Nearly 19,000 NASA civil servants are among the 1.9 million federal workers who would see their pay frozen for two years under a wage freeze U.S. President Barack Obama proposed Nov. 29 as a first step to reining in a federal deficit expected to top $1 trillion next year.

The White House said the two-year freeze would save $2 billion for the remainder of the U.S. government’s 2011 budget year, which began Oct. 1, and some $28 billion over the next five years.

The International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers, a Washington-based labor union that counts thousands of NASA civil servants among its 25,000 members, called Obama’s pay-freeze proposal disappointing, claiming civil servants are paid an average of 24 percent less than their private sector counterparts.

Uniformed military personnel would be exempt from the pay freeze, which must be approved by Congress.