Washington, D.C. - Today U.S. Senator Daniel K. Akaka (D-HI) introduced the Senior Executive Service Reform Act of 2012, a bill to strengthen the Federal Government's senior leadership corps.

"Our government executives play a critical part in promoting efficient federal government," Senator Akaka said.  "Each year, the Presidential Rank Awards recognize senior executives who save American taxpayers billions of dollars through innovative ideas and management expertise.  My bill would invest in our senior leaders, giving them the tools and incentives they need to be effective."

Established by the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978, the Senior Executive Service (SES) is responsible for driving management, efficiency, and other policy initiatives within agencies and across the federal government.  The majority of the SES are career civil servants hired based on their ability to meet strict qualifications that demonstrate leadership and other skills.  SES pay currently is linked to Congressional pay, which has not kept pace with General Schedule (GS) pay, resulting in pay compression and some SES are paid less than employees they supervise.

In 2011, in his capacity as Chairman of the Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management, the Federal Workforce, and the District of Columbia, Senator Akaka held a hearing to assess the condition of the SES workforce and identify areas in potential need of reform.  Witnesses testified about shortcomings in Senior Executive Service candidate development, diversity, and training.  Testimony also focused on disincentives for applying to the SES, including increased workload and responsibilities compared to GS positions with little additional compensation and fewer workers' rights.

The bill would address many of the challenges discussed during the 2011 hearing.  Among other provisions, the bill would:

  • Increase career SES leadership positions and limit the percentage of SES positions filled by political appointees;
  • Decrease pay compression and improve benefits by providing a pay increase for SES and other senior-level employees when GS employees receive a pay raise.  Performance awards also would be counted as base pay in retirement calculations;
  • Increase transparency in SES performance ratings by requiring an explanation if a rating is lowered from the initial recommendation and prohibiting quotas in performance pay adjustments;
  • Enhance career development by creating a SES Resource Office to collect data on the SES and oversee SES candidate development, management, and training.  The bill also would require on-boarding programs for new SES and establish guidelines for voluntary SES rotation and mobility programs; and
  • Encourage diversity by requiring agencies include ethnic minorities, women, and those with disabilities as part of the SES hiring process when practicable.

Media Contact

Jesse Broder Van Dyke (Akaka)