ENGLISH FOR CONGRESS POSITION PAPER (Revised April 2014)
Civil Service Reform Act of 1976 abolished the GS-16, GS-17, and
GS-18 super-grades and replaced them with five levels of Senior
Executive Service (SES) political appointees that could be
replaced at will because they were considered to be professional
managers, not subject to the job protections and restrictions of
the civil service. The rationale for establishing the SES
program was to make Federal agency managers more responsive to
the direction and mandates of their political
overseers. In that respect, the SES has far exceeded
the expectations of the framers of the program, but only at the
hidden cost of truncating the promotion opportunities for career
civil servants with the attendant loss of institutional memory
and management competence which maintains coherence and internal
stability in the day-to-day operation of Federal agencies and
conduct of their programs.
These management failures are very troubling in those
agencies responsible for oversight of industries and programs
directly affecting public health and safety.
The history of the Federal civil service since the establishment of the SES has been characterized by continuing failures of government to protect the public safety. The airline crash in Florida a number of years ago was directly attributable to the FAA's management failure to implement the National Transportation Safety Board's recommendation to install fire suppression systems in the cargo compartments of passenger aircraft. The 2011 crash of a contractor operated commuter airliner near Buffalo indicates that FAA oversight failures are still causing loss of life. The Katrina disaster fiasco on the Gulf coast revealed to the entire world the collective incompetence of all the government agencies involved, but most seriously those of the Federal government. Recent revelations of continuing Federal oversight failures in other industries are very troubling. The ongoing problems of enacting the Affordable Health Care Act are a very serious failure which illustrates the diminished Federal government's institutional capability to competently implement very and a complicated extremely important program vital to the well being of tens of millions US citizens.
Congress should establish an independent commission of unbiased
experienced professional managers and management experts to
fully investigate and evaluate the history and efficacy of the
Senior Executive Service. It must prepare a comprehensive
report of its findings and recommendations for future
Congressional attention. Specifically, the
Commission should investigate whether the current practice of
bringing in outside management with little or no management
experience at the highest levels of Federal agencies is
advisable given the serious health and safety enforcement
failures of the past 30 years of political appointments to
senior management levels of Federal agencies.
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