Uncle Sam’s PMS: What’s next?

If you want to know if you have been in government too long, take this simple test:

What do the initials ZBB, FEPCA, MBO, PPBS, NSPS and GPRA stand for? If you get more than three correct it means you have been in government service a long time, but not (necessarily) too long. If you got four right answers, you may have a problem.

If you got all of them right, and you also think that PMS stands for Performance Management System, it is possible, in fact almost certain, that you have been with Uncle Sam a tad too long. You might want to consider retiring to a nice, quiet warm spot until things get better. And try to get more sleep. With the right diet, over time, you may be able to return to society and function normally. You will soon be speaking full sentences without using terms like DoD, FEMA, SCOTUS or USPTO. You will stop asking strangers if they know what it’s like to be “RIFfed.”

Government workers are inundated with alphabet-soup agencies, programs and guidelines. Children who grow up in Washington are almost always bilingual. That is, they can speak federal or military jargon as well as standard American-style English.


Now we are in for some more initials as the government starts work on a new appraisal system for members of the SES, sorry, Senior Executives Association.

The SES was setup by the Carter administration as part of its Civil Service Reform Act. Among other things it converted thousands of people in the old SuperGrades (GS 16, 17 and 18) and put them in the new executive corps. Critics said it was an attempt to put top members of the career civil service on a much shorter leash. Backers argued that it would make them more responsive, mobile and give top-performers more rewards and recognition.

Last Friday the Washington Post broke the story of the proposed SES overhaul.

The idea is to get all agencies on the same page (via a 13 page evaluation form) when they are rating and evaluating their 7126 career SESers who help oversee the government’s 2.1 million employees. The CIA, FBI and Foreign Service and other agencies have their own SES systems.

SES staffers in agencies with currently approved systems are paid from $145,700 to $179,700 a year. Other SES personnel are paid $145,700 to $165,300. Maximum pay for federal workers at the top of the civil service pay ladder (GS 15, step 10) is $155,500 which is more, in some cases, than their SES bosses.

Carol Bonosaro, president of the Senior Executives Association, has been through a variety of civil service and SES “reforms”. She and the SEA board are still evaluating the new appraisal system. Tomorrow (Wednesday) at 10 a.m. she’ll be the guest on our Your Turn radio show. She’ll explain what is likely to mean — warts and all — to the career civil servants at the top. Listen if you can. If you have questions about your SES job, or you boss who is in the SES, email them to me at mcausey@federalnewsradio.com

Like many things in Washington, the SES is sort of like your 30-year-old or 60-year-old uncle in the basement. That is: A work in progress. Politicians — from several administrations — have been trying to get the SES right for years. So, is it this time for sure?


By Jack Moore

A proposed Indiana law would criminalize poor performances of the “Star Spangled Banner” — or at least impose a $25 fine on those who mangle the song or otherwise fail to adhere to specific “performance standards,” according to the Indianapolis Star.


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