Life at the top: What’s in it for you

Presidents love to reform the government for a variety of reasons. But career Senior Executive Service members knows where the levers of power are, and how to g...

After what many would consider a slow, rough start with lots of top-level turnover, the Trump administration appears ready — the willing-and-able part is yet to be determined — to begin a series of civil service “reforms.”

It is in good company. Presidents love to reform the government for a variety of reasons.

Presidents Carter, Reagan, and Bush wanted to shake up and revamp the inner workings of the civil service system developed in the late 1800s. President Bill Clinton’s reinventing government initiative, headed by Vice President Al Gore, was a massive, much publicized affair. It peaked with about 400 staffers from political and career employees to outside experts thinking up ways to streamline government. One of the reforms included getting rid of about 230,000 career federal jobs through buyouts, firing, early retirement and a massive contracting out effort.

Many believe the thin red line between partisan politicians of both parties and the career civil service are the 9,100 members of the career Senior Executive Service. The SES came out of the Carter administration’s effort to revamp the civil service and make top executives more mobile — and responsive — to their political bosses. About 10 percent of the SES jobs are for political/noncareer appointees. But the career SES knows where the levers of power are, how to activate them — or not — and how to get things done.

SES members receive between $126,148 to $189,600 per year. In some cities, like Washington, D.C., San Francisco, Los Angeles, Houston and New York City, some of their GS 14/15 subordinates actually earn more than their SES bosses.

Many SES members belong to the Senior Executives Association which, because of its membership, frequently punches above its weight and can have a lot of influence in high places. The SES generally works closely with federal professional groups, unions and retiree organizations such as the National Active Retired and Federal Employees to protect federal benefits which have been under attack for more than a decade. That includes everything from pay freezes under Obama and Trump, to major cuts in the Federal Employee Retirement System. That all-fed alliance will be especially important this year with so many programs under attack and another “reform” plan in the air.

So, today’s guest on our Your Turn radio show is SEA president Bill Valdez. Among other things he will talk about:

  • The Presidents Management Agenda and what it might mean to you, your job and your agency’s mission, and future?
  • What is happening at the troubled Veterans Affairs Department, and has the VA Accountability Act been a success?
  • How much should federal and postal workers, and retirees, worry about proposed big-time cuts in their retirement package?
  • Does the SEA, which has been-there-done-that and gotten the T-shirt to prove it, believe that another civil service “reform” effort needs to be made?

The show goes live at 10 a.m. EDT. It is streaming at or at 1500 AM in the D.C. area. You can listen live or later while all shows are archived at the Your Turn page.

Please email questions for Bill or myself to before the show goes live.

Nearly Useless Factoid

By Amelia Brust

People on the International Space Station can grow as much as 5 centimeters taller in space because, in micro-gravity, the human spine straightens out.

Source: (Armagh Observatory and Planetarium)

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