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Bush slashes Fed raises, blames terror

Bush: ôSuch cost increases would threaten our efforts against terrorism or force deep cuts in discretionary spending."

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CRAWFORD, Texas (CNN) -- President Bush cut pay raises promised to civilian federal employees on Friday, saying that giving them the full pay hikes would threaten the war on terrorism.

The workers were to have received an average increase of 18.6 percent but will now get a 3.1 percent raise.

"Full statutory civilian pay increases in 2003 would interfere with our nation's ability to pursue the war on terrorism," Bush said in a letter to Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert and President of the Senate, Vice President Dick Cheney.

"Such cost increases would threaten our efforts against terrorism or force deep cuts in discretionary spending or federal employment to stay within the budget," Bush wrote. "Neither outcome is acceptable."

A two-part pay increase was set to go into effect in January, giving civilian federal employees a 3.1 percent across-the-board pay raise and then a locality pay increase based on the Bureau of Labor Statistics' salary surveys.

For those employees covered by the locality pay system, Bush's letter said, "the overall average pay increase would be about 18.6 percent."

The president said he would limit the pay increases to the 3.1 percent raise.

Bush explained that he was authorized to do so because of Title 5, United States Code, which allows him to implement an alternative pay plan if he believes that bigger raises would be "inappropriate due to 'national emergency or serious economic conditions affecting the general welfare.'"

The president said he didn't think his action would affect the government's ability to attract and retain a quality federal workforce.

"Should the need arise, the government has many compensation tools, such as recruitment bonuses, retention allowances and special salary rates, to maintain the high-quality workforce that serves our nation so very well," Bush said in his letter.

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