Members of the Senior Executive Service will be almost RIF-proof when the cruel, harsh winds of reduction in force blow later this summer.
Senate-House conferees on the budget reconciliation bill have approved language that will make it difficult, if not downright impossible, for federal agencies to get rid of $5,000-per-year career SES members via RIF procedures. There are more than 6,000 career SES types, most of them in the metro Washington area.
SES was created by the Carter administration's civil service reform act as an elite supergrade corps where civil service tenure would be reduced as a tradeoff for the chance of better pay, bonuses and added mobility. Under the law, SES members who get poor performance ratings can be bounced back to lower grade jobs, or fired. But Congress didn't address the issue of what happens to SES people when RIFs come along.
The Reagan administration has been considering tough guidelines that would protect SES personnel from RIFs. There were forecasts that as many as 150 senior executives here might be hit by layoffs over the summer.
Backers of a RIF safety net for senior executives argued that the career people should be guaranteed other jobs if their positions were abolished or be allowed to retreat back to Grade 15 slots if nothing at the SES level could be found for them. Rep. Patricia Schroeder (D-Colo.) proposed language that would give protection of career executives during layoffs. She got strong backing from Rep. Bill Ford (D-Mich.) who heads the Post Office-Civil Service Committee, the aggressive Senior Executives Association (run by Jerry Shaw) and Maryland and Virginia legislators who represent most of the SES population.
Thursday afternoon the Senate-House conference approved language that makes the SES people almost RIF-proof. The language, part of the budget reconciliation bill, says SES members must be given 120 days notice if their job is to be abolished (other civil servants get 30 days) and must be given first crack at any available jobs in their agency or anywhere else in the SES. It requires the Office of Personnel Management to justify, in writing, to Congress when it cannot find a comparable SES job for an executive affected by a RIF, and it gives any such executive the right to any SES job that opens up in government for which he is qualified within a year after the dismissal actually was ordered.