$20 Billion Hidden In The Swamp: Feds Hid 255,000 Salaries and Many Are Google Insiders

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.

Labor

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Profile picture for user NoDebt

NoDebt  lloll Feb 10, 2018 9:20 PM 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 WHat we want are the…by lloll

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Profile picture for user vato poco

vato poco  Bes Feb 11, 2018 3:24 AM Permalink

the beautiful thing about halfwit leftists & deep state assholes - but I repeat myself - is they'll show you what they fear. every time.

and now they fear their salaries being publicized. our course of action is clear: 

#SUNLIGHTBOILINGWATERANDPINESOL

#ANDTHENEVENMORESUNSHINE

In reply to #THANKSTRUMP…by Bes

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Profile picture for user Klassenfeind

Klassenfeind  Vilfredo Pareto Feb 11, 2018 4:59 AM Permalink

Trump is a charlatan and a politician, just like the alternative, Killary.

The funny thing is that when it comes to minimum wage, everybody here is a total libertarian, but when it comes to "draining the swamp" everybody puts their faith into a BigBrother president to clean things up.

The writing was on the wall, as Trump always said he was going to spend extra on the military and 'security' (i.e. making America a Police State), and guess where most of these redacted jobs are found? You guessed it: the Department of Homeland Security, 137800 of them!

You get what you vote for: an American Police State and a strong military (read: MIC) under the guise of "MAGA."

In reply to Yeah?   And the alternative…by Vilfredo Pareto

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Profile picture for user nmewn

nmewn  Klassenfeind Feb 11, 2018 6:17 AM Permalink

"The funny thing is that when it comes to minimum wage, everybody here is a total libertarian, but when it comes to "draining the swamp" everybody puts their faith into a BigBrother president to clean things up."

Having trouble with correlation?

The article is based off of FOIA requests and neither libertarians or conservatives ever supported government employee unions. 

In reply to The funny thing is that when…by Klassenfeind

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Profile picture for user OverTheHedge

OverTheHedge  Klassenfeind Feb 11, 2018 7:02 AM Permalink

"...when it comes to "draining the swamp" everybody puts their faith into a BigBrother president to clean things up"

Short of shooting people, how else would you suggest it could be done? The system will protect itself, ergo someone inside the system needs to change it, or direct confrontation by the people, for the people etc...

In reply to The funny thing is that when…by Klassenfeind

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Profile picture for user house biscuit

house biscuit  OverTheHedge Feb 11, 2018 9:27 AM Permalink

Klassenfeind made a great post so you regulars step off & acknowledge it

Anyone trusting of his Orangeness needs to get back in line for brains

But by the same token, his presence has shaken things up

While I personally think this is intentional (i.e. to accomplish more internal divide/conquer), certain topics are now on the table that never would have been with the HillBillies

 

In reply to "...when it comes to …by OverTheHedge

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Profile picture for user LocalBoy

LocalBoy  OverTheHedge Feb 11, 2018 9:45 AM Permalink

Bankrupt the system, that is an alternative.
No better way to bankrupt the system than stop sending the fruits of our labor to New York City.
Stop sending our sons and daughter to "serve"
Remove savings from tax deferred Wall Street fraud

There are ways, but no way faster and more effective than laying down your tools.........

In reply to "...when it comes to …by OverTheHedge

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Profile picture for user overbet

overbet  Klassenfeind Feb 11, 2018 12:14 PM Permalink

Gladly take Trump with his all faults over more social justice. See the judges? Trump's judges arent going to try to disarm. The alternative would have without a doubt.

A few more Presidents like Trump and the police state will be able to racially profile which is what is needed. If you look like a possible illegal show me your papers. Sorry brown citizens, but weve got a problem. Youre going to need to be inconvenienced for a bit until its under control. Thanks for doing your part

In reply to The funny thing is that when…by Klassenfeind