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What Is the Executive Schedule?

By Sandi Johnson
Updated May 17, 2024
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United States Code, Title 5, Subchapter II outlines five pay scales or rate levels for appointed positions within the U.S. government. These pay rates, known as the Executive Schedule, are denoted by the Roman numerals I, II, III, IV and V. Title 5 further outlines what appointed positions are eligible for each pay level under the Executive Schedule. Congress is responsible for monitoring updates to this list, including position classification and current pay rates. Positions eligible under the schedule include members of the Cabinet, the Attorney General, the Secretary of State and the Chairman of the Federal Reserve, to name just a few.

As part of a complex body of pay systems, the Executive Schedule influences other government pay rates. Numerous federal laws associate uniformed military personnel pay, civilian federal employee pay and other government pay systems in part or in whole on the rates established in the Executive Schedule. Additional government pay systems associated with the Executive Schedule include the Senior Foreign Service, Executive Service and General Schedule (GS) positions. The Employment Cost Index, a tool for measuring pay systems for employees in the private sector, also influences government pay systems.

Regarding hierarchy, the highest pay rate is a Level I, and the lowest is a Level V. Historically, pay rates for all ranks in the schedule are reviewed each year for potential increases. The U.S. Office of Personnel Management publishes specific rates for each pay level.

Although the U.S. Congress is charged with maintaining the Executive Schedule, the President is permitted to appoint a certain number of people to positions with Schedule IV and V pay status. Consent, as well as advice from the Senate is customary for such Presidential appointments before an Executive Order is issued. Typically, each incumbent president makes changes to various positions designated as Level IV or V, depending on managerial and organizational needs of the government. Jimmy Carter, for example, issued Executive Order 11976 in 1977 to remove the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Housing, Department of Housing and Urban Development from Level V of the Executive Schedule. Other positions, such as the Director of Agricultural Economies, Department of Agriculture, were added to Level IV under the same Executive Order 11976.

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