IPAs - Potential "Win-Win" Executive Development Opportunities
OPM's regulations in 5 CFR Part 412 state that each agency must establish a program or programs for the continuing development of its Senior Executives that includes preparation, implementation and regular updating of an Executive Development Plan (EDP) for each SES. OPM states EDPs should be geared to helping meet organizational needs for leadership and management while enhancing executives' competencies and performance. The regulations also cite the need for executives, through their EDPs, to develop broader perspectives both within and outside their agencies and that EDPs may feature assignments outside the federal government as means of boosting leadership development.
From time to time our members inquire about whether and how they might go about broadening their management and leadership capabilities. Some ask about potential job rotations, details within or outside their agencies, or specialized training courses or seminars. Some have also inquired about the possibility of serving on Intergovernmental Personnel Act, or IPA, assignments. This month's article will focus on IPA assignments for SES employees in terms of eligibility, type and length of assignments, and the status of executives while they are serving in the assignments and afterwards.
Purpose: IPAs are intended to facilitate cooperation between the federal Government and non-federal entities through the temporary assignment of skilled personnel. These assignments allow civilian employees of federal agencies to serve with eligible non-federal organizations for a limited period without loss of employee rights and benefits. Employees of state and local governments and other eligible organizations may likewise serve in federal agencies for similar periods. IPA assignments may be used to achieve objectives such as:
• Strengthening the management capabilities of Federal agencies, State, local and Indian tribal governments, and other eligible organizations;
• Assisting the transfer and use of new technologies and approaches to solving governmental problems; and
• Providing program and developmental experience which will enhance the assignee's performance in his or her regular job.
Written Agreement: IPA assignments must be established via a written agreement and be made for purposes which the federal agency head, or his/her designee, determines are of mutual benefit to the agency and to the non-federal organization, including for sound public policy purposes that further the goals of the participating organizations. The written agreement will specify the role and responsibilities of the employee on assignment as well as the obligations of the lending and receiving organizations.
Eligibility: Career SES appointees (and career appointees in SL/ST and GS positions) are eligible for temporary IPA assignments to state, local and Indian tribal governments, colleges and universities, federally-funded R&D centers and other eligible institutions (SEA itself has hosted IPA assignees over the years). At one time OPM "certified" organizations as being approved to receive IPA assignees, but in 1997 agencies were given to authority themselves make these determinations within the scope of the revised Intergovernmental Personnel Act (5 USC sections 3371 through 3375 and 5 CFR Part 334).
Length of Assignment: Assignments on a full time, part time or intermittent basis may be made for up to 2 years and extended for another 2 years with agency head approval.
Employee Status and Obligations: Federal IPA assignees are typically detailed from their positions to the IPA eligible organization and continue to encumber their position of record and remain agency employees. Individuals who are granted IPAs must agree in writing to serve with the federal government upon completion of their assignment for a period equal to the length of the IPA. At the end of an assignment, an SES employee, for example, will return to the position he or she occupied before the IPA, or may be reassigned to another SES position.
Compensation and Benefits: The written agreement specifies whether the receiving or lending organization will compensate the assignee (or a combination of both under a cost sharing agreement). SES employees on detail to an IPA organization will: receive SES pay; earn and be charged for leave (while maintaining their 720 annual leave carry over limit); be evaluated under their agency SES performance appraisal system (with input from the IPA organization); and maintain their federal retirement and insurance coverage.
Bottom Line: Although the final decision to enter into an IPA arrangement rests with the agency head and his or her counterpart in the non-federal organization, SES employees interested in broadening their outside experience and exposure should, in my view, take the initiative and identify outside organizations that interact with and/or have a high degree of relevancy with their agencies' key mission and program objectives. In selling the idea of an IPA, it is very important for career executives to point to a potential "win-win" situation that benefits the agency, the outside organization and the executive in terms of his or her professional development and skill sets.
Additional information and guidance on IPA assignments may be found at http://www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/hiring-authorities/intergovernment-personnel-act