National Commentary

Moran’s News Commentary: Senior Executive Service

 Established in 1978, the Senior Executive Service (SES) is a corps of over 7,000 of our nation’s most talented federal employees. They are our nation’s institutional knowledge, charged with ensuring the smooth functioning of each federal agency’s mission regardless of who occupies the White House.

Though the SES remains a highly-respected corps of leaders within the federal workforce, over the past three decades many issues are unintentionally discouraging senior General Schedule (GS) employees from applying for SES positions.

First, Senior Executives have increased responsibilities and work longer hours, yet they receive no compensatory time or locality pay, both of which GS employees receive. In some cases, GS employees take home higher pay than junior SES employees.

When the SES was initially created, moving within and across federal agencies was seen as an opportunity. Unfortunately, the risk of geographic location without the possibility of receiving locality pay also deters individuals from the Senior Executive Service.

Not only do these concerns demand changes for those currently in the SES, but the federal government needs a deep bench of young leaders to replace SES employees approaching retirement. According to the Partnership for Public Service, by 2016, approximately 64 percent of the Senior Executives will be eligible to retire.

In an effort to improve the recruitment and career development of Senior Executives, I have introduced the “Senior Executive Service Reform Act of 2012.” The legislation would reform the Senior Executive Service by:

• Improving SES recruitment by mandating Candidate Development Programs that recruit and prepare the best federal employees for the SES;

• Improving SES career development through mentorship and onboarding programs;

• Promoting diversity to ensure our nation’s top executives reflect our nation’s changing ethnic composition;

• Providing a pay increase equal to the annual average GS pay raise for SES personnel rated “fully successful”;

• Eliminating a cumbersome application process, called the Executive Core Qualification narratives, for those applying to the SES; and

• Increasing the transparency of the SES rating system.

Joining me to introduce the bill were Representatives Gerry Connolly (D-VA) and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD). The SES Reform Act of 2012 has also received the support of the Partnership for Public Service and the Senior Executive Association.

Legislation to improve job satisfaction and once again provide incentives to top-tier government work comes at a critical time for federal employees. Republican efforts in Congress to unfairly target our federal workforce in the name of deficit reduction have significantly damaged the appeal of civil service – only six percent of college graduates recently polled want to work for the government.

And the federal government needs young, motivated workers. Just as the SES faces a wave of retirements, more than 60 percent of the entire federal workforce will be eligible for retirement in the next five years. And while the private sector continues to see job growth, the public sector has been steadily shedding jobs. The Federal Government can only compete with the private sector for highly qualified workers if we improve opportunities for those already in or considering civil service.

I look forward to seeing this important piece of legislation move forward in Congress. By instilling the practical changes in the “SES Reform Act of 2012,” we can make government work more attractive and rewarding to current and future employees.


Rep. James Moran (D) is Virginia’s 8th Congressional District Representative in the U.S. House of Representatives.