Members of Uncle Sam's elite Senior Executive Service hit by RIFs (reduction in force) would not be guaranteed placement in other SES vacancies or fallback rights to lower level jobs outside the executive service under tough new RIF regulations being reviewed by the White House.

Office of Personnel Management brass have sent the SES layoff regulations to the White House's Office of Management and Budget for review and final approval. Only a handful of OPM's career staffers have seen the draft regulations, which will determine what happens to thousands of $50,000-per-year SES aides when RIFs hit their agencies. But congressional sources say that the RIF regulations take a "hard line," and do not contain guarantees that senior executives, whose jobs are abolished for economy reasons, can move into other SES slots, or bump down to Grade 15 within the career civil service.

Ironically, the law that created the SES allows executives who are judged less than satisfactory two years in a row to move back into GS15 jobs. But the new regulations -- if they run the approval gauntlet at OMB -- would deny executive bounced for no fault of their own the same safety net (fall back to a guaranteed GS15 job) that is provided for executives kicked out of the SES for failing to measure up.

The final rules will be out some time this month. There is always the chance they will be modified to give SESers caught up in a RIF the same "bumping" rights as other federal workers. But top OPM officials, who have the president's ear, favor the hard-line, no-guarantees approach for SES career personnel.