Lawmakers seek more diversity in top ranks of career feds

A new office would launch a recruiting program for the Senior Executive Service

Lawmakers have introduced measures in the House and Senate to require more diversity in the top tier of career federal jobs.

The Senior Executive Service Diversity Assurance Act (S. 1180 and H.R. 2721), introduced June 4, would create an SES resource office in the Office of Personnel Management. The new office’s purpose would be to work with the OPM director and agencies to address concerns about the management and diversity of SES.

The office would launch a program for recruiting women, minorities and people with disabilities into SES. It would help agencies work with their equal employment or diversity officials on the SES appointment process and evaluate agencies’ efforts to find candidates for SES positions.

Such positions are executive-level jobs at the top levels of the government and are primarily managerial.

In the previous Congress, the House passed a bill by voice vote that had the same language, but the Senate never passed its version of the legislation.

However, last year, Justice Department and OPM officials questioned the constitutionality of those bills, according to a report from the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. Justice officials were concerned that several of the provisions in the legislation violated equal protection requirements.

For example, they argued that requiring at least one woman and one minority to sit on a three-person review panel would impose an unconstitutional racial and gender quota. Justice officials also argued that provisions requiring targeted recruitment of minorities and women and mandating that hiring officials be notified of the racial and gender demographics of the applicant pool might be held unconstitutional on equal protection grounds, the report states.

The legislation re-introduced in the House by Rep. Danny Davis (D-Ill.) last week notes that the Government Accountability Office discovered that minorities accounted for 22.5 percent of the people serving at the GS-15 and GS-14 levels and 15.8 percent of SES members in 2007. Women represented 34.3 percent of the people serving at the GS-15 and GS-14 levels and 29.1 percent of SES in 2007.

Davis and Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii), who re-introduced the bill in the Senate, said adding more minorities to SES would improve agencies’ work.

“A diverse workforce can further innovative thinking and improve an agency’s effectiveness,” Akaka said.

About the Author

Matthew Weigelt is a freelance journalist who writes about acquisition and procurement.

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