Evaluation of Proposals To Alter the Structure of the Senior Executive Service

Gao ID: GGD-86-14 October 11, 1985

In response to a congressional request, GAO examined proposals to alter the Senior Executive Service (SES) and reviewed data concerning perceived problems with the program. SES covers executive branch employees who formerly were classified as General Schedule 16, 17, and 18 and political appointees at levels IV and V who do not require Senate confirmation.

GAO reviewed proposals for altering the SES structure relating to: (1) removing noncareer appointees from the program; (2) reducing the size of SES to include only the top executives; and (3) removing scientific and other technical specialists from SES. GAO noted that proponents for removing noncareer appointees maintained that: (1) increased tension between career and noncareer executives creates politicization; and (2) there is manipulation of the 10-percent limit on the number of noncareer appointees. The President's Private Sector Survey on Cost Control: (1) identified inadequate pay as a problem; (2) stated that SES included employees who were not true executives; and (3) suggested reducing SES membership from 7,000 to as low as 1,000. GAO also noted that some proposals suggested either removing scientists and engineers from SES or setting up a separate pay system for them because the current pay made it difficult to attract and retain them. GAO found insufficient data to support any of the proposals to change the size or the structure of SES and, therefore, made no recommendations on their adoption.

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