- NEWS & EVENTS
|Presidents 2020 September Action Column|
SEA’s 40th ANNIVERSARY
By Bob Corsi, Interim President
“An organization like SEA can only be destroyed by the neglect of people it represents”
From SEA’s First President, Jerry Shaw, 1980-82
Your SEA is 40 years young this Summer! We all need to take some time to reflect on those past 40 years and think of what would not have happened had it not been for SEA. The vision of our founders is as relevant today as it was back in 1980.
The Association was founded one year after the Senior Executive Service "SES" was established in 1979, following its creation in the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978 as part of a major restructuring of the federal service. Federal executives who were under the old system (GS-16, 17 and 18 "super-grade" employees) were not obliged to enter the SES and could stay in their super-grade positions with no adverse consequences. However, 95 percent voluntarily converted into the SES because of their active recruitment by the Chairman of the Civil Service Commission and OPM, as well as by the promise of higher pay and bonuses to at least 50 percent of the SES.
The Act promised a pay raise after years of pay compression, six different pay and work levels of the SES (I-VI), and increasing pay when one went up the levels. And best of all were the promises of performance bonuses and Presidential Rank awards which promised awards to some SESs each year of 25% for Meritorious Awards, and 40% for Distinguished Awards, as well as incentive awards up to 30% would be paid out to at least 50% of all SESers each year. All who joined the SES had to do so by June 30, 1979. Bonuses were to be paid out after the first year of the program, which ended July 1, 1980. However, following the bonus pay-outs, a member of Congress took the floor, and denounced the lavish payments to bureaucrats. Subsequently, a law was passed the following year reversing most of those gains and put significantly lower limits on both the number of bonuses that could be granted by any agency, and the size of the payouts. At the same time, ES-3, 4, 5, and 6 were all earning the same base pay at the time.
Consequently, many SESers felt frustrated, angry, and betrayed. The IRS District Director in Baltimore, met with six other SESers, later to be known as the founding seven of SEA. The group eventually met with the Chairman of the Civil Service Commission to discuss the Administration's future goals to repair their broken promises which had induced executives to enter the SES. Unfortunately, the meeting did not go as the founding seven expected. It was made clear to them that the Administration had no plan to remedy the executives' situation. The only solution the Chairman suggested was for Senior Executives to start their own organization and lobby Congress on their own behalf. That was the beginning of SEA…born because of the broken promises and betrayal by both the Administration and the Congress.
The founding seven began recruiting as many SESers as they could, including the Deputy Commissioner of the IRS. One of the seven, Jerry Shaw, took a six-month leave of absence from IRS to act as full-time president of SEA and eventually resigned from IRS in order to lead the Association, which grew to 600 members within four months. We owe a great deal to those founding seven!
Your SEA spent its early years preparing position papers and lobbying key Congressional members who later became advocates to right the wrong that was done to the SES. We could clearly write a dissertation on SEA’s accomplishments over the past 40 years, but it is important to take some time to reflect not only on those actions that may be well known but also address those huge successes that were below everyone’s radar. Looking back over those 40 years there was never a time where SEA was not engaged with an Administration, Congress, the public sector, and the private sector in the pursuit of good government to benefit all federal employees. Early on, faced with the reversal of promises made just one year after the passage of the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978, the new SEA aggressively worked with the Hill to re-instate the promises made to all of the new SESs who converted from the super-grades. During those early years, SEA built the credibility and stature where regardless of political party in power their counsel was sought and proved pivotal in key decisions concerning the Federal work force
Over the years, SEA has had a profound impact on the entire Federal work force. While the following summary is extensive, it still only touches on some of those major legislative successes. For those with extensive time in the work force at the senior civilian level, many of these will clearly resonate. For those newer to the executive-level, I would ask that you take any opportunity to share these accomplishments with executive-level members who may not be currently members of SEA.
The following are just a sampling of the recent legislative successes that SEA has achieved:
SEA successfully fought to provide SL/STs with the same benefits enjoyed by members of the SES. These included:
The following past accomplishments not only highlight the actions taken to reverse those early-on Congressional actions after the SES was formed, but contain several of those actions that had a great influence on preserving consistency across the SES and providing valuable incremental changes to benefits and protections:
As I stated earlier, the above are some of the highlights from the past 40 years. I would ask all of us to reflect on what the situation would be today if we did not have an SEA and the dedication of our founding seven. SEA can only thrive with the dedication of its members and the willingness of new SESs and civilian-equivalents to embrace the importance of supporting all of SEA initiatives through their membership. The quote I used early on from SEA’s first President needs to resonate with every active SES and civilian-equivalent because it is as relevant today as it was in 1980: “An organization like SEA can only be destroyed by the neglect of people it represents”
As always, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org with your suggestions or thoughts.