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.

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.

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
41 Kevin Fenton Director $278,775
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
126 Dorothy Nichols N/A $252,296
413 Alan Glenn N/A $232,810
1 Federal Aviation Administration
68 Henry Krakowski N/A $262,104
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
77 Melinda Love Auditing $260,000
299 National Institutes of Health
1 Electron Kebebew Medical Officer $350,000
3 Anthony Fauci Director $335,000
7 Bradford Wood Medical Officer $325,000
8 David Bluemke Medical Officer $325,000
127 Securities and Exchange Commission
142 Eric Spitler Director $250,937
315 Harold Kotz General Attorney $239,871
363 Richard Bookstaber Economist $235,428
2 The Presideo Trust
114 Craig Middleton N/A $253,195
1 Transportation Security Administration
789 Lee Kair N/A $224,000
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
777 Cynthia Clark Administrator $224,625
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)


  • Stephen from New Jersey

    I am a doctor and with their bloated government pensions they are still way overpaid like the rest of the Fedral employees. Before even thinking about cutting our Social Security benefits that we actually pay for ourselves many of these jobs should be eliminated and their departments all together. All Fedral employees should have 401k plans and they should contribute all the money themselves like the rest of us self employed people.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Mark-Samuels/1680736697 Mark Samuels

      The Federal retirement plan changed in 1984, putting all non political employees on Social Security, 401K, and modified pension plan. The pension is 1% of the final salary year, not inclduing overtime, multiplied by years of service. If you made $100,000, and worked 30 years, you qualify for a $30,000 pension, which, by the way, you pay 3% of your salary into throughout your career.

      • fiwiki

        the federal government last year made more than a half-trillion dollars in future commitments, valued in 2010 dollars that will cost far more to pay in coming decades. Added last year:

        •$107 billion in retirement benefits accumulated by current workers.Rapid increase

        Federal civilian and military retirement costs have increased dramatically since 2000 (billions, inflation-adjusted 2010 dollars):

        Source: USA TODAY analysis of government reports

        •$106 billion in new benefits granted to veterans.

        •More than $300 billion in the snowballing expense of previous retirement promises that have no source of funding.

        In all, the government committed more money to the 10 million former public servants last year than the $690 billion it paid to 54 million Social Security beneficiaries.

        The retirement programs now have a $5.7 trillion unfunded liability, compared with a $6.5 trillion shortfall for Social Security. An unfunded liability is the difference between a program’s projected costs and its projected revenues, both valued in today’s dollars.

  • Yianni

    Americans fail to realize that government is more severely bloated at the state and municipal level where salaries and benefits are exceptionally large because they compete with other broken state and local governments for individuals based on models which perpetuate an endless cycle of overspending. When there is a shortfall in revenues they just take from the taxpayer to make themselves solvent and declare themselves fiscally responsible. Pensions are also a major problem as well where by many retire in their early 50’s and draw sometimes upward of 2 PLUS Million Dollars in retirement benefits with health care……a hefty return considering their modest contributions: I’d say equivalent to hitting a million dollar lottery multiple times!

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Mark-Samuels/1680736697 Mark Samuels

      The minimum age of retirement i the Federal government was changed along with the entire plan in 1984, non political employees must work until the age of 65 before drawing any earned pension. In addition, they can keep their BC/BS only if they pay the going employee rate, which for a couple is $588.00 per month, its not free. Your figure of 2 million is so far off base its laughable. My spouse has been the CFO of a VA Hospital for 27 years, she earns $89,000 yearly, her counterpart at a smaller community hospital down the road earns $867,000 yearly, sound overpaid to you?

      • Tman

        Yes but the person in the private sector can be fired any time for not producing. The federal government is full of lazy non producers.
        Which the union issues will never lose their jobs.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Thomas-Reece/1397389329 Thomas Reece


  • Jeannelli

    If Obama wants fair then lets start at the top and work down on reducing excessive salaries in Fed.Gov’t for the sake of saving our nation! I’d like to see the credentials of these people.

  • vwils99@aol.com


  • vwils99@aol.com

    Rumor has it that women in Obama staff make 18% less than men in equal staff positions

    • ManWithThe1000PoundBrain

      “Rumor has it” eh? Really? Why would something that is public information (public employee salaries) be a “rumor?”

    • evolvedtg

      AKA, “Fox” has it that…..
      lol, Fox reporting consists primarily of factual sources such as: “People are saying..” and “a credentialed source has said..” and “..folks are saying.”

      OMFG. Really.