United States Government Accountability Office
Executive Candidate Assessment and Development Program


Answers to Questions Frequently Asked Regarding the Executive Candidate Assessment and Development Program


  1. What is the goal of the Executive Candidate Assessment and Development Program (ECADP)?

The goal of the ECADP is to guide the development of managers selected for their potential to assume future executive responsibilities.  Underlying the program goal are three basic principles:

    • Professional development and growth should be both continuous and systematic,
    • Development efforts should be based on an assessment of needs and the matching of those needs to specific developmental experiences, and
    • Executive development should be consistent with organizational expectations for executive performance.
  1. What are the objectives of the ECADP?

   Based on the goal and underlying principles stated previously, the ECADP objectives are:

    • To provide the agency with a pool of candidates capable of fulfilling the role of GAO executive,
    • To provide all candidates with an institutional framework to perform successfully as a GAO executive, and
    • To ensure that the executive candidates excel in the technical and managerial competencies essential to successfully carrying out their duties.
  1. How are individuals selected for the ECADP?1   

Participants for each candidate class are selected through a four-step process: program announcement, application, screening, and selection.

Program Announcement

The Comptroller General determines the need to begin additional executive candidate classes based on projections for future executive position needs.  The program is announced to both internal and external federal employees as well as to individuals from outside the federal government through a Job Opportunity Announcement (JOA) which identifies the evaluation criteria, i.e., professional and technical qualifications and executive core qualifications, and the selection procedures.

Program Application

Qualified individuals must submit mandatory documents specified in the announcement.

Program Screening

Program applicants pass through a rigorous screening process.  The GAO Executive Resources Board (ERB), or an ERB-appointed panel comprised of SES employees in GAO, rates and ranks all qualified applicants on Professional and Technical Qualifications (PTQs) and Executive Core Qualifications (ECQs).  If a panel is designated, the panel will make recommendations to the ERB on the applicants that it has rated.  The ERB determines and forwards the best-qualified candidates to the Comptroller General.

Program Selection

The Comptroller General makes the final selection. Interviews of an applicant may be conducted at any stage of the process as deemed appropriate by either the ERB or the Comptroller General.  All qualified applicants will be notified in writing of selection or non-selection into the program.

  1. What are the criteria for selection into the ECADP?

All qualified applicants will be evaluated to determine the extent to which their experience, education and accomplishments are indicative of competence to accomplish the Professional and Technical Qualifications (PTQs) and Executive Core Qualifications (ECQs) listed below.

Professional and Technical Qualifications (PTQs)

    • Ability to lead, develop, and evaluate the technical performance of analysts and specialists in planning and executing program, audit and evaluation assignments while maximizing the value of the institution, including responsible risk management;
    • Ability to develop and apply program audit and evaluation techniques and methodologies in planning and executing evaluations or audits of nationwide programs;
    • Ability to identify key issues related to significant savings or improvements in agency operations and to achieve measurable and/or observable outcomes.
    • Demonstrated ability to contribute to institutional stewardship, that is, an awareness of the institution's mission, core values, work processes, risk environment, and future direction; and consistently to seek to advance institutional interests and protect the institution's future.  This includes leading by example, especially in adhering to core values, including 1) accountability - enhancing the economy, efficiency, effectiveness, and credibility of the federal government; 2) integrity - doing work that is professional, objective, fact-based, nonpartisan, non-ideological, fair, and balanced; and 3) reliability - producing services and products that are timely, accurate, useful, clear and candid.

Executive Core Qualifications (ECQs)

Leading Change –The ability to bring about strategic change, both within and outside the organization, to meet organizational goals.  Inherent to this ECQ is the ability to establish an organizational vision and to implement it in a continuously changing environment.  It encompasses six competencies:

    • Creativity and Innovation combines developing new insights; questioning conventional approaches; encouraging innovation; and designing and implementing new programs or processes.
    • External Awareness comprises understanding and staying current on policies and trends that affect GAO and shape stakeholders' views; and being cognizant of GAO's impact on the external environment.
    • Flexibility is openness to change and new information; and adaptability to new information, changing conditions, or unexpected obstacles.
    • Resilience requires dealing effectively with pressure; remaining optimistic and persistent under adversity; and recovering quickly from setbacks.
    • Strategic Thinking involves setting objectives and priorities, implementing plans consistent with GAO's long-term interests in a global environment, capitalizing on opportunities and managing risks.
    • Vision includes taking long-term views; building a shared vision with others; acting as a catalyst for organizational change; and influencing others to translate vision into action.

Leading People – The ability to lead people toward meeting the organization's vision, mission, and goals. Inherent to this ECQ is the ability to provide an inclusive workplace that fosters the development of others, facilitates cooperation and teamwork, and supports constructive resolution of conflicts.   It encompasses four competencies:

    • Conflict Management entails encouraging creative tension and differences of opinions; anticipating and taking steps to prevent counter-productive confrontations; and managing and resolving conflicts and disagreements constructively.
    • Leveraging Diversity means fostering an inclusive workplace where diversity and individual differences are valued and leveraged to achieve the vision and mission of the organization.
    • Developing Others is improving the ability of others to perform and contribute to the organization by providing ongoing feedback and opportunities to learn through formal and informal methods.
    • TeamBuilding combines inspiring and fostering team commitment, spirit, pride, and trust; facilitating cooperation; and motivating team members to accomplish group goals.

Results Driven –The ability to meet organizational goals and customer expectations. Inherent to this ECQ is the ability to make decisions that produce high-quality results by applying technical knowledge, analyzing problems, and calculating risks.  It encompasses six competencies:

    • Accountability involves holding oneself and others accountable for measurable, high-quality, timely, and cost-effective results; setting objectives and priorities; delegating work; taking responsibility for mistakes; and complying with established control systems and rules.
    • Customer Service entails anticipating and meeting internal and external customers' needs; delivering high-quality products and services; and being committed to continuous improvement.
    • Decisiveness is making well-informed, effective, and timely decisions, even when data are limited or solutions produce unpleasant consequences; as well as perceiving the impact and implications of decisions.
    • Entrepreneurship positions the organization for future success by identifying new opportunities; builds the organization by developing or improving products or services; and takes calculated risks to accomplish organizational objectives.
    • Problem Solving combines identifying and analyzing problems; weighing the relevance and accuracy of information; generating and evaluating alternative solutions; and making recommendations.
    • Technical Credibility is understanding and appropriately applying principles, procedures, requirements, regulations, and policies related to specialized expertise.

Business Acumen – The ability to manage human, financial, and information resources strategically.  It encompasses three competencies:

    • Financial Management comprises understanding GAO's financial processes; preparing, justifying, and administering the program budget; overseeing procurement; contracting to achieve desired results; monitoring expenditures and using cost-benefit thinking to set priorities.
    • Human Capital Management entails building and managing the workforce based on organizational goals, budget considerations, and staffing needs; ensuring that employees are appropriately recruited, selected, appraised, and rewarded; addressing performance problems; and managing a multi-sector workforce and a variety of work situations.
    • Technology Management combines staying current on technological developments; using technology effectively to achieve results; and ensuring access to and security of technology systems.

Building Coalitions/Communications – The ability to build coalitions internally and with other Federal agencies, State and local governments, nonprofit and private sector organizations, foreign governments, or international organizations to achieve common goals.  It encompasses three competencies:

    • Partnering is networking; building alliances; and collaborating across boundaries to build strategic relationships and achieve common goals.
    • Political Savvy entails identifying the internal and external politics impacting GAO's work; perceiving organizational and political reality and acting accordingly.
    • Influencing/Negotiating combines persuading others; building consensus through give and take; and gaining cooperation from others to obtain information and accomplish goals.
  1. What is the status of candidates selected for the program?

    • Competitive Status.  Employees at GAO are part of the excepted service but may acquire competitive status.  Any individuals appointed to the ECADP who have competitive status retain this.  For any employees who lacked this status upon appointment, they acquire this status at GAO after completing one year of continuous service in any nontemporary position, including placement in the ECADP.  An employee with competitive status is eligible for assignment by transfer, promotion, reassignment, demotion, or reinstatement to positions for which they qualify in the competitive service without competing with members of the general public.  An employee may be appointed at any time and more than once under this authority.
    • Appointments and Probationary Periods.  Appointees from outside GAO who have not completed the service requirement for career tenure in the competitive service must serve a two-year probationary period and are give an excepted-conditional appointment.  Appointees from outside GAO who have completed the service requirement for career tenure in the competitive service must serve a one-year probationary period and are given an excepted appointment. GAO employees only complete any existing probationary period that remains from their current position.
  2.    What feedback, if any, is given to those not selected into the program?

GAO will inform in writing all applicants, both internal and external, of their selection or non-selection into the program.  In addition, for qualified internal GAO applicants, the ERB will provide appropriate oral feedback to those who are not selected into the program if the applicant requests such feedback.

  1.   Are qualified non-evaluator GS-15s or Band IIIs eligible to apply for the ECADP?

As noted in the JOA's qualification requirements, applicants must have one year of directly related evaluation or audit experience comparable to the GAO Band III level. 

  1.    Is"mobility" a requirement for entrance into the ECADP?

Mobility as a pre-condition for entering the ECADP is not required.  Candidates are, however, subject to temporary duty training and developmental assignments during the program. 

  1.   Upon selection into the ECADP, what should candidates expect from the program?

         The Executive Candidate Assessment and Development Program (ECADP) begins with an orientation to provide context for what to expect and how the program will be managed.  Each candidate will be assigned a mentor to provide counseling and assistance during the program.  In addition, each candidate will receive an individual skills and ability assessment to identify strengths and areas for improvement.  After the assessment, all candidates will receive specific internal and external training courses designed to develop their executive competencies.  Candidates, in consultation with their mentors, will prepare a comprehensive individual development plan (IDP) that identifies additional training and rotational assignments designed to broaden their understanding of GAO.  During the program, candidates and their mentors will refine and revise the IDP, as deemed necessary, to maximize the candidate's development.  SES supervisors and the ERB will provide candidates with feedback on their performance.  

  1.    Each candidate is expected to develop an Individual Development Plan (IDP).  What is an IDP?

An Individual Development Plan (IDP) is a document which identifies (1) an individual's short- and long-term goals and accompanying objectives for his/her participation in the ECADP, and (2) a strategy for the accomplishment of these goals and objectives.  The IDP is the major planning document for executive development and is developed by the candidate with input and guidance from his/her mentor using the assessment survey data.  In developing the plan, the candidate and mentor gather as much information as possible on the candidate's performance and experience; discussions with former supervisors and a review of past performance documentation are helpful. 

  1.    What should be the focus of an IDP for ECADP candidates? 

The IDP should primarily focus on those experiences that enhance executive readiness and may include:

    • Developing managerial and technical competencies,
    • Increasing issue area subject matter expertise,
    • Increasing functional area subject matter expertise,
    • Broadening experiences in GAO to include short term assignments to units other than one's home unit, and
    • Gaining broader organizational perspectives regarding the Office and its relationship with the Congress.

Developmental assignments may include participation on task forces and special projects, training and education, on-line development, and rotational assignments.  Limited opportunities are available for outside assignments with other federal agencies.

During the course of the program, candidates as a class, are expected to complete core developmental training activities focusing on increasing competence in technical, managerial, and other areas.

  1.   How much time does a candidate typically spend in the ECADP?

Generally, the program lasts 18 to 24 months, but varies in length depending on the needs of the individual participant.  The amount of time a candidate spends in the ECADP is based on a candidate's individualized goals and GAO's need to fill specific executive positions.

  1. How is program performance evaluated?

The ERB, or one or more of its members, will gather feedback on a candidate's performance and accomplishments from each SES supervisor with whom the candidate has worked on a rotational or developmental assignment or IDP training activity.  Using this information, the ERB will discuss with each candidate his/her progress, institutional barriers, and the need for revising the candidate's IDP objectives and activities as areas for improvement are identified.  The ERB will meet periodically throughout the program with each candidate and his/her mentor to discuss the need for revising the candidate's IDP and to assess the candidate's progress in fulfilling the IDP objectives.  At the end of the formal program, 18 to 24 months, the ERB will determine if a candidate will graduate from the program.

  1.   Will successful completion of the program guarantee promotion?

No.  Upon successful completion of the ECADP, the GAO ERB will certify the managerial qualifications of SES candidates.  After certification, a candidate will be eligible for consideration for an SES position in GAO for a period up to 2 years.  There is no guarantee, however, of selection of a candidate for an SES position.

  1.    If, after successful completion of the program, a candidate is not selected for an executive position, what does the candidate do?

A candidate not selected to an executive position after successfully completing the program returns to a mission assignment and remains eligible for an SES appointment for a period of up to 2 years.

Candidates not receiving a career appointment in the SES during this period of eligibility may compete for reentry to the program and, if selected, are required to repeat only those parts of the program that the ERB deems appropriate.

1 For more information on the selection process, refer to GAO Order 2317.1, GAO's Senior Executive Service and Senior Level Positions.