Posthearing Questions from the October 15, 2003, Hearing on "Senior Executive Service:

Enhanced Agency Efforts Needed to Improve Diversity as the Senior Corps Turns Over"

GAO-04-318R: Published: Dec 5, 2003. Publicly Released: Dec 5, 2003.

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This letter responds to a November 20, 2003, request that we provide answers to questions related to our October 15, 2003, testimony before Congress concerning enhanced agency efforts needed to improve diversity as the senior corps turns over.

Leading organizations recognize that diversity can be an organizational strength that contributes to achieving results. Government agencies around the world, including in the United States, are facing challenges in the demographic makeup and diversity of their senior executives. Effective succession planning and management initiatives have the support and commitment of their organization's top leadership. We reported that in other governments and agencies, top leadership demonstrates its support of succession planning and management in at least three ways: (1) top leaders actively participate in these initiatives, (2) leaders regularly use these programs to develop, place, and promote individuals, and (3) leaders ensure that their agencies' succession planning and management initiatives receive sufficient funding and staff resources necessary to operate effectively and are maintained over time. GAO's recruiting strategy includes identifying key programs at key universities and developing long-term, multifaceted relationships with those programs. Agencies are required by laws, regulations, and policies to have programs to reduce underrepresentation of minorities consistent with merit principles. In this regard, OPM requires agencies to have a Federal Equal Opportunity Recruiting Program plan to identify and develop strategies to deal with underrepresentation and to report annually on their efforts. We have not formally evaluated OPM's new SES CDP. OPM believes the program can help further diversity by expanding the successor pool, which is now primarily made up of GS-15 and GS-14 employees, by seeking applicants from outside the federal government. During fiscal years 2002 and 2003, GAO selected 20 individuals for career SES positions. Of these, 5 (25 percent) were minorities (4 African Americans and 1 Asian American) and 10 (50 percent) were women. In our January 2003 report, we provided a profile of the SES corps across the executive branch as of October 1, 2000. Since that time, the government's SES corps is slightly more diverse. As of March 31, 2003, minority representation in the SES increased by 1.1 percentage points, from 13.8 percent to 14.9 percent. During this same period, the representation of women in the SES increased by 2.3 percentage points, from 23.6 percent to 25.9 percent. GAO's senior executives are an integral part of our recruiting program. We have not evaluated agency programs for achieving diversity in the career SES corps. We reported data on the representation of minorities and women in the career SES at each of the 24 Chief Financial Officer (CFO) agencies as of October 1, 2000. We have not reviewed the representation of women and minorities on the Qualifications Review Boards or agency Executive Resources Boards. Nonetheless, we believe in the value of having women and minority involved in the SES selection process. Indeed, our own five-person Executive Resources Board includes three women (one of whom is African American) and an African American man. The Notification and Federal Employee Antidiscrimination and Retaliation Act is intended to make agencies and their managers more accountable in matters of unlawful discrimination and retaliation. Agencies will have greater financial liability in judgments and settlements resulting from lawsuits. They will also have to report and analyze complaint information to identify actions to improve complaint or civil rights programs. EEOC's MD-715, effective October 2003, requires agencies to maintain a system that tracks (1) applicant flow data---identifying applicants by race, national origin, sex, and disability status--and the disposition of all applications, and (2) recruitment activities to permit analyses of these efforts in any examination of potential barriers to equality of opportunity.

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