New SES Joint Policy Agenda Released

Late last week, three organizations that “advocate policies to strengthen the federal government’s leadership capabilities” released a new policy agenda targeted at strengthening the Senior Executive Service, the cadre of career federal leaders established under the Civil Service Reform Act that now fills the upper-ranks of most federal agencies. The agenda includes “proposed actions by both Congress and individual federal agencies, including the Office of Personnel Management and the Office of Management and Budget.”

The Senior Executives Association – the professional association representing members of the SES – along with The Volcker Alliance and Partnership for Public Service are the organizations responsible for the SES Joint Policy Agenda. The groups said the agenda focuses on three main themes: “setting executives up for success, improving senior-level talent management and strengthening the link between political and career leadership.” 

“We believe that the federal government’s corps of career leaders is a national resource that has not received the attention and care necessary for ensuring success in a dynamic 21st century characterized by technological disruption and societal changes,” said SEA President Bill Valdez. “Career federal leaders must be treated as a professional leadership cadre dedicated to carrying out the vital missions of the federal government.”

“The dedicated, mission-driven members of the Senior Executive Service are critical to the effective operation of our government,” said Partnership for Public Service President and CEO Max Stier. “They are responsible for leading the federal workforce, supporting the administration’s political appointees and have a hand in implementing nearly all the government’s policies and programs. Our organizations urge the administration and Congress to make the SES a top priority as they consider changes to the broader civil service system.”

Specific proposals under the policy agenda include better identification and use of Senior Level (SL) and Senior Technical (ST) positions, the use of Executive Resource Boards (ERBs) as a management tool for senior leadership, the designation of senior mission support positions as career-reserved, a reduction in the number of political appointees at agencies, and an onboarding process for political appointees, among other recommendations.

“These Senior Executive Service (SES) modernization efforts, when combined with steps we recommend to bridge the career/political divide, are necessary predicates to creating an SES corps that will restore public trust in government,” Valdez continued.

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