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September 2020 Policy Update

SEA’s Platform for Revitalizing the Federal Government’s Capacity


On September 1st, following the party nominating conventions, SEA sent letters to the campaigns of President Trump and Vice President Biden to transmit the association’s recommendations for revitalizing the federal government’s capacity and ensuring the civil service can thrive.

Read letter to Trump campaign | Read letter to Biden campaign

SEA’s recommendations fall into five broad categories and which will require a range, including legislative, regulatory, institutional and cultural changes, to be brought about. These areas will animate the association’s policy agenda in the years to come.

1. End the War on Expertise and Competence in Public Service

Non-competitive appointment of unqualified and unprepared individuals into the Executive Branch as political appointees threatens the effectiveness of federal agency operations, responsible stewardship of taxpayer funds, and ultimately diminishes Presidential control over the Executive Branch.

2. Revitalize the Merit System

For 137 years, the policy of the United States government has been to hire career civil servants on the basis of merit. The merit system is in desperate need of attention, with less than 1/3 federal career appointments being made through a competitive hiring process according to a recent OPM study. OPM has no authority nor oversight over the majority of federal personnel systems. The Merit System Protection Board (MSPB) has lacked a quorum for three years.

3. Create a National Culture of Service & Expand Service Opportunities

Union-initiated lawsuits annihilated the government’s young talent pipeline when the Federal Career Internship Program (FCIP) was shut down in 2010. The hiring programs that have replaced the viable internship program have largely been failures, and the government workforce under age 30 is now a paltry 6%. The government must repair its talent pipeline.

4. Invest in the Capability of the Federal Workforce

The federal government faces significant risks of systematic and mission failure due to lack of attention to cultivating its workforce over the past several decades. The governance of federal human capital management needs a reboot. Reimagined attention to the workforce can drive improvements to management quality.

5. Overhaul the Federal Budget

During the modern budget era, Congress has only been able to fully fund the government on-time with the rules it sets for itself 4 times, and has shut down the government 4 times in the past decade. Constant Continuing Resolutions and the inability to address issues by portfolio dramatically limit the effectiveness of taxpayer dollars.

In the 40 years of SEA’s history, the association has always advocated for its core members, the Senior Executive Service and equivalent executives. But the association has also sought policies to strengthen the federal workforce and to strengthen good government. The work of revitalizing the capacity of the federal workforce and the government overall is complex, interconnected, difficult, but critical for the nation. This work can also only be effectively carried out through engagement with SEA members.