President Clinton on Thursday promised federal workers an 8 percent pay raise over the next two years.

The president outlined a 3.6 percent raise for 1999 and an additional 4.4 percent the following year. The 2000 raise would be the largest since 1981.In a statement from Martha's Vineyard, where he is vacationing, Clinton said the federal government is operating more efficiently than ever. "This success would not have been possible without government employees who have been called upon to work harder and to do more with less," Clinton said.

"Our federal employees have risen to that mission and with this action, we recognize their efforts."

Officials said the 3.6 percent increase is in line with congressional moves to boost Defense Department military and civil servant pay by that amount. Clinton said Thursday that if Congress does not also approve the increase in nondefense pay, "I will use my executive authority to guarantee that a 3.6 (percent) increase takes effect."

The Office of Management and Budget is preparing its formal guidance to federal departments, saying what they should plan on paying federal workers in calendar 2000 and advising a 4.4 percent increase.