Latest ACTION Newsletter

March 2019 ACTION Column

Public Service Leadership as a Profession will be a flagship initiative for SEA in 2019 and the years to come.

A Framework to begin implementing SEA’s vision of Public Service Leadership as a Profession has been completed by the SEA Human Capital Leadership Community of Change.   The Framework:

  1. Defines what a Federal Public Service Leader is.
  2. Identifies the unique and vital services provided by Federal Public Service Leaders.
  3. Explores the leadership competencies, attributes and experiences required to be a Federal Public Service Leader.
  4. Identifies the leadership development pathways for a Federal Public Service Leader.

This is an ambitious undertaking that we believe will transform how we develop leaders in the Federal government and create a profession that is self-policing and results in 21st Century leaders prepared for the monumental challenges we know we will face as a Nation.

The origins of the initiative come from two sources.                        

First, SEA, in partnership with Deloitte, conducted a State of Senior Career Leadership Survey in 2017 that found that most SES do not believe their agencies are doing enough to cultivate current leaders and do not have leadership pipeline programs in place.  This finding cut across all agencies and motivated SEA’s leadership to develop solutions to the problem.

Second, it has been obvious to many observers that the concept of leadership in the Federal government has not evolved since the passage of the 1978 Civil Service Reform Act created the SES Corps.  The Executive Core Qualifications (ECQs) are out of date and SES are often silo’ed within their agencies in their technical specialties and are not given opportunities to contribute their leadership capabilities for the national good. In addition, it is clear that leaders are present at all levels of government, whether you are a GS-12 or an SES…leadership is a calling and a profession that should be cultivated.

These two factors – a lack of leadership development opportunities and a lack of clarity about what it means to be a leader in the Federal government – spurred SEA into action.  If you would like to join us to fully develop the Framework, please do not hesitate to reach out to me at Bill.Valdez@SeniorExecs.org.  

This is a huge undertaking and will take years to fully implement, but now is the time for action.

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Update on SEA’s Legislative and Policy Activities

With the government shutdown now in the rearview mirror – at least until the end of September – Congress is ramping into full gear.  SEA is staying busy ensuring your voice is heard and felt on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue. The following is a roundup of the issues we’re focusing on and working to advance.

  • MSPB
    • Restoring a quorum and Senate-confirmed leadership to the Board is among our top priorities. Without a Board our members have lost the primary forum for enforcing their employment rights. SEA rallied federal management associations, whistleblower advocates, good government groups, and civil society groups to craft and support various proposals to address the crisis, but were undermined by AFGE and Senate inaction. Our work on this issue will not end.
    • Working to secure a bipartisan MSPB reauthorization.
  • Advancing our SES joint policy agenda, in collaboration with the Partnership for Public Service and the Volcker Alliance.
  • Advancing the conversation on the need for comprehensive civil service reform, while recognizing large, long term changes will be difficult to enact in a divided Congress. Nonetheless, based on House and Senate meetings in recent weeks, there is hope for gaining traction on several of our focus areas, including:
    • Modernizing and streamlining federal hiring laws
    • Advancing paid paternal leave proposals for government
    • Establishing dual promotion tracks in the GS for technical employees and leaders/management
    • Authorizing and funding more robust employee training and leader development in agencies, ensuring the success of reskilling efforts to help government employees keep up with changes in the future of work
    • Restoring viable internship and apprenticeship programs in government
    • Reforming the security clearance and suitability determination processes
    • Eliminating unnecessary rules, regulations, and red-tape that make leading in government more difficult without adding value
    • Fixing a provision in the tax reform law that hits relocating federal employees and new hires who travel to a new duty station with significant taxes
    • Repealing the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) and Government Pension Offset (GPO)
  • Fighting attempts by the Administration to reduce federal employee pay and benefits, including for retired federal employees. We expect similar proposals from recent years to be included in the President’s budget and will join federal employee organizations to defeat these proposals again.

SEA cannot do this work alone. As constituents, you have a constitutional right to engage your elected representatives. Please let us know if you would like help setting up a meeting or to have SEA’s talking points on a specific issue.  I also encourage members to sign up for the SEA Policy Task Force by emailing me at Jason.Briefel@seniorexecs.org to express interest. 

What the SEA Policy Task Force does:

Works with the SEA Board Policy Committee, SEA President, and SEA Executive Director to determine the issue areas (legislative and administrative) that SEA should focus on. Topics that may be considered by the task force include but are not limited to: talent management, SEA reform, civil service modernization, human capital policies, hiring reform, ECQs and assessments, organizational and individual performance management, etc.

The task force will provide insight and input on policy proposals that SEA is building, and provide feedback on policy proposals SEA is reviewing. Participants will be invited to engage in meetings with policymakers at their discretion. This task force will convene primarily via phone and email, with infrequent in-person meetings. The members of this task force serve as advisors and subject matter experts, providing personal input, but not representing an agency or job position.

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February 2019 Action Column

After the Shutdown

With mere days until the current Continuing Resolution funding many federal agencies expires, Washington once again stands at the edge of another partial government shutdown.

Yet there appears to be little appetite from lawmakers in either party for a recreation of the shutdown experience, and the White House is providing the bipartisan group of Senators and Representatives negotiating a border security and government funding package the room they need to find consensus.

Stability and clarity would be welcome respites for federal leaders attempting to keep a steady hand on the rudder of their organizations amidst the recent turmoil. With several proposals on the table in Congress to eliminate shutdowns completely, hopefully this was the last shutdown.

During the 35-day partial government shutdown, many Americans discovered the critical services and functions the government performs within our society that they had previously taken for granted.  Even more important, federal “bureaucrats” were humanized and made real by the economic hardship imposed on hundreds of thousands of patriots who worked for their country for over a month without pay.

We were encouraged that the House approved a 2.6% pay raise for civilian federal employees, and feel confident about the prospects that the 1.9% raise previously agreed to will be approved, as a minimum.

The government’s reputation as a stable and attractive employer was significantly damaged by the three shutdowns of 2018, and immediate work is necessary to reverse course. 

Federal hiring and talent acquisition policies are areas ripe for modernization to ensure that the government can compete for the talent it needs in a robust economy. SEA will be prioritizing legislative efforts to modernize and streamline federal hiring laws, restoring viable and robust internship and apprentice programs within the federal government, reforming the security clearance process, fixing a provision in the tax reform law that hits relocating federal employees and new hires who travel to a new duty station with significant taxes, while also pushing back against expected proposals in the President’s forthcoming budget to slash federal pay and benefits. 

We will build on the positive attention for the workforce and the government by focusing on realistic issues that have potential for passage in a divided Congress, while continuing to build the case for the need for comprehensive civil service modernization.

SEA cannot do this work alone. I encourage you to sign up for the SEA Policy Task Force by emailing me at briefel@seniorexecs.org to express your interest. 

What the SEA Policy Task Force does:

Works with the SEA Board Policy Committee, SEA President and SEA Executive Director to determine the issue areas (legislative and administrative) that SEA should focus on. Topics that may be considered by the task force include but are not limited to: talent management, SEA reform, civil service modernization, human capital policies, hiring reform, ECQs and assessments, organizational and individual performance management, etc.

The task force will review and provide insight and input on policy proposals that SEA is building, and provide feedback on policy proposals SEA is reviewing. Participants will be invited to engage in meetings with policymakers at their discretion. This task force will convene primarily via phone and email, with infrequent in-person meetings. The members of this task force serve as advisors and subject matter experts, providing personal input (not representing an agency or job position).

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February 2019 ACTION Column

Now that a temporary solution to the partial government shutdown has been signed into law, it’s time to find a permanent solution to the governance conditions that led to this disastrous episode that hurt not just hundreds of thousands of federal workers, but the entire country.

Playing budgetary roulette with essential governmental functions has dispelled the myth that slash and burn tactics aimed at reducing the size and scope of government are a useful governance mechanism.  If there is one silver lining to the past 5 weeks, it’s that the American public – and our political leaders – have been forcefully reminded that there is a rationale (and constituency) for almost every government program.  All Americans now understand the essential work the federal government does – work that no one else can do.

My hope is that the shutdown impacts will put a spotlight on the importance of government programs and the dedicated public servants who administer them and will result in two major outcomes:  first, it will begin to restore the public’s confidence in its government, which by every poll is at historic lows; and, second, it will spur our political leaders to undertake reforms that ensure that government shutdowns and their pernicious cousins, Continuing Resolutions, are no longer the norm when it comes to governance in Washington, D.C.

It’s highly discouraging that budgetary brinksmanship in Washington has so often replaced compromise and statesmanship.  The cost of this was laid bare during the recent partial shutdown – which resulted in concerns about air safety, FBI agent’s inability to maintain confidential relationships, the Coast Guard going unpaid, subsidized housing eviction notices, a freeze in USDA loans and federal subsidies for farmers and ranchers…the list goes on and on.  Sadly, those situations were the highly visible and painful symptoms of a much larger problem.

The Senior Executives Association in January published a devastating study that documented the steady erosion of the federal government’s ability to respond to multiple and unanticipated crises.  The cause?  Lack of investment or innovation in our civil service.   We want an agile government, but we are operating under mid-20th Century rules. Over the past 20 years, the civil service workforce has eroded to the point that it is stretched too thin.  This fragile/brittle infrastructure, coupled with a pervasive toxic political environment, produces crises such as our recent partial government shutdown.

I it is time to end these high-stakes games and put the American people first.  SEA is calling on the Congress and the Administration to put aside their differences and come to the table to find permanent, sustainable solutions that will lead to a fully functional, reliable government.  Among ideas they should consider are:

  • Automatic renewal of funding for all aspects of government in the event of a funding lapse.
  • Restoration of a rational budget process that produces annual appropriations bills as the norm and not the exception.
  • Rebuilding the trust of our civil servants, who have faced many challenges due to political infighting over the past two decades. It is essential to the functioning of our government that we have a highly motivated and dedicated workforce that is insulated from political battles.

If we do these things, I believe our Nation will have the government it deserves. 

Underpinning that government will be a civil service corps that serves the American public with skill, dedication and a sense of public service that inspires confidence in our government’s ability to fulfill the promise of the preamble to the Constitution:  establish justice; ensure domestic tranquility; provide for the common defense; promote the general welfare; and secure the blessings of liberty for all of our citizens.

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SEA's 2019 Legislative and Policy Agenda

SEA’s 2019 Legislative and Policy Agenda

With the government shutdown now in its fourth week, SEA’s efforts are focused on reopening the federal government and ensuring furloughed federal employees are made whole with back pay.

We are communicating with lawmakers, the Administration, and the public the damaging effects any lapse of appropriations and shutdown has on morale, federal recruitment and retention issues, and ultimately the ability of federal employees and agencies to deliver their missions and services for the public.

We’ve joined letters to the Hill and White House along with our colleagues in the Federal-Postal Coalition and will continue advocating to bring federal employees back to work and to open the government.

In a research report released this month that SEA helped develop, Are Declines in US Federal Workforce Capabilities Putting Our Government at Risk of Failing, makes the strong case that continued neglect of the government workforce, across all three branches of government and especially in the Executive Branch, threatens to undermine the resilience of our institutions and ultimately the government’s ability to respond.  

Consequently, SEA will continue our efforts to educate and advocate in Congress on the needs for civil service, and indeed government-wide, modernization efforts, necessary to ensure the sustainment of our democratic institutions, consistent with the 10 Considerations for civil service modernization that SEA developed over 2018 through dialogue with a wide range of organizations.

Our efforts to strengthen senior career leadership, including the SES and the executive talent pipeline, will also continue as we pursue reforms consistent with those laid out in our Joint SES Policy Agenda developed in concert with the Partnership for Public Service and the Volcker Alliance.

Despite a divided Congress, we believe forward momentum and success can be achieved on specific elements of these policy agendas; for example, there is wide and bipartisan agreement that the hiring process and too many hiring authorities are a problem for the government. There are focused proposals to address this issue, and we can make progress while pursuing broader and more long-term updates to the civil service.

SEA cannot do this work alone. I encourage you to sign up for the SEA Policy Task Force by emailing me at briefel@seniorexecs.org to express your interest. 

What the SEA Policy Task Force does:

Works with the SEA Board Policy Committee, SEA President and SEA Executive Director to determine the issue areas (legislative and administrative) that SEA should focus on. Topics that may be considered by the task force include but are not limited to: talent management, SEA reform, civil service modernization, human capital policies, hiring reform, ECQs and assessments, organizational and individual performance management, etc.

The task force will review and provide insight and input on policy proposals that SEA is building, and provide feedback on policy proposals SEA is reviewing. Participants will be invited to engage in meetings with policymakers at their discretion. This task force will convene primarily via phone and email, with infrequent in-person meetings. The members of this task force serve as advisors and subject matter experts, providing personal input (not representing an agency or job position).

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January 2019 ACTION Column

As we launch into 2019, SEA is looking to the future…the future of leadership in the Federal government, a future that will modernize the civil service, a future where our Nation’s citizens recognize the important role that government plays in their lives, and a future where public service is once again viewed as a noble calling.

This is an ambitious agenda, but our current state of national affairs requires nothing less.  In 2018, SEA built many new coalitions and launched a number of new initiatives that will set the foundation for our work in 2019.   Among those initiatives are:

Creating the Public Service Leadership as a Profession Framework:  SEA’s Human Capital Leadership Community of Change created a Framework that will guide the implementation in 2019 of SEA’s Public Service Leadership as a Profession initiative.  We believe there is increasing recognition across the country of the lack of leadership that is focused on restoring a public service ethic.  SEA in 2019 will lead the effort to fill this vacuum in leadership with an ultimate goal of restoring public confidence in government’s ability to deliver optimal mission value.  A long-time SEA Member recently sent me the following observation that is related to this effort:

“Doris Kearns Goodwin’s new bestselling book, ‘Leadership,’ as well as other similar books and events make the point that the American public recognizes this deficiency in leadership and longs for a solution.  Demonstrating and articulating what leadership within the federal government means and the benefits career executive leadership provides to the American public might help to fill the present leadership void in the minds of many Americans.”

 

Developing the “10 Considerations for Civil Service Modernization”:  SEA’s Governance Innovation Community of Change, in partnership with the Hoover Institution, hosted three Civil Service Modernization Dialogues in 2018 with a diverse group of good government groups, including the National Academy of Public Administration, Volcker Alliance, Federalist Society, Heritage Foundation and the Partnership for Public Service.  These Dialogues resulted in the 10 Considerations, which fall into three general categories:

  • Streamlining processes, providing sufficient resources, and promoting a cultural shift that enhances accountability in the workforce, including training of supervisors to incentivize high performers and ensuring that poor performance is appropriately addressed.
  • Simplifying administrative and regulatory processes that hinder the effective and efficient functioning of government, for example hiring and procurement processes.
  • Reskilling/retraining the civil service workforce to ensure that civil servants have the tools and knowledge they require to effectively deliver mission results to the American taxpayer.

Our goal in 2019 is to work with Congress, the Administration and other key stakeholders to implement these initiatives and similar ones through policy and legislation changes.  If you would like to join us in this effort, drop me a line at Bill.Valdez@SeniorExecs.org.

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Government needs to change to deal with populism — here’s how

Government needs to change to deal with populism — here’s how

We’re living in a populist moment. But with so much energy devoted to the question of how politics is — or isn’t — addressing this challenge, less attention has been paid to how federal leaders should take advantage of their position to help the civil service adapt.

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SEA Continues to Thrive with Two Big Events this Month

SEA Continues to Thrive with Two Big Events this Month

I hope you are as excited about the upcoming SEA Annual Meeting on December 12th and the SEA Presidential Rank Awards Leadership Summit on December 13th as I am!   

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The Incredibles: How to Serve the Public in the Information Age

The Incredibles: How to Serve the Public in the Information Age

If you haven’t seen it, The Incredibles 2 takes place where superheroes have been made illegal for public safety reasons, with the government claiming that the good superheroes do is outweighed by the harm their well-intentioned actions cause and the concern that regular citizens don’t feel they’re in control.  However, a media mogul offers to rehabilitate the heroes.  He asks them, what’s the real source of their problem?  Not the law, he explains, but the perception of reality that led to the law.  Because the average person only sees one side of the story—the bad news that gets onto the news and the damage their heroism causes, they don’t support the work these heroes do.  Because they see what others show to them, like politicians and media organizations with their own story to tell, they adopt the worldview of that viewpoint.

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Our Current Initiatives

Our Current Initiatives

At the top of my mind as we head into November are three major initiatives with which SEA is involved.

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The 40th Anniversary of the Civil Service Reform Act

The 40th Anniversary of the Civil Service Reform Act

On October 13th, 1978, the Civil Service Reform Act was signed into law, marking the first major changes to the American civil service system since the Pendleton Act of 1883. The CSRA brought about sweeping changes to the federal government and workforce. Among its effects were the creation of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM), the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB), the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA), the Office of Special Counsel (OSC), and the Senior Executive Service (SES).

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Partnering to Strengthen the SES

Partnering to Strengthen the SES

If there is one thing that organizations like the Senior Executives Association, the Volcker Alliance, and the Partnership for Public Service can agree upon is that we need to develop a new Agenda to strengthen the Senior Executive Service (SES).

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Root & Stem Civil Service Modernization

Root & Stem Civil Service Modernization

As everyone from Congress to the White House to agencies contemplates reform, reorganizations, budgets, and modernizing the civil service, SEA is leading efforts to take a look - from a member perspective - at the root causes for many challenges endemic in the system today.

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Seeking SEA Board Member Candidates

Seeking SEA Board Member Candidates

The SEA Nominating Committee is seeking members in good-standing to serve as candidates for election to the association's Board of Directors.

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Coast Guard Seeks Deputy Assistant Commandant for Capability

Coast Guard Seeks Deputy Assistant Commandant for Capability

Deputy Assistant Commandant for Capability, ES-0340

Department of Homeland Security

U.S. Coast Guard

Open & Closing Dates: 07/10/2018 to 08/09/2018

Salary: $126,148 to $189,00 per year

Location: Washington, D.C.

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Making the DEAN's List -- Calling All PRA Winners!

Making the DEAN's List -- Calling All PRA Winners!

Every organization, large or small, needs to learn from its past successes and failures. What better way to learn than from its most celebrated leaders? Federal departments and agencies can always learn from our Presidential Rank Award winners.

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SEA Starts Dialogue, Provides Guidance to Aspiring Senior Leaders

SEA Starts Dialogue, Provides Guidance to Aspiring Senior Leaders

On May 22nd, SEA held the first of its Quarterly Leadership Dialogues for aspiring senior leaders. As part of a new initiative to provide career development assistance to Participant Members and others in the leadership pipeline, SEA has partnered with Young Government Leaders (YGL) and Treasury Executive Institute (TEI) to hold a series of informal discussions each quarter.

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Wanted: Thoughtful Ideas & Spirited Debate

Wanted: Thoughtful Ideas & Spirited Debate

Last month the Administration released its long-awaited agency reorganization plans and proposals.

Predictably, prior to any substantive public debate many partisans and stakeholders quickly fled to their respective corners and talking points. As was on display during a June 27 hearing of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on the reorganization plans, Republicans generally lauded the Administration for thinking big and bold whereas Democrats generally decried the plans as half-baked notions on how to destroy the government and the civil service all at once.

Surely, reality must fall somewhere in the middle; and that is the space SEA intends to occupy. Our nation’s capital should be a crucible of ideas and vigorous debate consistent with the vision laid out by our Founding Fathers.

We at SEA have ideas, and questions, and we’re not shy about sharing them.

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Retirement: What’s Your Plan?

Retirement: What’s Your Plan?

With increased longevity and medical advancements, many retirees are concerned about the possibility of outliving their savings. And when it comes to retirement, you want to enjoy it―and that means you want to be prepared. There are many considerations to think about in retirement besides your living expenses, such as where you live, family support, your health, and the rising costs of care. That’s why it’s so important to plan now for any long term care you may need.

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Ignorance is Expensive

Ignorance is Expensive

As this new year begins, we’d like to take a moment to reflect on the past as far too many of you still think you are immune to allegations of wrongdoing, regardless of how many times we reinforce the need to have professional liability insurance. Unfortunately, ignorance is expensive. 

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