Federal Execs Support Pay for Performance, Workforce Overhaul

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By Louis C. LaBrecque

The Senior Executives Association is broadening its mission to support overhauling the federal civil service system, potentially setting the group at odds with federal employee unions.

Under the SEA’s new “Strategic Direction” plan, issued May 11, the group is supporting civil service changes such as a new pay-for-performance system that will emphasize accountability.

The SEA plan supports “reducing mission duplication” and “workforce restructuring strategies” in the federal government, which the Trump administration also has said it wants. Federal employee unions generally oppose pay for performance and are likely to oppose workforce restructuring efforts that are perceived as negatively affecting federal workers.

No Longer Just `the Union for the SES’

Bill Valdez, the SEA’s president, told Bloomberg BNA May 11 that the SEA, a Washington-based professional association for about 7,000 career federal executives, up to now has mostly focused on representing the workplace interests of its members.

“The SEA had a reputation as being the union for the SES,” Valdez said, using the acronym for the Senior Executive Service.

The SEA will continue to represent members’ direct interests, Valdez said. But the group’s new plan also will give members of the SES a chance to participate in broader “Washington policy debates” about the federal government, he said.

Valdez acknowledged that the SEA in many instances doesn’t agree with federal employee unions on issues such as pay for performance and the need to restructure agencies.

“We’ve had conversations with them. But I wouldn’t say we’ve reached the point where we have a meeting of the hearts and minds yet,” he said.

The government’s personnel system “rewards tenure and average performance” rather than “high performance and innovation,” Valdez said.

“That needs to change” so that the federal government can compete with the private sector for top employees, he said. “The system, frankly, is broken.”

Four `Pillars’ of SEA Plan

The civil service and workforce restructuring provisions are part of the first “pillar” of the SEA plan to “strengthen the SES and career leadership corps to meet current and future national requirements.”

“SEA will drive a legislative and policy agenda that enables senior executives to meet current and future national requirements,” the group said. “That agenda will focus on a broad range of issues,” including “building a 21st Century workforce and developing a pay for performance system that rebalances the risk/reward accountability framework.”

The group also supports “government transformation initiatives, such as acquisition reform, budget modernization, reducing mission duplication, and workforce restructuring strategies,” the SEA said.

The other three pillars in the SEA plan are to “contribute to a leadership pipeline that produces passionate and dedicated federal executives,” “become a thought leader in Washington’s policy debates,” and “build a world class Senior Executives Association” through more engagement with members and collaboration with stakeholders within and outside of government.

The two largest federal employee unions—the American Federation of Government Employees, an AFL-CIO affiliate, and the independent National Treasury Employees Union—didn’t respond May 11 to Bloomberg BNA’s requests for comment on the SEA’s new plan.

To contact the reporter on this story: Louis C. LaBrecque in Washington at llabrecque@bna.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Peggy Aulino at maulino@bna.com; Terence Hyland at thyland@bna.com; Christopher Opfer at copfer@bna.com

Copyright © 2017 The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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