Effects of the Presidential Transition on the Senior Executive Service

FPCD-82-29: Published: Mar 23, 1982. Publicly Released: Mar 29, 1982.

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GAO was asked to review how the Senior Executive Service (SES) worked during the Presidential transition. In response, GAO concentrated its efforts on: (1) determining Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) legal authorities, objectives, and procedures for monitoring the SES during transition; (2) assessing 0PM monitoring actions, including a review of transition activities at selected agencies; and (3) recommending changes if appropriate.

The Civil Service Reform Act does not require OPM and MSPB to provide special oversight of the SES during a change in administrations. However, OPM did perform routine oversight activities, conducted a survey of reassignments and details, and is currently doing a study on the flexibility in executive assignments which the SES provided during a change in administrations. No problems were noted with the reassignment or detail of career SES members. MSPB received three complaints related to the change in administrations. However, no prohibited personnel practices were found in two of the complaints and the third complaint was withdrawn. A survey by MSPB found no instances of forced resignations, retirements, reassignments, or details. GAO believed that the actions taken by OPM to monitor the SES during the Presidential transition were adequate. At six agencies, no involuntary reassignments of career employees were made during the 120-day period following the appointment of agency heads, and very few reassignments were made within 60 days thereafter. Agency officials were urged to insure that all voluntary reassignments occurring within the 120-day period were specifically documented. GAO plans to continue evaluating the SES so that it can assist Congress in its review.

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