First Step Completed in Conversion to Senior Executive Service

FPCD-80-54: Published: Jul 11, 1980. Publicly Released: Jul 11, 1980.

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The Civil Service Reform Act of 1978 created the Senior Executive Service (SES), a gradeless system covering managerial/supervisory positions in the executive branch classifiable at General Schedule (GS)-16,17, and 18 and Executive Levels IV and V, or their equivalents that do not require Senate confirmation. The SES system is to provide better management of the number and distribution of Federal executives, give agency managers greater flexibility in assigning executives where they are most needed, insure that career people entering SES have managerial qualifications, make executives individually accountable for their performance, permit removal of those whose performance is less than fully successful and does not show improvement, link compensation with performance, offer increased advancement opportunities to career executives, and simplify the numerous pay and other laws previously governing senior executive levels. SES has two types of positions: general and career reserved. The general position is the norm for executives with career, noncareer, or limited status. Only a career appointee can occupy a career-reserved position. The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) is responsible for executing, administering, and enforcing rules and regulations governing SES. However, SES has a minimum of regulations which is consistent with the OPM goal of decentralizing personnel management. Despite rigid time schedules, conversion to SES occurred on July 13, 1979, when more than 98 percent of Federal executives became members.

OPM did a creditable job as the focal point for conversion, but some concerns remain. Positions that appeared to meet the career reserved criteria were found to be designated as general, and positions with similar responsibilities were being treated differently. Executives who would have otherwise received an SES noncareer appointment, but who had reinstatement eligibility to a position in the competitive service, were given the opportunity by the Act to request reinstatement to career status. OPM issued a regulation to also allow conversion to career status of individuals serving in Schedule C, noncareer executive assignment, noncareer Executive Schedule, and limited executive assignment positions based on prior career-type experience in the expected service. About 1,000 special agency authorizations and a "pool" of executive positions established by the Act are excluded from SES. Most of the authorizations are not being used. Salaries of SES members are currently compressed by the linkage of congressional and Executive Schedule salaries and the limitations on annual pay adjustments for executives which have been imposed by law. If the congressional consideration of restricting the aggregate amount of pay and bonuses becomes a reality, incentives for greater excellence can be stifled, thereby greately weakening the SES system. Potential for inequities exists in awarding bonuses. Most agency concerns involving the timeliness of written guidance at the time of conversion were corrected by subsequent regulations and guidance.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Matter: Congress should allow the annual adjustments for executives under Public Law 94-82 to take effect; discontinue the practice of linking congressional and Executive Level II salaries; and allow the bonus and rank positions of the Reform Act to take effect.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Director, OPM, should: develop criteria for agencies' use in requesting future allocations of SES positions and establish internal criteria and procedures to aid OPM personnel in achieving consistency in their reviews of these allocation requests; consider adding occupational disciplines associated with personnel, statistics, finance, and budget functions to its career-reserved criteria and be alert to adding other disciplines requiring impartiality or the public's confidence in Government; review general positions of SES to ensure proper designation; propose a corrective amendment to the Reform Act to include substantial career-oriented service in career-type positions as a basis for career SES appointment under the career conversion provisions for Federal employees serving in noncareer, Schedule C, limited executive assignments, and similar appointments; verify the incumbency requirement for executives who (1) converted from noncareer to career status and (2) make similar future conversions; propose an amendment to clarify the "repealer provision" of the Reform Act regarding special agency authorizations; propose legislative, or if appropriate, regulatory changes to achieve consistency among agencies as to the maximum percentage of career executives eligible for bonuses in any 1 year; require an increase in number and frequency of OPM onsite compliance reviews of agencies' SES activities; evaluate the possibility of separating organizational responsibility for compliance reviews from technical assistance and other similar duties; and provide guidance to agencies directing that they avoid appointing officials responsible for auditing and investigating agency personnel activities to performance review boards and executive resources boards.

    Agency Affected:


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