Is SEA the Union for SES or Something More?

When I am talking with prospective SEA members, I usually ask them about their general impression of SEA. Inevitably, they say that SEA is “the union” for SES.

When I am talking with prospective SEA members, I usually ask them about their general impression of SEA. Inevitably, they say that SEA is “the union” for SES.

For some that is a major reason to join SEA, but for others it’s a turnoff. I’ve had some SES tell me they would never join an organization that does advocacy or lobbying…as if advocacy and lobbying is a bad thing.   This is puzzling because whether they realize it or not, SEA is the only organization in the world that cares a whit about the SES corps and rises to the defense of the SES whenever bad or stupid things are done to the SES corps.

Remember the STOCK Act? Or attempts to make it easier to fire SES? Or efforts to strip SES of some benefits? SEA was in the trenches fighting these wars and, even more importantly, we were working behind the scenes to stop even more heinous initiatives in their tracks before they could see the light of day. 

This advocacy role has its roots in the 1978 Civil Service Reform Act (CSRA), which created the SES but resulted in a tradeoff. SES were given greater authority and pay/benefits, but in return some protections previously given to “supergrade” GS-16/18’s were taken away. Most importantly, the Civil Service Commission was abolished and replaced by OPM and the Merit Systems Protection Board, which have general oversight of the civil service, but are more focused on the GS than the SES.

It quickly became apparent to the founders of SEA that no one placed the interests of SES first, so they created SEA in 1980 as the “voice of the senior executive service.” Currently, we work very closely with OMB, OPM, Congress and other key stakeholders to ensure that bad things don’t happen and that we are out front on policy issues that affect the SES corps.

But it would be a serious mistake to assume that SEA is solely an advocacy organization. Professional associations have two fundamental responsibilities: defend the profession, and build the profession.

So what is the profession that SEA is defending and building? It’s the leadership profession in the Federal government which, trust me, no one else is paying attention to with the seriousness and intentionality that we are now devoting. SEA’s Strategic Direction is designed to both defend and build the Federal government’s leadership profession in the following ways.

First, we retain our traditional advocacy role, but strengthen that role by engaging with our members to inform our policy and legislative agenda. We do that through the six Communities of Change and through member surveys and requests for information. This is an inversion of SEA’s original mission of being the “voice of the SES”. Instead, SES are the voice of SEA.

Second, we are developing a wide range of programs that will build the leadership profession and contribute to a dedicated leadership pipeline in the Federal government. We’re creating a leadership certification program, we’re developing leadership training programs, and we’re reaching out to a wide variety of stakeholders to bring them into this effort.

This is the new SEA, an SEA that is dedicated to building and defending the leadership profession in the Federal government. And, the ultimate goal? We intend to restore the notion that there is nobility in public service and that Federal government leaders are delivering maximum value to taxpayers.

As a member of SEA, you are a part of this journey and we look forward to working with you to achieve these goals.



Tags: Message from Your SEA President, Bill Valdez

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