The Senior Executive Service is outdated and fails to provide a unified, government-wide cadre of federal career executives with shared values, a broad perspective and solid leadership skills, according to a new report by the Partnership for Public Service.
The report found that the expectations set forth in a 1978 law that created the SES has remained unchanged, meaning nothing has been done since that time to strengthen, or reinvigorate the government's senior leadership. This is highly problematic, the partnership found, especially given the emergence of new technologies.
"Information now flows through social and technological networks at a rapid pace, changing the rules of engagement. Events have the potential to escalate more quickly and unpredictably," the report states. "Addressing problems requires greater collaboration and negotiation between agencies and across sectors."
The report comes as the Office of Personnel Management announced the creation of a new centralized office to serve the SES program. The new office will consolidate multiple offices in order to increase efficiency and better serve federal agencies.
The Partnership recommended that Congress divide the SES into two distinct executive segments by creating a new National SES Corps of mobile managers who will have rotational assignments and clear expectations that they will work in multiple agencies, at different levels of government or in the private sector. The Office of Personnel Management and the Office of Management and Budget should work with agencies to reevaluate the SES positions to determine whether some jobs should be reclassified, the report states, and OPM should consolidate its various program responsibilities for the SES into one office.
The report also emphasized phasing out lengthy narratives as a primary means for evaluating SES candidates, onboarding new executives, executive coaching, and abolishing the centralized review board that vets candidates. Congress also should de-link its pay from SES pay to help eliminate the problem that permits some subordinates to earn more than executives, and establish a counterpart program that will allow senior leaders to be exchanged between government agencies and the private sector, the Partnership recommended.