John Berry, Director of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), told Senators this week that OPM has established a task force to study the so-called pay gap that critics have insisted exists between salaries of federal and private-sector workers.  According to Federal Times, Berry stated during a hearing before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government that he wants the task force to come up with “iron clad” data to dispute what he described as misinformation and incompatible comparisons of job types.  He reiterated comments made earlier by OMB Director Peter Orzag (Federal Pay comes under fire, Highlights, March 12, 2010) that the federal workforce on average tends to be more educated and experienced and this accounts for most of the difference in average salaries.  Berry also discussed federal hiring reform and health and wellness programs for federal employees.  He described the federal hiring process as cumbersome, too long, and frustrating to managers and would-be employees.  To address this problem, the OPM budget includes $4 million to come up with innovative approaches to improve and streamline the hiring process.  The OPM chief told Senators that the agency considers the availability of health and wellness options critical to improving and retaining a quality federal workforce.  Berry said that OPM will collect data on the effectiveness of federal health programs to identify weaknesses and improve cost efficiencies.  He said OPM would expand the pilot program to develop and operate comprehensive worksite health and wellness centers.  At the hearing, Berry also addressed progress OPM has made in security clearance reform and the challenges the agency faces in modernizing federal retirement systems.