Reassignment of Senior Executive Service Members at the Department of the Interior

GGD-84-19: Published: Nov 4, 1983. Publicly Released: Nov 9, 1983.

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In response to a congressional request, GAO examined the reassignments of Senior Executive Service (SES) members under the Department of the Interior's Career Enhancement Program, focusing on the stated reasons for the reassignments in light of allegations that they were used to punish or isolate career executives who had been most effective in administering programs to which the administration was hostile.

The purpose of the Career Enhancement Program was to promote executive mobility, professional development, and cross-training of managers. GAO found that very few involuntary reassignments were made during the program. However, there appeared to be confusion among some reassigned members regarding how the program worked, and several senior executives had negative attitudes toward it. The agency viewed the reassignments as a way of unifying diverse operating groups, enhancing senior executives' careers, and balancing management resources throughout the agency. Although 27.4 percent of Interior's eligible executives were to have been reassigned by September 30, 1983, only 19.5 percent were actually reassigned by that date. The program resulted in more moves between bureaus than before. GAO found that 3 senior executives considered their reassignments to be involuntary; 19 had accepted reassignment without protest; 8 had sought reassignments; and 4 believed that they were being reassigned for political or punitive reasons. GAO found that those SES members choosing not to accept reassignments placed themselves in jeopardy of being removed or demoted. Most of the executives interviewed felt that professional development was not the goal of the program. GAO stated that increased communication between program administrators and SES members might have helped to alleviate the negative feelings which some employees had about their reassignments.

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