The federal government still can’t determine how federal employees’ salaries measure up to private sector wages, according to a recent report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

The GAO looked at six compensation studies and found that no particular study was effective or definitive in helping to determine how federal pay should be set, since the studies vary widely in their approach, methods and data, the report states.

“Given the different approaches of the selected studies, their findings should not be taken in isolation as the answer to how federal pay and total compensation compares with other sectors,” the GAO wrote. It also noted that it was not making any recommendations as a result of its analysis.

Yet a comparison between private and public sector salaries doesn’t do anything to help contribute to the government’s decision to insource or outsource work, argues Scott Amey, general counsel for the Project on Government Oversight.

“That debate won’t really end until Congress requests or the White House studies public vs. private vs. contractor total compensation and all associated costs,” he wrote. “If we are truly looking to save money, cut inefficiencies, and make the government work better, service contracting should be on the table along with federal hiring and salary freezes, merging agencies, and cutting social and defense programs.”

The 2012 ClearanceJobs Compensation Survey found salaries for cleared contractors to be significantly higher than government employees, $100,497 versus $85,128. Yet while earnings were higher, salary increases, year over year, were not significantly higher for cleared contractors versus government employees. The salary survey did not take into account occupation by occupation comparison, however. Higher cleared contractor salaries most likely indicates the fact that those individuals hold in-demand positions and are sought after in the private sector for their specialized skills.

A survey by InformationWeek found that federal IT worker salaries were flat in 2011 at $97,000, but they are still higher than private sector IT compensation, which was $90,000 last year. A different study by found that salaries for government tech workers averaged $79,605 in 2011, just below the average salary for tech workers in all industries at $81,327.

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Chandler Harris is a freelance business and technology writer located in Silicon Valley. He has written for numerous publications including Entrepreneur, InformationWeek, San Jose Magazine, Government Technology, Public CIO,, U.S. Banker, Digital Communities Magazine, Converge Magazine, Surfer's Journal, Adventure Sports Magazine,, and the San Jose Business Journal. Chandler is also engaged in helping companies further their content marketing needs through content strategy, optimization and creation, as well as blogging and social media platforms. When he's not writing, Chandler enjoys his beach haunt of Santa Cruz where he rides roller coasters with his son, surfs and bikes across mountain ranges.