FCW time machine: 2003 | Then…and now

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Find a link to the National Commission on the Public Service’s 2003 report on FCW.com’s Download at www.fcw.com/download.

In 2003, Federal Computer Week reported on a proposal to create two career tracks for government officials in the Senior Executive Service. The idea was to upgrade the quality of federal managers by overturning a system that critics said put unqualified technical experts into management positions so they could earn higher salaries.

After rereading Colleen O’Hara’s article in the Jan. 13, 2003, issue of FCW, we made some calls to find out whether anyone had implemented the commission’s proposal. Read the original story and our update.

From Federal Computer Week
Jan. 13, 2003


Panel urges SES revamp
Dividing the Senior Executive Service into a corps of executive managers and a corps of professional technical experts is one of 14 recommendations the National Commission on the Public Service released Jan. 7.

Many senior executives have been forced to take on management jobs to advance in their careers, but many of them are in fact technologists and scientists, not managers, the commission said.

Dividing them into two groups would allow agencies to introduce managers and technologists from the public and private sectors, encourage mobility for managers across agencies, and provide separate compensation for each group, the commission said.

“People have been promoted into executive roles who don’t want to be there,” but the pay is better, said Constance Horner, a member of the commission and former Office of Personnel Management director.

The suggestion makes sense, said Fred Thompson, former assistant director for consulting and marketing at the Treasury Department’s chief information officer’s office. …

One goal of the GS-2210 information technology management job series introduced 18 months ago, Thompson added, was to allow people to advance without requiring that they manage a certain number of people.

In general, the commission recommended first a “fundamental reorganization” of the federal government.

Commission Chairman Paul Volcker said OPM and the Office of Management and Budget have been briefed on the report. “We have provided a beautiful architectural rendering,” he said. Now it’s up to the “engineers,” including Congress, to create the blueprint.

— Colleen O’Hara


Update
The government has not implemented the commission’s proposal. Instead, Congress passed a law in 2003 that put all members of the Senior Executive Service into a pay-for-performance compensation system. That was a major change and probably diverted people’s attention from the commission’s recommendation, said Bert Subrin, director of member and agency liaison at the Senior Executives Association, which represents career federal executives.

The association opposed the commission’s proposal, Subrin said, and he has not heard of anyone who is pushing to resurrect it.

John Palguta, vice president of policy at the Partnership for Public Service, agreed, saying, “I have no sense that there is any desire to revisit this issue anytime soon.”

However, he added that the commission’s recommendation is still worth considering if someone can figure out how to make executive managers and professional technical experts relatively equal in terms of prestige, benefits and compensation.

— Florence Olsen

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