Workforce

Executive order pushes SES overhaul

President Barack Obama

President Barack Obama's new executive order includes a revised bonus process and guidelines for rotating SES members among agencies.

President Barack Obama signed a broad-ranging executive order Dec. 15 that will affect the hiring, pay and job placement of federal employees in the Senior Executive Service.

In phased strokes, the order will eventually have an impact on the entire government.

The order gives the Office of Personnel Management 90 days to review -- and possibly recommend replacements for -- the lengthy Qualifications Review Board essay requirements that might be dissuading some qualified candidates from applying for SES positions.

The order also puts a premium on reaching out to diverse candidates for SES roles and on filling open positions quickly.

For current and future SES feds who manage General Schedule employees, Obama's order requires that their pay be adjusted so that they earn more than their GS subordinates, including locality pay.

On the flip side, the order limits performance-based bonuses for SES, Senior Level and Senior Scientific or Professional to "7.5 percent of aggregate SES and SL/ST salaries respectively," starting in fiscal 2017. OPM has 120 days to issue guidance on the topic.

To promote flexibility in agencies' executive ranks, the order sets a rotation requirement.

"While agency-specific targets will not be required, this order establishes a governmentwide goal of 15 percent of SES members rotating for a minimum of 120 days (including to different departments, agencies, subcomponents, functional areas, sectors and non-federal partners) during FY 2017 and thereafter, in order to ensure the mobility of the corps while also maintaining stability of operations," the order states.

The brunt of the requirements will hit various agencies in three different waves.

"The secretaries of Defense, Energy, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, and Veterans Affairs; the administrator of General Services [Administration]; and the director of OPM shall implement these reforms by Sept. 30, 2016," the order states. "The secretaries of Agriculture, Education, Labor and Transportation, and the administrators of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Small Business Administration shall implement these reforms by Sept. 30, 2017."

The remaining agencies will have until Sept. 30, 2018.

Partnership for Public Service President and CEO Max Stier applauded the changes. "Today, the president and his administration took significant steps to strengthen this all-important federal leadership corps," Stier said in a statement. "Investing in how agencies recruit, retain and develop their leaders will fundamentally change how our government works.... We look forward to helping the White House implement these much-needed reforms."

About the Author

Zach Noble is a staff writer covering digital citizen services, workforce issues and a range of civilian federal agencies.

Before joining FCW in 2015, Noble served as assistant editor at the viral news site TheBlaze, where he wrote a mix of business, political and breaking news stories and managed weekend news coverage. He has also written for online and print publications including The Washington Free Beacon, The Santa Barbara News-Press, The Federalist and Washington Technology.

Noble is a graduate of Saint Vincent College, where he studied English, economics and mathematics.

Click here for previous articles by Noble, or connect with him on Twitter: @thezachnoble.


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