‘Misguided’ SES Accountability Legislation
Reform legislation (H.R. 4358) promising to bring “accountability” to the Senior Executive Service (SES) has been reintroduced in the House by Rep. Tim Walberg (R-MI).
Walberg introduced similar legislation (H.R. 5169) in the last Congress.
“Thanks to scandals at agencies like the IRS and VA, the American people increasingly view the federal government as untrustworthy and encroaching on their personal liberties. When senior government officials blatantly abuse their position and the public trust, they must be held accountable. Increasing accountability measures when misconduct occurs will go a long way towards restoring public trust and demonstrating greater stewardship of taxpayer dollars,” said Walberg in a statement announcing introduction of the bill.
“Once again, this legislation misses the mark,” said Tim Dirks, Interim President of the Senior Executives Association (SEA). “In an effort to tout their dedication to ‘accountability,’ majority leaders in the Congress continue to push forward with the singular focus of carving out paths to summarily terminate career Senior Executives.”
In a letter to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which debated the legislation today, Dirks weighed in with SEA’s strong opposition to several provisions of the bill, including provisions identified by both SEA in their letter and several members of the committee minority as being constitutionally deficient, including forcing executives onto mandatory leave during investigations and an extension of the VA SES termination provisions approved by Congress in the wake of that agency’s hospital wait-list scandal.
Efforts by the minority to strip out the mandatory leave and expedited termination provisions failed, despite passionate statements by committee Ranking Member Elijah Cummings (D-MD), Gerry Connolly (D-VA), and Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC).
Those members said it was inappropriate to expand the VA SES expedited termination provisions to the entire SES corps covered by Title V.
“While there are critical challenges facing the SES and the system is certainly in need of reform, current Congressional efforts are being driven by a handful of isolated cases that have gained media attention,” Dirks stated ahead of the committee hearing. “As members scramble to gain political advantage and attach their names to would-be solutions, they fail to address the real issues and in fact create more serious problems by sending a dangerous and discouraging message that those who enter or consider entering the SES will be met with a ‘guilty until proven innocent’ style of justice. As this animosity and rhetoric grows it only serves to encourage talented, able executives to retire and discourages highly qualified candidates from applying for their positions – thereby weakening our government and the nation it serves.”
The legislation was reported favorably by the committee, and awaits further action on the House floor.
Posted in From the Hill