Senior Executive Service: Retirement Trends Underscore the Importance of Succession Planning

GGD-00-113BR Published: May 12, 2000. Publicly Released: May 12, 2000.
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on the Senior Executive Service's (SES) retirement trends, focusing on: (1) trends for the SES' workforce governmentwide and for selected agencies and occupational series through fiscal year (FY) 2005 and how they compared with the trends over the 7-year period ending FY 1998; and (2) the implications of SES retirement trends for SES succession planning.

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Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Office of Personnel Management Given the results of GAO's review and the importance of succession planning as recognized by GAO as well as others, OPM, in light of its role of overseeing the SES, should take a proactive, systematic approach to identifying to what extent agencies are doing formal SES succession planning. The Director of OPM should take steps to identify the status of formal SES succession planning in the federal government. These steps could be in the form of conducting a survey of agencies' succession planning efforts. The purpose of the survey would be to determine whether or not agencies have established a comprehensive, ongoing SES succession planning program that enables them to forecast their SES resource needs and identify and develop a pool of qualified, diverse individuals from which to select potential SES candidates.
Closed – Implemented
Subsequent to GAO's May 2000 report recommendation that the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) establish a proactive and systematic approach to identify to what extent agencies are conducting formal Senior Executive Service succession planning, OPM has surveyed the status of agencies' efforts. In November 2003, OPM identified and published what it considered "promising practices" in succession planning at six government agencies that it evaluated. In addition, in August 2004, a President's Management Agenda (PMA) report listed which agencies had succession plans in place, and stated that ninety-two percent of federal agencies had strategies for ensuring that they are developing future leaders. These surveys are based on OPM's "Human Capital Standards". In collaboration with GAO and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), OPM revised its Human Capital Standards for Success, which include succession planning components. Based on these revised standards, OPM developed a Human Capital Assessment and Accountability Framework. OPM utilizes this framework, in conjunction with the PMA, to quarterly evaluate 26 agencies' human capital programs, including succession planning. The PMA has established a case for government-wide reform on five key initiatives, partially based on prior GAO statements, reports, and products such as the high-risk list. OPM is the lead agency for the Human Capital initiative.
Office of Personnel Management For agencies that are not doing formal SES succession planning, the Director of OPM should contact the agencies, ensure that they are aware of tools or models that OPM or others have available to assist agencies in doing succession planning, and periodically follow up to determine whether the agencies need any additional assistance.
Closed – Implemented
Subsequent to GAO's May 2000 report recommendation that the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) take actions to make agencies aware of tools and models that OPM or others have available to assist agencies in succession planning, OPM has published information and links to succession planning tools and models on its web site. For example, OPM uses the Human Capital Standards for Success, a joint product of GAO, OPM, and the Office of Management and Budget, as the foundation for its Strategic Management of Human Capital web page, which was last updated in October 2003. The standards include succession planning components. OPM also displays a Human Resource Tools and Resources page on its website which includes links to human capital frameworks, statistics, instructions and other references. This page can be accessed via icon from OPM's main web page. Finally, OPM lists two GAO products on its web site and describes them as "significant documents on human capital".

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