President Barack Obama announced a two-year pay freeze for federal employees Monday, and warned the American public that the move is the first of many difficult decisions that must be made to reduce the nation's mounting deficits.
"The hard truth is that getting this deficit under control is going to require some broad sacrifice, and that sacrifice must be shared by the employees of the federal government," Obama said.
The freeze would apply to all civilian federal employees, including those working at the Department of Defense, but would not affect military personnel. The freeze is expected to save more than $5 billion in savings over two years, $28 billion over five years and more than $60 billion over 10 years, White House officials said.
Congress is not covered by Obama's executive branch order. But lawmakers voted last April to freeze their pay, with the House and Senate opting to forgo an automatic $1,600 annual cost-of-living increase.
While Obama said the federal employee salary freeze was necessary to put the nation on sound fiscal footing, he also said that he didn't reach the decision lightly.
"This is not just a line item on a federal ledger," he said. "These are people's lives."
The savings from the pay freeze make only a small dent in the nation's $1 trillion-plus budget deficit. But with voters voicing their anger over Washington's spending during the midterm elections, even a symbolic gesture would show the White House got the message.