Search Penny Hill Press

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Senior Executive Service: Background and Options for Reform

Maeve P. Carey
Analyst in Government Organization and Management

The Senior Executive Service (SES) was established by the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978 (CSRA; P.L. 95-454, 92 Stat. 1111). Congress created the SES to provide a government-wide, mobile corps of managers within federal agencies. The SES, comprising mostly career appointees who are chosen through a merit staffing process, is the link between the politically appointed heads of agencies and the career civil servants within those agencies. The creators of the SES envisioned it as a cadre of high-level managers in the government who would provide leadership for agencies across administrations and ensure productivity and efficiency within the government. The CSRA incentivized good performance among senior executives by basing their compensation on their performance.

Over the three decades of the SES’s operation, various ideas and suggestions have been offered as to how it may be improved. Although a few statutory changes have been implemented since its creation, many argue that the current state of the SES calls for more comprehensive reforms. The most recent change made to the SES was a revision of its pay system enacted in 2004. Advocates for additional changes to the SES argue that further changes would improve the efficiency and the management of government programs and the government workforce. Some of the changes they call for include improvement in recruiting efforts, more opportunities for onboard training and career development of senior executives, and further changes to the current pay structure.

In the 112th Congress, two bills were introduced that would make significant and sweeping changes to the SES. The Senior Executive Service Reform Act, S. 2249, was introduced by Senator Daniel Akaka on March 28, 2012. If enacted, S. 2249 would make adjustments to the SES pay system, reduce the ratio of noncareer to career senior executives, establish an SES Resource Office in the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), and require agencies to enhance professional development opportunities for senior executives. Representative Jim Moran introduced H.R. 6042 on June 27, 2012, also titled the Senior Executive Service Reform Act. H.R. 6042 proposed similar changes to those proposed in the Senate bill, and would also require agencies to evaluate the skills and qualifications necessary for each SES position when it becomes vacant. In addition, H.R. 6042 would require agencies to establish an objective for holding executives accountable for addressing employee satisfaction.

This report provides a history and background of the SES, examines the central features of the SES, and discusses some areas in which advocates for SES reform have called for change.

Date of Report: September 6, 2012
Number of Pages: 25
Order Number: R41801
Price: $29.95

To Order:

R41801.pdf  to use the SECURE SHOPPING CART


Phone 301-253-0881

For email and phone orders, provide a Visa, MasterCard, American Express, or Discover card number, expiration date, and name on the card. Indicate whether you want e-mail or postal delivery. Phone orders are preferred and receive priority processing.