted salaries.
The op-ed continued:
Even small agencies like the National Transportation Services Board and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation joined the disappearing act.
The biggest numbers, however, came from areas like the Department of Homeland Security, the Internal Revenue Service, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), and the Office of Personnel Management. In the past, the feds produced nearly all the salaries from these agencies.
These redactions didn’t blackout secret positions at the CIA or other intelligence agencies (we didn’t even ask for those) – but rather staffers employed by non-secret agencies.
So we aren’t talking about some super secret thing going on. In fact, you might not be so surprised at exactly where quite a few of the salaries are at.
Andrzejewski lists the agencies where these secret salaries are listed.
They include 51,000 “compliance inspectors and support staff” who work for the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).
In other words, many of the employees whose salaries are being kept secret are TSA agents performing airport baggage screenings and pat-downs. Disclosing these salaries – or any of the others – doesn’t trigger national security concerns.
Here’s a sample of other positions with hidden salaries: 13,000 Internal Revenue Service agents and officers; 7,500 miscellaneous program administrators, clerks, and assistants; 5,800 lawyers; and 1,500 information technology managers.
The feds redacted salaries even in more innocuous positions: 267 student trainees at assorted agencies, 92 public affairs officers and 62 photographers.
This year, more than 6,600 salaries were redacted at the often-stumbling Department of Veterans Affairs. Over the past few years, just one in 10 of newly added VA positions were actually doctors. In Fiscal Year 2017, just 6 percent of the VA’s 8,727 new hires were doctors – according to the data not blacked out.
So, who took it upon themselves to hide these salaries, most of which seem to be unconstitutional because they are unconstitutional agencies?
I’m not expecting transparency anymore from this administration than I am the previous one or the one before that.
It appears that the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) is completely uncooperative in either providing the necessary data or an actual reason for not providing it.
“Now, with its newly minted excuses, the bureaucracy itself is trying to fight back against open government. We don’t think taxpayers, legislators or the president should allow them to get away with it,” concluded Andrzejewski.
Exactly, but consider they are all under the same branch of government, each one covering for the other.
Article posted with permission from Freedom Outpost