The White House has named two dozen federal employees to a group that will advise President Barack Obama on possible changes to the Senior Executive Service.
Obama joined the group at its meeting Thursday where they discussed ongoing pilot projects at the departments of Homeland Security, Health and Human Services, Commerce, Energy and the Social Security Administration, according to a message to SES members from Office of Personnel Management Director Katherine Archuleta and Beth Cobert, the Deputy Director for Management at the Office of Management and Budget.
The pilots will be evaluated this summer, with an eye toward replicating any successes throughout the government.
More broadly, the White House has asked the advisory group for ideas on improving the way the government recruits, hires, develops and retains SES members.
It is not an easy task. The Senior Executive Service has faced pressure from many corners.
Congress has sought to fire members more swiftly because of recent scandals, most notably at the Veterans Affairs Department over mistreatment of patients and the slow scheduling of appointments.
There is also a demographic shift that threatens the service. Many members are just a couple years shy of retirement. A recent Federal News Radio survey found few mid-level federal employees aspired to join the SES. Many said the rewards did not compensate for the long work hours, increased responsibility and scrutiny from political leaders. A separate governmentwide survey recently showed federal employees were losing confidence in their senior leaders, although it did not further explain who those “senior leaders” are.
The 24 federal employees on the advisory group come from a mix of large and small agencies. They include lawyers, administrators, human resources experts and even one ambassador — Wanda Nesbitt, a career minister at the State Department. The White House said it aimed for a diverse mix of employees, both SES members and those who aspired to be in the SES. (View the full list below.)
President Obama announced the formation of the advisory group in December. It was the first time in his presidency that he addressed the SES corps. He also announced a new development program for aspiring senior executives that will begin this fall. Later this month, agencies will have the chance to comment on a draft guide outlining the program, according to Archuleta and Cobert.
At the December meeting, Obama also promised to launch a new customer-service awards program. The White House published Thursday more detailed guidance. Up to 750 federal employees could win the awards each year.
The members of the White House Advisory Group on the Senior Executive Service are: