Despite the limited hiring freeze in government, the Carter Administration is filling about 30 toplevel, $50,000 per year jobs each week to build up the SES (senior executive service) that runs the bureaucracy.
SES was created by the president's civil service reform act. It took in most of the "supergrade" (Grade 16 through 18) people and jobs in government. Incumbents were given the option of joining the fast-track, high-reward, highrisk SES or of staying outside, effectively ending any future chance of promotion.
Most persons elibible for the SES signed up. A large number of senior career officials retired, left government or took advantage of special early retirement breaks -- provided by the CS Reform Act -- rather than remain in government.
SES members are elibible for presidentially-approved bonuses ranging from $10,000 to about $19,000. And they can get bonuses from their agencies worth up to 20 percent of salary. They also get the best assignments. In return they agree to be mobile, and traded in much of the security that people outside of the SES have.
Although special agency boards select SES personnel, their choices must be reviewed and approved by the Office of Personnel Management. OPM is the agency that succeded the old Civil Service Commission.
Administration officials say merit system principles are followed faithfully in picking people for SES career jobs. But some toplevel personnel officials say that politics play a bigger role than ever in top-job selections.
Backers of the SES system say it allows agency and department heads to reward or punish their top teams to get best results. And they say more outside talent -- including more women and minorities -- can be brought into the upper reaches of the bureaucracy under the SES.
Opponents say SES gives political appointees who know the ropes a hammerlock on the career bureaucracy, the 10,000 plus SES members who run the daily government.
The OPM which has a key role in overseeing SES selections has, itself, undergone a tremendous turnover of top-level officials since reform was passed. OPM was the first agency to use new, liberal "early out" retirement options, and a large number of bureau chiefs and program directors retired early. OPM has been reorganized, and now has a new top command of younger officials running pay, retirement, and other key operations.
The results of SES have been mixed: On the one hand government agencies have a high number of age 30 to 40 top executives who are not committed to bureaucratic ways. On the other hand, key programs affecting the giant federal personnel system are now being run by people who -- old line bureaucrats say -- do not have the "institutional memory" that prevents frequent reinvention of the wheel. And, critics say, many of the new appointees do not plan to make government a career and are therefore trying to make their marks as tough managers before moving on to private industry. Where you stand on those questions depends in large part on where you sit in government.
An example of some of the jobs -- in the $47,000 to $52,000 pay range open right now:
Agriculture Department (SCS)d: It needs a director of land treatment programs, director of soils and assocciate deputy chief for planning. Call Richard Myers on 447-2631.
General Services Administration: Wants an assistant regional administrator for contracting in Philadelphia; an assistant commissioner for systems engineering and a depty commissioner for management here. Call 566-1207.
Housing and Urban Development wants an SES person to be deputy regional administrator in Chicago (755-7844).
Interior needs an assistant director for equal opportunity, (John Wilkinson on 343-6618).
Justice needs a senior trial attorney in the public integrity section. 633-4006.
All of the above jobs are open to people in or out of government. In addition the SES has dozens of vacancies now that are limited to "qualified federal employes only." They include top slots in Treasury, GSA, International Communication Agency, HEW. Gsa alone has 5 such jobs, one of them to manage its SES development program.