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Research on Executive Issues

The SEA Professional Development League conducts occasional research, typically via surveys, on issues affecting the career Senior Executive Service and utilizes the results to recommend to policymakers ways in which the SES could be strengthened to ensure that it continues to attract and retain the best talent. Study data have been utilized in testimony before Congress and provided to the Administration.

Recent research includes a 2009 survey of GS-14's and 15's regarding attractors and detractors to serving in the Senior Executive Service (SES). The report, entitled "Taking the Helm," was based on over 12,000 responses.

In 2006, SES members were surveyed regarding their perceptions of and experience with the then-new pay and performance management system. The report, which was based on responses from a representative group of Senior Executives, is titled, "Lost in Translation."

In prior years, PDL contracted with the Hay Group to examine the disparities in compensation and benefits of federal executives compared to their private-sector counterparts. PDL has also provided modest support for Ph.D. candidate research related to the career federal executive corps. But much more study is needed to address a wide range of policy issues affecting the development and management of the federal government's most critical human resource -- its career executive leadership.

In 1997, the SEA Professional Development League began a partnership with Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government to present a "Morning of Reflections" for the Presidential Distinguished Rank Award Executives. Although the Distinguished Rank Executives represent the pinnacle of achievement in the career executive service, they had never before been brought together to reflect on the personal characteristics which contributed to their success, on their experiences, or on their views of current challenges affecting government. Several of these sessions, which have continued annually since 1997, have been chronicled in two published monographs, "Reflections of Presidential Distinguished Rank Executives."  The first, published in 1999, chronicles the first two mornings; the topics are Ingredients of Executive Success and Grooming the Next Generation, and Career Political Relations.  The second, published in 2003, chronicles the third through the sixth sessions; the topics are True Leadership - What It Means, What It Requires, and What It Confronts; Transitions; Lessons Learned; and Problems and Prescriptions.

A third monograph titled "The New Normal?" was released in August, 2013.  The monograph detailed the 2013 Morning of Reflections discussions between Presidential Rank Awardees on the topics of sequestration and the budget process.

On May 1, 2014, SEA released a new report, "Deteriorating Pay for Performance Adversely Impacting Morale and Retention Within the Federal Career Senior Executives and Professionals Corps."  The report was based on a government-wide survey of SEA members' views of their agencies' FY 2013 SES and SP performance appraisal and outcomes (click here for the press release).

SEA released another report on April 1, 2015 titled "At Will Employment in the Career Senior Executive Service: Promoting Accountability or Threatening Federal Government Effectiveness and Senior Management Capability?"  The report is based on a survey of SEA members from August 20 to September 19, 2014 that was undertaken following the enactment of legislation with regard to career SES employees at the Department of Veterans Affairs, and in response to continued conversation in Congress about making the federal workforce generally, and the SES specifically, at will employees (click here for the press release).

"Recruiting Qualified Career Leadership: How Are We Doing?" was released in October 2015 following the surveying of nearly 500 SES and SP federal employees.  The results indicated a lack of support, coupled with the pervading negative political climate and “gotcha” mentality surrounding the federal workforce – particularly with regards to career SES and SP – is increasingly casting a dark cloud over SES and SP positions.

In March 2016, SEA released "Senior Executives at the Department of Veterans Affairs - A Survey of VA Leaders on the Proposal to Move Career Executives from Title 5 to Title 38." The report provided analysis of survey data and commentary regarding the proposal by Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald to move the agency’s entire career executive workforce from Title 5 to Title 38 of the United States Code, effectively making them at-will employees.


Business Hours

The Senior Executives Association is
available 8.5 hours a day during normal business hours.

Monday-Friday: 9am to 5:30pm
Weekend: Closed

Our Office Location

  • Senior Executives Association

    Washington DC, 20002

    77 K Street N.E., Suite 2600
    phone | (202) 971-3300

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