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Report: Create government-wide pipeline to replenish SES

Jul. 22, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
By SEAN REILLY   |   Comments
Government's Leadership Corps
Senior Executives Association President Carol Bonosaro said cultivating fresh talent is 'critical' for SES. (Staff file photo)

With almost two-thirds of Senior Executive Service members eligible to retire in the next five years, the government should come up with a comprehensive strategy for cultivating replacements for the elite leadership corps, a new report says.

While most agencies have pieces of such a strategy in place, they often don’t mesh those pieces into a cohesive whole, according to the report by the Partnership for Public Service and consultant McKinsey and Co. The report is scheduled for official release Tuesday morning.

Among other steps, the authors recommend:

■Giving the Office of Management and Budget the lead for developing an “SES pipeline.” In collaboration with OMB, the Office of Personnel Management could develop a central resume bank of current and aspiring SES members and help agencies share information on what works.

■Holding senior agency leaders accountable for leadership development and succession planning.

■Doing more to open SES pipelines to contenders outside of individual agencies, as well as people who aren’t federal employees.

To give the latter group a taste of federal service, agencies should also pursue partnerships and short-term exchanges with businesses, academia and state and local governments, the report adds.

As of last September, there were about 7,100 career SES members, more than half of whom could retire in three years and 63 percent in five years, according to OPM figures. Already, the pace of departures is picking up. About 8 percent of SES members retired last year, up from a little more than 6 percent in 2009.

At the Senior Executives Association, which represents career SES members, President Carol Bonosaro agreed that cultivating fresh talent is “critical,” but cautioned that any concerted effort needs to address factors that are currently leading qualified candidates to avoid the SES. Otherwise, “the pipeline is unlikely to produce the quality needed in the executive corps,” Bonosaro said in an email and follow-up interview Monday after reviewing the report.

Central responsibility for any such pipeline should rest with OPM, not OMB, Bonosaro added. Over time, OMB has become more “politically driven,” she said, while the SES requires a “long-term institutional view that is less affected by the current situation.”

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