The Washington Post

The Federal Diary gets a lot of reader reaction, by e-mail and through online posts, some of it fit to print. Occasionally, we give readers a chance to speak out by publishing a few of their remarks, which have been edited for clarity and length.

A column about the need for greater Senior Executive Service (SES) mobility among agencies drew this response from an original senior executive.

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. View Archive

From the beginning, and as far as I know now, there has never been established a government-wide method of managing and controlling SES positions and members. Each department and agency manages its own. A true corps would have to be managed in a form similar to the Foreign Service or the military’s general and flag officer systems.

Probably occupationally organized, a central unit would oversee training, selection (both into and out of the SES), movement among departments, benefits, retirement, etc. Agencies would be loath to give up their control to a central career executive group. Individual SESers would not want to be told it was time to move to another agency and/or location, much less that it was time to retire so new SESers could be brought aboard.

Until something along these lines occurs, we won’t have an elite executive corps.

Lloyd Grable, McLean, formerly with the Navy and Energy departments

An interview with Rep. Dennis A. Ross (R-Fla.), chairman of the House federal workforce subcommittee and advocate for a smaller workforce, touched off an online debate.

The rolls are filled with millions that could not compete or hold a job as private citizens so over the years government employment has turned into another form of high-paying welfare!

The Democrat welfare society is going bankrupt!

They did not cut enough! After spending years working with, around and supervising government workers I can tell you for sure those people do not work. Every five government employees could be replaced by two workers.


I suppose you worked with all 2.1 million so you can cast your black net over all of the workforce including the brains behind the guy who got Osama Bin Laden.


The Federal Government isn’t a Taco Bell. If you want minimum wage work, then dole out minimum wage pay. The real challenge is recruiting and retaining quality personnel. Salaries and benefits attract top talent, but more so, is the feeling that you can make a difference. With the current state of vilifying federal employees, a young person with talent will look elsewhere.


An article earlier this week reported on an inquiry by two members of Congress into problems with Presidential Management Fellows (PMF) program.

When I came into the program in 1998 we were selected as semi-finalists based on our résumés and our dean’s recommendation . . . however, the assessors didn’t know what résumé went with whom (or even what our names were) when we went to the assessment center so that they wouldn’t favor one over another for reasons other than the three assessments.

Once there, we first took a timed writing test. Our question was something like, “Describe your accomplishments and what you learned from them.”

Secondly, we had an individual analytical assessment. We were each given a controversial policy question and asked to choose a side and develop our argument on paper first, then present and defend it orally before the assessors.

The third and last assessment was a group discussion monitored by the assessors and very similar to the analytical portion, except in a group of other candidates and with no preparation.

This kind of assessment process is as rigorous as it gets.


No one is saying that the vetting process isn’t tough. But those who make it through the process do so because they talk up a storm and lack substance. They might not be guaranteed placement at first, but once they are placed . . . they don’t feel obligated to learn about the agency or get accepted by people who work there (because they know they will be everyone’s boss in a couple of years, maximum). It is the people around them who have to endure their self-inflated egos who know that PMFs don’t belong anywhere where brains are required.


Columns about the Defense of Marriage Act and gay federal employees generate passionate responses:

It is a morally responsible position to oppose same-sex marriage.

Government makes laws. Laws reward moral behavior and punish immoral behavior.

Government and law express morality. However, neither government nor law are the origin of morality. They express morality that exists outside their domain. Often government and law express conflicting morality.

This is a moral question.


There is NOTHING “moral” about trying to hurt your fellow Americans who are LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender).


Previous columns by Joe Davidson are available at Follow the Federal Diary on Twitter: @JoeDavidsonWP


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