$20 Billion Hidden In The Swamp: Feds Redact 255,000 Salaries

Submitted by Adam Andrzejewski

The only thing the bureaucratic resistance hates more than President Trump is the disclosure of their own salaries. It’s a classic case of the bureaucracy protecting the bureaucracy, underscoring the resistance faced by the new administration.

Recently, Open the Books filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (pictured) for all federal employee names, titles, agencies, salaries, and bonus information.

We’ve captured and posted online this data for the past 11 years. For the first time, we found missing information throughout the federal payroll disclosures. Here’s a sample of what we discovered from the FY2017 records:

  • 254,839 federal salaries were redacted in the federal civil service payroll (just 3,416 salaries were redacted in FY2016).
  • 68 federal departments redacted salaries. Even small agencies like the National Transportation Services Board and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation redacted millions of dollars in salaries.
  • $20 billion in estimated payroll now lacks transparency.
  • A 7,360 percent increase in opacity hides one out of every five federal salaries.

Who’s the bureaucrat in charge? Not a Trump appointee – the president doesn’t even have a current nominee at OPM. So, the buck stops with new acting Director Kathleen McGettigan, a 25-year staffer who assumed the position because she was the next in line, not because the White House appointed her.

Trump has the power to replace her at any time. This lack of transparency is apparently a result of the president’s failure to appoint his people to executive positions. Trump knows controlling the human resource department is key to managing the federal bureaucracy. In fact, Trump forecast this type of institutional resistance in his inaugural address.

“The establishment protected itself but not the citizens of our country. Their victories have not been your victories.… And while they celebrated in our nation’s capital, there was little to celebrate for struggling families all across our land. That all changes starting right here and right now.”

The decision to redact 255,000 federal salaries for $20 billion in payroll harms oversight. The American people deserve to know who makes how much, in what position, employed by which agency.

For example, more than 6,600 salaries were redacted at the Department of Veterans Affairs. At an agency where hiring priorities have been repeatedly questioned, transparency is crucial. In recent years, just one in 10 new hires at the VA was a doctor. In FY2017, the VA hired 8,727 new employees and just 561, or 6 percent, were doctors.

In December 2017, our “OpenTheBooks Oversight Report – Mapping the Swamp, a Study of the Administrative State” found $114 billion in compensation paid to 1.35 million federal civil service employees (excluding the U.S. Post Office) in fiscal year 2016. We found 165 percent growth in bureaucrats making $200,000 or more; 30,000 bureaucrats out-earning all 50 governors at $190,000; and the average salary at 78 large federal agencies exceeding $100,000.

At OpenTheBooks.com, citizens have the tools to investigate their local piece of the federal bureaucracy. We have literally mapped the swamp, pinning all federal disclosed bureaucrats plus post office employees by employer location ZIP Code on our interactive map.

But not this year. Our organization can’t properly quantify the FY2017 payroll because of the massive salary redactions. After all, we can’t map what we can’t see.

Make no mistake – even under the Obama administration, too much information was redacted.

Last year, we complained about the 314,890 redacted employee names, including all 77,000 employees at the Internal Revenue Service and the $1.1 billion in “performance bonuses” shielded by federal union agreements (FY2016). We worked with Congressman Ron DeSantis on The Taxpayer-Funded Pension Disclosure Act, which would open the books on $125 billion in federal pension data.

This year’s massive increase in redactions wasn’t a result of new policy, but a reinterpretation of existing policy. The OPM didn’t even mention the change in its FOIA response letter, making no legal argument for the 255,000 new redactions. It wasn’t until we asked the agency about the missing information that a representative issued the following response:   

“On an ongoing basis, OPM reviews its methods for creating data files to ensure consistency with its Data Release Policy governing the release of records related to federal employees in positions or agencies that require location information to be redacted. Because the Adjusted Basic Salary field contains locality pay, OPM recently began redacting this information for certain classes of employees, hence the drop that your IT department noticed.”

This didn’t make much sense, so we asked again. You can read the agency’s third attempt at a response via its spokesperson here.

Facing resistance like this, the president has to work hard to deliver on his promises. The administrative state was designed to resist reform. Without a constant effort, the bureaucracy always wins.



NoDebt lloll Sat, 02/10/2018 - 21:20 Permalink

Interesting that the number of withheld salaries for the Federal Reserve barely moved.  They've apparently been able to tell everyone to fuck off on these information requests for a long time now.

Also interesting that the number withheld almost exactly equals the number of Federal Reserve Officers there are (including the President of each Federal Reserve branch).


In reply to by lloll

TeethVillage88s JRobby Sun, 02/11/2018 - 07:29 Permalink

Please notice the ramp up of secrets in the USA & in our Education System since the Treaty was Signed on Jekyll Island.

- Banking has always kept up firewalls on information & it's business interests, plenty of fraud, and accounting fraud going on

- Banking brought secrets to the Department of War, probably was behind formation of OSS, NSC, CIA, NSC, DIA, DHS

In reply to by JRobby

any_mouse NoDebt Sun, 02/11/2018 - 05:14 Permalink

The FED is not a Federal employer.

The employees at the Federal Reserve are not employed by the  Government.

They use the GS system, but they make it very clear to new hires that they are not working as government employees.

The paychecks looked like Government checks, but pinkish in hue.

They are a private entity with secret owners, therefore the Public has no right to know the salaries or their financial records. No  SEC for the FED. No FDIC for the FED. No OCC for the FED. No outsider audits the FED.

The "member banks" are not the owners or shareholders, they are account holders.

If only the Public could understand these facts and the fraud that is the Federal Reserve.

The Rockefeller Foundation made sure that public education limits the ability to understand many such things.

In reply to by NoDebt

Endgame Napoleon NoDebt Sun, 02/11/2018 - 08:16 Permalink

Wonder if they also list the number, frequency and length of babyvacations for the crony parents who dominate those jobs, most of whom are married to someone with equal or greater earnings. In the private sector, too, it is amazing how the timing works, with both crony parents able to get away from work at will, when childless employees who attend work every day, stay the entire day and meet the quotas every month can be and are often fired over pure trivialities. Back-watching crony parents at the top and the bottom of the job pile can get off from work at will—far beyond their PTO and multiple pregnancy leave(s)—in the many jobs “voted best for moms” and are above firing due to kids that would starve if parents lost their job, albeit parents are the ones with spousal income, child support that covers rent or access to free EBT groceries, subsidized rent, free monthly cash assistance, electricity assistance and refundable child tax credits up to $6,444, which were recently doubled by The Swampers.

In reply to by NoDebt

Nameshavebeenc… NoDebt Sun, 02/11/2018 - 08:43 Permalink

All types of government(local, state, fed) employees should be either outright banned from voting in elections, or have their votes severely restricted.

Any time, any type or level of gov't employee incl. cops, firefighters, teachers, admin, etc., etc., etc., casts a vote, they engage in an act of outright blatant conflict of interest. This is especially so if they are unionized, or at higher management levels.

We are now seeing this abuse evolved to even higher levels by the outright treasonous behavior of the FBI, DNC, State Dept etc. in the recent FISA and election scandals.

It is a major unaddressed flaw of the democratic system that govt employees have been allowed a vote.

In reply to by NoDebt

fattail Nameshavebeenc… Sun, 02/11/2018 - 09:37 Permalink

Let's include anyone who gets a government check, and everyone and their employees who have a government contract.  The Dotard's vote in mass for medicare part D with out any revenue source, just borrowing from posterity.  The dotard's social security insolvency is off limits from even the most trivial of efforts to make it slightly more solvent for a few years longer, why, because they vote in mass. 

 The system is corrupt and rigged in so many ways, mainly from corporate campaign contributions who's ROI's are better than any short vol strategy during the Fed's QE episodes.

In reply to by Nameshavebeenc…

whatswhat1@yahoo.com lloll Sat, 02/10/2018 - 21:40 Permalink

Fraudette.Gov, third ass pimple in command (BANKERS/INC.>POLS>GOV>SLAVES>THE DOG), ganking the taxpayers now like IN YOUR FACE MF'er.  As usual, generous payment (I won't call it salary because that would involve some form of labor and only one in ten on the payroll actually put in any work) to multiple armies of "do-nothings".  Am I being too harsh? I don't believe I am, I have personal experience. Try calling one of their 888 or 800 numbers.  If you're able to navigate the matrix of the PBX system and actually talk to one of the highly paid, six figured humans, then buy two MegaMillions tickets, one for me and the other for you.  Otherwise slave, bend over and take your ass pounding lubricated with shards of glass.

In reply to by lloll

whatswhat1@yahoo.com whatswhat1@yahoo.com Sat, 02/10/2018 - 21:57 Permalink

How does it make you feel when a .gov, sub-human, barely qualified to work the counter at Burger King, and performing nowhere near the amount of work of that fast food, minimum wage counter worker, knocks out a six-figure+ "salary", the best health insurance money could buy, and a pension plan comparable to the top CEO's.........at your expense, while you work yourself to death to send your children to state run schools, eat regular grocery store food, stay-cations, paltry pensions, 2% or less social security raises and on and on?


Are we getting anywhere near to the point where we want to put down the popcorn and start looking for the "old pitchfork" in the shed?  WTF, it's only getting worse.  Even the lowly frog would have jumped out of the boiling pot of water 18 years ago.

In reply to by whatswhat1@yahoo.com

Endgame Napoleon whatswhat1@yahoo.com Sun, 02/11/2018 - 08:31 Permalink

I don’t see these parents, working long hours to send their kids to college. I see an enormous number of working parents, taking frequent — and I do mean frequent — vacations, dropping the kids off with grandma in many cases. Financing galore is available to college-bound kids, particularly the kids of single moms, and this is a nation with a 62% out-of-wedlock birthrate. Prior to college age, many citizen and non-citizen parents are eligible for pay-per-birth monthly freebies that cover their major, monthly household bills and refundable child tax credits that hoist their paychecks far above those of childless, single citizens who often work much longer hours and must cover all bills on earned-only income with a paltry and laughable tax refund. We never have extra money for vacations. It is always—or almost always—the beleaguered working parents who have the extra money for things like $800 tattoos, week-long vacations to copulate with boyfriends in beachfront hotels and/or a new master bedroom suite at “taxes” time. You can do that when, on top of subsidized rent and free groceries, you get a now-doubled, maximum $6,444 refundable child tax credit. Working parents also have help from their parents in almost all cases, along with the untraceable income of boyfriends in many cases. Viva la 7th babyvacation of the year, busy-working, above-firing parents who dominate the jobs in government, the private sector and the quasi private sector, hiring / retaining almost all fellow parents and watching each other’s backs in excused-absenteeism gangs. Reproduction pays in the USA. Hard work, every-day / all-day attendance and every-month quota meeeting doesn’t. 

In reply to by whatswhat1@yahoo.com

serotonindumptruck Montgomery Burns Sat, 02/10/2018 - 21:27 Permalink

Many of these high-ranking government workers also have 20+ year military careers behind them, and military retirement benefits are not offset against federal government benefits.

It's not considered "double-dipping" to take military retirement benefits along with Federal GS retirement benefits.

In addition, many of these retired government officials also claim Veterans Administration disability benefits.

They have perfected the art of "gaming" the system.

In reply to by Montgomery Burns

Endgame Napoleon Pernicious Gol… Sun, 02/11/2018 - 08:54 Permalink

Many of the people I have seen, collecting UC between what are often $10-to-$12-per-hour churn jobs, are people with other sources of income, whether that is spousal income, child support or various types of unearned income from government. When I worked at the Department of Human Services, UC counted against expenses as [unearned income], but apparently, some people can collect other streams of income while still drawing UC, whereas I have not received one dime of UC—ever—even when churned from jobs with LOTS of frequently absentee parents who did not meet the quotas, while I came to work every day, stayed all day and met the quotas every month. I was praised for the high account generation and account-retention numbers, profusely, until the managers got their bonus money and then churned, strategically, so that I got zero UC to cover rent between low-wage jobs. We have to PAY into that system, just like with SS and Medicare, albeit we are not paying either 7.5% or 15.3% on every penny we make for UC. Frequently absentee parents are not paying into the multiple welfare programs that provide them with subsidized rent, free EBT groceries, monthly cash assistance, subsidized daycare, free electricity and refundable (EITC) child tax credits that RepubliCON socialists just doubled from a max of $6,444. Rent absorbs more than half of the earned-only income of single, childless citizens. We could use what we pay into the Fake UC system to help with that expense, when bullied out of churn jobs by back-watching crony parents on their 8th excused babyvacation of the year, taken in addition to PTO and multiple pregnancy leaves. I have seen only one mom fired for extreme absenteeism, but this one was in a management job. She was gone all day, every day, coming in only at the end of the work day. I am 100% certain that she got her UC, even though she had multiple streams of other income, including ample spousal income.

In reply to by Pernicious Gol…

GunnerySgtHartman serotonindumptruck Sat, 02/10/2018 - 21:43 Permalink

If most people were aware of the average GS-14 retirement salary, then they would be envious.

Under CSRS or FERS?  If you're referring to CSRS, you'd be exactly right; a federal employee could potentially get a retirement annuity of up to 80% of their high-3 salary if they worked for nearly 42 years, plus annual cost-of-living increases.

The FERS annuity is significantly lower.  It is based on the high-3 salary multiplied by either 1% or 1.1% (depending on retirement age) and then multiplied by years of service.  If someone pulled in a high-3 of $100k and had 35 years of service, their annuity would be $38,500/year or $3200/month before taxes.  However, the lion's share of federal employees are nowhere near a GS-14 pay level and would not get that size of an annuity.

Employees under FERS are also required to pay Social Security taxes, while those under CSRS were exempt from Social Security taxes (and don't get any SS benefits, either - unless those benefits were earned while working in the private sector).

In reply to by serotonindumptruck

serotonindumptruck GunnerySgtHartman Sat, 02/10/2018 - 22:18 Permalink

If you say so, Gunnery.

I know for a fact (due to immediate familial relations) that some people triple-dip into federal retirement benefits.

If one would prefer to obfuscate the fact with confusing pay schedules and time-of-service, along with tedious tax requirements, then that's fine.

It doesn't change my opinion that government workers game the system in an effort to receive maximum benefits.

In reply to by GunnerySgtHartman

GunnerySgtHartman serotonindumptruck Sun, 02/11/2018 - 01:19 Permalink

Serotonin, I made no mention of double- and triple-dipping.  I was talking about those who only get retirement from either CSRS or FERS.

I know for a fact (due to immediate familial relations) that some people triple-dip into federal retirement benefits.

I know people who double- and triple-dip as well.  That does not change what I said about CSRS and FERS.

If one would prefer to obfuscate the fact with confusing pay schedules and time-of-service, along with tedious tax requirements, then that's fine.

I'm not obfuscating anything, nor am I denying anything you said.  You're talking about double- and triple-dipping; I'm not.  See the difference?

In reply to by serotonindumptruck

ClassicalLib17 serotonindumptruck Sat, 02/10/2018 - 21:44 Permalink

That's nothin'! Go on his website and check out what your own politicos, civilian employees, and teachers are getting. He even has your local school district retirees listed. Being from Illinois, that was quite an eye-opening experience. I'm not entirely sure if I will be able to sell my house before it is too late. Otherwise, if it becomes too dangerous to do business in my community I'll survive on whatever I shoot on the street! It's time for another drink now. Buh-bye

In reply to by serotonindumptruck

JRobby serotonindumptruck Sun, 02/11/2018 - 06:08 Permalink

McGettigan, remember that name.

We passed the point where GOVT exists to perpetuate itself and the endless jobs it provides a long time ago.

Have you ever gotten on the phone with one of these "EOE Quota" Federal employees with an attitude? They are not making all that $$$$$ and benefits to serve, they are making it to bust our balls and make us "comply".

Upside down

In reply to by serotonindumptruck

wally_12 serotonindumptruck Sun, 02/11/2018 - 09:35 Permalink

The General Schedule or GS no longer exists in the DoD. The NH schedule replaced it based upon merit pay. A NH-IV is roughly equivalent to previous GS-14. OPM still publishes the GS schedule as a benchmark for Federal pay. Also, retirement pay is based upon employee contributions to their retirement plus Social Security, similar to an IRA used in private industry.

In reply to by serotonindumptruck