Federal Employees
Making the Federal government the Nation's Employer of Choice

"Every day, Americans rely on our hardworking and talented government employees.  Public Servants deliver our mail, educate our children, care for our veterans, guard our prisons, protect our borders and communities, and defend our country and the principles of liberty and freedom that we hold dear.....  Our way of life - and the strength of our country - would not exist without the work of public employees."

As Chairman of the Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management, the Federal Workforce, and the District of Columbia and Co-Chair of the Congressional Public Service Caucus, Senator Akaka is a leading champion of Federal workers.  Senator Akaka appreciates the dedication, commitment, sacrifice, and courage that Federal workers demonstrate each and every day.  Senator Akaka's goal is to make the Federal government this country's employer of choice, and he understands the need to attract, retain, and motivate the skilled workforce needed to meet the challenges of the 21st Century.

Senator Akaka is in a unique position to address the needs and concerns of the more than 50,000 Federal employees who live and work in Hawaii.  Senator Akaka demonstrated his commitment to Federal employees in Hawaii through his tireless efforts to achieve retirement equity for Federal workers in Hawaii after decades of disputes and litigation.  As a result of Senator Akaka's dedication to this issue, Federal employees in Hawaii, Alaska, and the territories have started to receive locality pay, and therefore will receive the same retirement benefits as Federal employees on the Mainland, while their take-home pay is protected by the remaining Cost of Living Allowance (COLA). 


Senator Akaka is committed to supporting the Federal workforce and providing civil servants with the tools they need to protect our Nation, care for our wounded warriors, ensure that our food and medicine are safe, respond to natural disasters, and provide other critical services to the American people.  During his time in Congress, Senator Akaka has worked, and will continue to work, to ensure that:

  • Federal mangers have the flexibility and tools to hire their employees quickly and fill critical positions;
  • All employees and managers receive the training and mentorship needed to develop their potential and to constantly improve the Federal government's leadership capabilities;
  • Federal employees have strong rights and protections, including fair and transparent appeal procedures and collective bargaining rights, and are free from arbitrary adverse personnel actions;
  • Federal employees can report government waste, fraud, and abuse without retaliation;
  • The Federal government has competitive compensation and benefit programs needed to attract and retain top-notch employees;  and
  • The Federal workforce reflects this Nation's rich diversity.

Recent Accomplishments and Activities

Senator Akaka understands that effective, efficient government requires focused attention on supporting and strengthening our dedicated Federal workforce and giving employees and agencies the tools they need to complete their important missions.  Government Executive magazine recently observed that because of Senator Akaka's bipartisan work with Ranking Member Senator George V. Voinovich on the Oversight of Government Management Subcommittee, "Federal workforce issues were elevated in Congress to levels not experienced since the passage of the 1978 Civil Service Reform Act."

1. Non-Foreign COLA and the Transition to Locality Pay

Senator Akaka believes that retirement benefits for Federal employees in Hawaii, Alaska, and the Territories should be equal with their Mainland counterparts.  Since 1948, Federal employees in the non-contiguous areas of the U.S. have received Non-Foreign Cost of Living Allowances (COLA) to reflect the high cost of living.  COLA is not subject to federal income or Social Security/Medicare taxes, and it does not count for Federal retirement benefits.  Since 1990, the Federal employees on the Mainland have received locality pay, which is taxed and which counts for Federal retirement and Social Security benefits.

Senator Akaka worked tirelessly to achieve retirement equity.  In 2008, he held a series of meetings as well as a hearing on Oahu and Neighbor Islands to closely examine the issue, and then introduced the Non-Foreign Area Retirement Equity Assurance (AREA) Act (S. 3013) incorporating constituent feedback.  His bill passed the Senate in October 2008, but Congress adjourned before the House could act on it.  In March 2009, Senator Akaka reintroduced the Non-Foreign AREA Act (S. 507), cosponsored by Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Daniel K. Inouye (D-Hawaii), and Mark Begich (D-Alaska).  Senator Akaka fought to have the measure included in the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2010, and President Obama signed it into law on October 28, 2009.  On January 1, 2010, employees in non-foreign areas began receiving locality pay.

Senator Akaka is committed to overseeing the transition from non-foreign COLA to locality pay.  This means working with the Administration and Congress to ensure that Government-wide pay-freezes do not derail the transition to locality pay, and that employees received "saved" or "retained" pay - including Department of Defense (DoD) employees converting out of the National Security Personnel System - are not disadvantaged during the transition.

Latest Locality Pay News

       Retained Rate Employees Receive Same Locality Rate Increase as GS-Counterparts

On December 27, 2010, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) issued a memorandum to agency heads, informing them of a new rule on pay for retained rate employees in the non-foreign areas during the January 2010 - January 2012 locality phase in.  The special rule requires the retained rate in non-foreign areas be set to reflect the applicable increases in locality pay for that locality pay area.  A copy of this memo is available here: [insert link]

       Hawaii Locality Pay Area and Rate Announced

The 2011 locality pay rates were announced on November 30, 2010.  Locality pay in Hawaii, Alaska and the U.S. Territories is being phased-in over three years in order to give agencies time to adjust their pay systems and budgets.  In 2011, the second year of the three-year phase-in under the Non-Foreign AREA Act, Hawaii Federal employees receive two-thirds of the new locality rate, and Non-Foreign COLA is reduced by 65 cents for each dollar of locality pay.  The Hawaii locality pay rate was set at 16.51 percent, therefore Federal employees in Hawaii will receive two-thirds of that, or 11.01 percent, in 2011 as the phase-in continues.

In 2010, in light of the economic crisis facing our country, President Obama exercised his authority to freeze locality rates for 2011.  Rates for the 32 existing locality pay areas were frozen at their 2010 levels, and rates for the new Hawaii and Alaska locality pay areas were calculated to be consistent with the frozen rates in other areas.

Frequently Asked Questions on the Transition to Locality Pay

For FAQs about implementation of the Non-Foreign Area Retirement Equity Assurance (AREA) Act, please click here: LINK

Staff from the Oversight of Government Management Subcommittee, the Office of Personnel Management, and the Honolulu-Pacific Federal Executive Board held informational sessions in Hawaii in December 2009 to answer questions. Slides from these presentations are available here: LINK

2. Recruitment and Hiring
Hiring Reform

Senator Akaka continues to be concerned that agencies are not doing enough to compete with the private sector in the recruitment and hiring process.  He is a leading advocate in Congress for hiring reform in the Federal government. In March 2009, Senator Akaka introduced the Federal Hiring Process Improvement Act (S. 736) to modernize government hiring by reducing inefficiencies and simplifying the application process for candidates. This bill would require Federal agencies to develop strategic workforce plans in consultation with OPM, post job announcements in plain writing, require timely notification to applicants of their application status, no longer require lengthy essays with initial applications, and make certain other improvements. 

Senator Akaka's Oversight of Government Management Subcommittee has held three hearings on the broken Federal hiring process since 2008.  He continues to encourage OPM and other Federal agencies to improve, streamline, and make the hiring process more candidate friendly.  In response to Senator Akaka's oversight, OPM has produced revised guidelines for Federal agencies' recruitment and hiring process, known as the End-to-End Hiring Roadmap.  In 2010, the President issued a Presidential Memorandum requiring improvements in the hiring process, which included many of the provisions in S. 736.

Senator Akaka believes legislation is needed to ensure that effective reforms last over time.  He will continue to fight for hiring reform in the 112th Congress, and to oversee the Administration reform efforts.

Veterans' Preference

As Chairman of the Veterans Affairs Committee and a World War II veteran, Senator Akaka understands the importance of helping veterans transition into civilian life and believes they have much to offer prospective employers.  He is one of the Senate's strongest proponents of veterans' preference protections in Federal employment.  Senator Akaka supported President Obama's Executive Order issued in November 2009 to enhance recruitment of veterans and to promote employment opportunities for veterans in the Federal government.

Senior Executive Service

Recruiting candidates into the Senior Executive Service (SES) has long been a problem due to issues such as pay compression and insufficient training and candidate development programs.  Senator Akaka believes that the SES should be a robust and diverse corps of workforce leaders.  During the 111th Congress, Senator Akaka and Congressman Danny K. Davis (D-IL) reintroduced the Senior Executive Service Diversity Assurance Act (S. 1180/H.R. 2721), a bill to enhance diversity in the SES and establish the practices needed to ensure that women, minorities, and persons with disabilities have an equal opportunity to succeed in entering the SES, including the development of mentorship programs.  In 2009, OPM took steps to support the SES throughout the Federal agencies by creating a Senior Executive Service Resource Office, as called for in Senator Akaka's bill.  Senator Akaka is committed to finding ways to reinvigorate and reform the SES in the 112th Congress.

3. Workplace Flexibilities

Flexible work arrangements have become an important part of the Federal government's emergency Continuity of Operations Plans and its efforts to develop modern approaches to effective human capital management. Offering our employees options -- like flexible schedules, the ability to telework, and access to wellness programs -- improves employees' quality of life and increases productivity.  Additionally, initiatives like telework provide the government with the tools it needs to recruit and retain talented Federal workers.

On March 25, 2009 Senator Akaka joined Senator Voinovich in introducing the Telework Enhancement Act of 2009 (S. 707), a bill to expand telework opportunities at executive agencies.  The President signed this bill into law on December 9, 2010.

4. Pay and Benefits

Retirement Issues

Senator Akaka has worked to correct inequities in the Federal Employee Retirement System (FERS). His amendment, which was included in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year (FY) 2010, will allow employees covered by the Federal Employee Retirement System to apply their unused sick leave towards their length of service for purposes of computing their retirement annuities. Both management and workforce groups sought this change in order to remove the incentive for employees nearing retirement to use up sick leave.  FERS participants will be able to apply half of their unused sick leave to their length of service for retirement purposes until the end of 2013.  After 2013, FERS participants will be able to apply all of their unused sick leave to their length of service for retirement purposes.  Additionally, Senator Akaka's amendment corrected the way that retirement benefits are calculated for certain employees who work part time near the end of their careers and made several other minor corrections to the federal retirement systems.

In 2007, Senator Akaka successfully offered an amendment to the FY 2008 National Defense Authorization Act (P.L. 110-181), which provides flexibility in paying annuities from the Civil Service Retirement and Disability Fund to certain Federal retirees who return to work, creating an incentive for excellent Federal employees to rejoin the Federal workforce.

Senator Akaka partnered with Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), Ranking Member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, to eliminate open seasons for Federal employees to enroll in the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP), the Federal employee retirement savings program, and require the development of financial and retirement literacy programs for Federal employees (S. 2479).  The identical House companion bill (H.R. 4324) became law on December 21, 2004 (P.L. 108-469).  This law builds on legislation authored by Senator Akaka that provides Federal employees over the age of 50 the ability to make additional contributions to their TSP accounts, just as their counterparts in the public and private sector may do in 401(k) accounts.

Pay and Leave Parity

Pay parity between civilian and military personnel has long been a priority for Senator Akaka.  Senator Akaka developed the provision (S.Amdt. 174) to the FY 2003 Omnibus Appropriations Act (P.L. 108-5) that serves as a model for pay parity legislation each year in the Federal government, and he has helped secure pay parity in most years since.  Unfortunately, because of the combination of the economic crisis limiting civilian pay raises and the ongoing wars requiring continued military pay increases, there was no pay parity in 2010 and 2011.  Nevertheless, Senator Akaka will continue to work to ensure pay parity in the future and protect the pay of Federal employees.

Leave issues are also important to Senator Akaka.  In June 2009, Senator Akaka and Senator Mark L. Pryor (D-AR) introduced a bill to allow Administrative Law Judges, Contract Appeals Board Judges, and Immigration Judges to accrue annual leave at the same rate as other senior-level employees (S. 1228).  This legislation is necessary because in 2008, the Bush Administration determined that administrative judges would not receive the higher accrual without submitting to a pay-for-performance system that is incompatible with judges' impartial role.  In the 112th Congress, Senator Akaka will continue to work with employee groups and push for leave parity for these judges, as well as explore other issues confronting this workforce.

5. Training and Mentorship

Senator Akaka has worked over the years to encourage agencies to invest in their workforce through ongoing training and mentorship programs.  He believes that increased training and mentoring will help foster positive work environments and produce a more efficient, effective, and responsive Federal government.

In March 2009, Senator Akaka introduced the Federal Supervisor Training Act (S. 674) to mandate stronger training programs and establish mentoring programs for all Federal managers.  In April 2010, Senator Akaka chaired a hearing to examine the Federal government's efforts to develop a new generation of Federal employees and supervisors.  OPM recently issued regulations requiring Federal agencies to establish programs to provide increased training to supervisors in the Federal government.  These regulations embody many of the training requirements that Senator Akaka has called for in S. 674.  Similarly, the National Defense Authorization Act for 2010 applied many of the provisions of Senator Akaka's bill to DoD supervisors.

Senator Akaka also is a strong advocate for diversity and improved leadership in the Federal workforce.  Along with his House colleague, Congressman Danny K. Davis (D-IL), Senator Akaka held a joint hearing on April 3, 2008, to examine diversity in senior-levels of the Federal government.  As noted above, Senator Akaka and Congressman Davis reintroduced the Senior Executive Service Diversity Assurance Act (S. 1180/H.R. 2721), a bill to enhance diversity in the senior ranks of the Federal government and establish the practices needed to ensure that women, minorities, and persons with disabilities have an equal opportunity to succeed in entering the Senior Executive Service.

6. Workers' Protections

For nearly a decade, Senator Akaka has been a leading advocate in the Senate for strengthening whistleblower protections for Federal employees.  Senator Akaka had been a steadfast champion of legislation to enhance whistleblower protections since 2000. 

In February 2009, Senator Akaka reintroduced his bill as the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act (S. 372).  On June 11, 2009, Senator Akaka held a hearing on his bill at which the Obama Administration made clear it supports whistleblower reform.  This legislation passed both the Senate and the House in 2010, but unfortunately the House made changes to the bill and the 111th Congress adjourned before the Senate had the opportunity to consider it again.  This issue remains at the forefront of Senator Akaka's legislative agenda and he will continue to fight to protect employees who disclose waste, fraud and abuse.

Senator Akaka also works to ensure the equal treatment and protection of all employees.  During the 111th Congress, Senator Akaka joined Senators Joseph Lieberman (ID-CT) and Susan Collins (R-ME) in introducing the Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act (S. 1102), which would extend the same benefits and obligations that apply to spouses of Federal employees to the same-sex domestic partners of Federal employees.  Senator Akaka believes that this legislation is necessary if the Federal government is to recruit and retain this country's best and brightest employees. 

Because of Senator Akaka's strong support for Federal employee rights and protections, he was one of nine Senators who voted against the Homeland Security Act and one of only three Senators who voted against creating the National Security Personnel System (NSPS) at the Department of Defense as part of the FY 2004 National Defense Authorization Act.  Senator Akaka was instrumental in crafting provisions in the National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2008 to restore collective bargaining rights to Federal employees covered by NSPS and provide a minimum base pay increase for all employees who meet expectations.  He also supported a provision in the FY 2009 Omnibus Appropriations Act (H.R. 2638) to prohibit the Department of Homeland Security from using funds to develop or operate a new human resources management system that would have eroded employee rights and protections.  In October 2009, Congress finally repealed NSPS as part of the National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2010.  Senator Akaka has kept a close eye on the repeal of NSPS and the transition of thousands of DoD employees back to the General Schedule system.  In June 2010, Senator Akaka chaired an oversight hearing addressing this issue at which witnesses from DoD, OPM, labor organizations, and Federal management groups testified. 

Senator Akaka strongly supports the rights of Federal employees to organize and bargain collectively.  He joined Senator Lieberman in supporting an amendment to the Improving America's Security Act (S. 4) to restore collective bargaining rights for Transportation Security Administration (TSA) employees.  TSA suffers from poor morale, high turnover, and other workforce challenges, and Senator Akaka believes that national security would be enhanced by giving TSA employees a greater voice in their workplace.  Senator Akaka will continue to work with the Obama Administration to address this important issue.

7. Federal Executive Boards

Senator Akaka believes that Federal Executive Boards (FEBs) play a critical role in facilitating Federal communications and collaboration in Hawaii and other locations outside of the Washington, D.C. area, including preparing the Federal workforce for emergencies.  FEBs, composed of the Federal field office agency heads in a given region, provide a forum for communication and collaboration among Federal agencies outside of Washington, DC.  FEBs currently do not have a steady funding stream and must rely on voluntary contributions from their member agencies to fund their activities. 

Senator Akaka joined with Senator George V. Voinovich (R-OH) to introduce the Federal Executive Board Authorization Act of 2009 (S. 806), which would statutorily authorize and govern FEBs and would provide them a permanent funding mechanism.  In 2007, Senator Akaka's Oversight of Government Management Subcommittee held a hearing on the role of FEBs in pandemic planning, which emphasized the important role FEBs play in preparing the Federal workforce for emergencies.  On November 5, 2009, the bill was approved unanimously by the Senate but the House did not act on the bill before the 111th Congress adjourned.  Senator Akaka will continue to work on this issue in the 112th Congress.


Constituent Services

  • Washington D.C. Office
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United States Senate

141 Hart Senate Office Building

Washington, D.C. 20510

Telephone: (202) 224-6361

Fax: (202) 224-2126


Honolulu Office

300 Ala Moana Blvd., Rm. 3-106

Box 50144

Honolulu, HI 96850

Telephone: (808) 522-8970

Fax: (808) 545-4683


Hilo Office

101 Aupuni Street, Suite 213

Hilo, HI 96720

Telephone: (808) 935-1114

Fax: (808) 935-9064