A new online service has put a spotlight on the 1000 most highly paid federal civil servants, renewing the debate on whether government employees are overcompensated.
The list of highest paid civil servants, issued by an Internet start-up firm, WikiOrgCharts, provides a new perspective on the extent to which doctors, lawyers and banking professionals hold top paying government jobs and the sizable incomes that the federal government pays to attract senior management talent.
The ranking also represents the latest example of private sector firms creating new products using publicly available government data.
The newly-released rankings reveal the names, titles, agencies and base salaries of 1000 federal workers, based on information released earlier this year from the federal Office of Personnel Management.
A deeper analysis of the rankings (see table at the end of the story) finds that 299 of the top 1000 highest paid civil servants work at the National Institutes of Health, 224 work at the Food and Drug Administration and 127 work at the Securities and Exchange Commission. The list does not include federal officials from in the defense department or from security related agencies. And the salary figures do not include benefits or other compensation.
Dr. Electron Kebebew, who ranked at the top of the WikiOrgCharts list, with a salary of $350,000, is in many ways typical of the caliber of talent the government needs–and competes with the private sector to attract.
A surgical specialist who heads the Endocrine Oncology Unit at the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Md., Kebebew is an internationally recognized expert in endocrine surgery, having performed more than two thousand operations and authored more than 150 articles and textbooks. NCI succeeded in recruiting him two years ago from the University of California with a salary that is modest compared to what he could earn elsewhere, but offers the promise of heading a world-class research organization.
Similarly, Thomas Feeney, who ranked 1000th on the list with an annual salary of $216,613, could be earning more in the private sector, experts say. Feeney instead serves as senior counsel for the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, managing its legal information technology unit used to manage cases.
|TOP 10 MOST HIGHLY PAID US CIVIL SERVANTS|
|1||Electron Kebebew||Medical Officer||Nat’l Institutes of Health||$350,000|
|2||Randolph Copeland||Medical Officer||Indian Health Service||$339,507|
|3||Anthony Fauci||Director||Nat’l Institutes of Health||$335,000|
|4||David Poe||Medical Officer||Indian Health Service||$326,913|
|5||Joseph Frechette||Medical Officer||Indian Health Service||$326,913|
|6||Richard Nichols||Medical Officer||Indian Health Service||$325,007|
|7||Bradford Wood||Medical Officer||Nat’l Institutes of Health||$325,000|
|8||David Bluemke||Medical Officer||Nat’l Institutes of Health||$325,000|
|9||John Gossard||Medical Officer||Indian Health Service||$317,007|
|10||Paul Sieving||Medical Officer||Nat’l Institutes of Health||$310,000|
Source: WikiOrgCharts Office of Personnel Management data
Doctors held roughly eight out of 10 of the top-salaried jobs in government, according to OPM data and analysis by USA Today, based on 17,828 federal employees whose annualized salaries totaled $180,000 or more 2010. Attorneys accounted for nearly 6%, followed by dentists, with almost 3%, and financial institution examiners, with nearly 2%.
Still, the size of those salaries raise eyebrows with a wary and economically weary public, which often fails to see first hand the complex work government provides the nation.
Former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich, in a commentary article on HuffingtonPost earlier this year, argued that complaints about government employees being overcompensated aren’t really true.
“Even if you include health and retirement benefits, government employees still earn less than their private sector counterparts with similar educations,” he said. According to Reich, 48 percent of federal workers hold college degrees, compared to just 23 percent of their private-sector counterparts. He also insists, the degree of difficulty of public work more than justifies any salary differential.
“It’s hard to do apples and apples even among doctors,” says John Palguta, vice president for policy at the Partnership for Public Service.
“Doing medical research at NIH (National Institutes of Health) versus running a small family practice in a small mid-west town are two different things,” he said.
Similarly, when it comes to financial regulatory agencies, “Congress gave them special pay flexibilities because they were losing too many people to the industries they were supposed to regulate but which paid much more than government.”
Putting Data to Work
WikiOrgCharts’ list, as it turns out, highlights another development, where private sector firms are building businesses around publicly available government data–in this case a publicly available database from OPM of 1.2 million federal employees.
The ranking is a byproduct of deeper database WikiOrgCharts has assembled, along with with a series of online visualization tools aimed at helping the public find more information about federal employees and how they fit into their departments, according to Farhan Memon, founder and CEO of WikiOrgCharts.
The website features the names and titles of individuals in 92 federal departments, agencies and bureaus. The visualization tool creates what currently are rudimentary organization charts for each agency, as well as a growing roster of Fortune 1000 corporations.
The online service relies heavily on users–and rewards them–for adding information and making the connections on who reports to whom within an organization. Every WikiOrgCharts user begins with 20 points of credit. Each time they research information about a person, they are charged a point; each fact they add about a person gives them a point.
Users should be aware, however, that when they register for the service, they are asked to use their LinkedIn or Facebook authentication. Lost in the fine print in the service agreement is the fact that WikiOrgCharts is permitted to capture the publicly-available data of users’ contacts or friends. Many users are agreeing to similar license agreements with other Internet services but don’t always realize it.
That mechanism has helped the Norwalk, Ct., company, founded earlier this year, to quickly build a database of 9 million business and government contacts. The entire system is supported on a cloud computing platform contracted through Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud.
“The genesis of this organizational charting service came about when I was at a CTIA conference and one of the panelist was Aneesh Chopra,” said Memon.
Chopra, the federal government’s chief technology officer, mentioned “all agencies are federally mandated to have an org chart on their web site,” explained Memon. “But what happens is that every agency uses different software or has varying amounts of visibility on their site.”
Memon saw an opportunity in the absence of a “centralized, normalized version of an org chart–and that everyone at every agency was doing their own thing,” he said.
Memon said WikiOrgCharts expects to generate revenue three ways: A monthly $20 subscriber fee for active users; licensing its software to government contractors and others who want to building and maintain their own organization charts pertaining to key customers; and from ads.
“We’re not sure which will win, but we taking advantage of all of them,” he said.
|MOST HIGHLY PAID U.S. CIVIL SERVANTS – AGENCY BREAKOUT|
|Top 1000 Agency||Top 1000 Rank||Name||Function||Salary|
|2||Bureau of Customs and Border Protection|
|775||Thomas Winkowski||Assistant Commissioner||$224,625|
|776||Michael Kostelnik||Assistant Commissioner||$224,625|
|37||Centers For Disease Control And Prevention|
|29||N Trevathan||Medical Officer||$289,502|
|49||Kevin Decock||Medical Officer||$275,000|
|26||Farm Credit Administration||*|
|119||Stephen Smith||Misc. Admin. / Program||$252,296|
|120||Roland Smith||Misc. Admin. / Program||$252,296|
|121||Charles Rawls||General Attorney||$252,296|
|8||Farm Credit System Insurance Corporation|
|1||Federal Aviation Administration|
|110||Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation|
|74||Arthur Murton||Misc. Admin. / Program||$260,000|
|75||Michael Bradfield||General Attorney||$260,000|
|76||Steven App||Financial Administration /Program||$260,000|
|28||Federal Housing Finance Agency|
|206||S Cross||Misc. Admin. / Program||$249,679|
|255||Christopher Curtis||General Attorney||$245,000|
|256||Neil Crowley||General Attorney||$245,000|
|224||Food and Drug Administration|
|31||Janet Woodcock||Research Director||$285,455|
|36||John Jenkins||Medical Officer||$280,507|
|37||Jesse Goodman||Chief Scientist||$280,507|
|82||Indian Health Service|
|2||Randolph Copeland||Medical Officer||$339,507|
|4||David Poe||Medical Officer||$326,913|
|5||Joseph Frechette||Medical Officer||$326,913|
|6||National Aeronautics and Space Administration|
|428||Woodrow Whitlow||Associate Administrator||$230,700|
|429||Edward Weiler||General Physical Science||$230,700|
|430||Jaiwon Shin||Associate Administrator||$230,700|
|18||National Credit Union Administration|
|60||Robert Fenner||General Attorney||$265,559|
|71||David Marquis||Misc. Admin. / Program||$260,708|
|299||National Institutes of Health|
|1||Electron Kebebew||Medical Officer||$350,000|
|7||Bradford Wood||Medical Officer||$325,000|
|8||David Bluemke||Medical Officer||$325,000|
|127||Securities and Exchange Commission|
|315||Harold Kotz||General Attorney||$239,871|
|2||The Presideo Trust|
|1||Transportation Security Administration|
|41||U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission|
|349||Stephen Obie||General Attorney||$236,572|
|674||Richard Wagner||General Attorney||$227,300|
|1||U.S. Department of Agriculture|
|4||U.S. Department of Health & Human Services|
|69||Alan Liss||Natural Resources Mgt.||$261,950|
|200||R Warf||Natural Resources Mgt.||$250,000|
|201||Jonathan Seals||Natural Resources Mgt.||$250,000|
|202||Bruce Gellin||Medical Officer||$250,000|
* 11 other executives paid the same salary
Source: WikiOrgCharts; Office of Personnel Management data.
Photo: US President Barack Obama (R) looks through a microscope at brain cells with Dr. Marston Linehan (C) during a 2009 tour at the National Institutes of Health (NIH)