House examines ‘viability’ of federal executives

House subcommittee members will examine the “viability” of the federal Senior Executive Service (SES) at a hearing Friday.

SES members might not have known there was a question about the ability of their workforce to continue, but that’s an inference that can be drawn by the title of the hearing: “The Viability of the Senior Executive Service.”

In an opening statement prepared for the hearing, Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Tex.), chairman of the House federal workforce subcommittee, said “this Committee’s oversight work has shown that government continues to lack the quality executive leadership necessary to administer key government services and programs.”

Karen Bleier/AFP/Getty Images.

His statement also indicates that he would like to “institute a system that allows agencies to more quickly and fairly remove incompetent leaders — whose appointments do not have time limitations — while guarding against politically motivated actions.”

The House has already voted to strip certain civil service due process rights from SES members in the Department of Veterans Affairs. That would make them “at-will” workers who could be fired by political appointees, with no chance to appeal the dismissal.

In her prepared statement, Carol Bonosaro, president of  the Senior Executives Association, said senior executives already are “subject to fewer job protections under the law than their General Schedule counterparts – including the ability of agencies to  remove them for performance with no effective appeal rights. Furthermore, they are subject to  mandatory geographic reassignments (failure to accept can result in removal from Federal  service). This provision is often used as a mechanism to push out Senior Executives and  encourage their retirement, rather than being used as the private sector does, namely, as a  means to ensure the right employees are in the right positions.”

Joe Davidson writes the Federal Diary, a column about federal government and workplace issues that celebrated its 80th birthday in November 2012. Davidson previously was an assistant city editor at The Washington Post and a Washington and foreign correspondent with The Wall Street Journal, where he covered federal agencies and political campaigns.



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