SES: Sacrificial lambs or sacred cows?

Before political correctness took hold, the definition of “mixed emotions” was a man watching his brand new Cadillac hurtle off a cliff with his mother-in-law at the steering wheel!!!

Hopefully, now, we are beyond that. That is so not-funny now. If you secretly laughed or even found it the least bit amusing, seek counseling.

Now the closest we can come to a comedic definition of mixed emotions is watching a politician, or better yet a career federal executive at the Department of Veterans Affairs, go over Niagara Falls in your brand new Prius.

Thanks to the scandal at the VA, politicians and many members of the public (including vets groups) want heads to roll. And they are about to get it.


It appears that before Congress adjourns Friday (for a five-week break) it will OK a new bipartisan bill that would make it much easier (and faster) to fire members of the elite federal Senior Executive Service at the VA. They could be out-the-door in one day, and their appeal rights would be more limited. Opponents of the plan say it is draconian, is being done in haste (for Congress) and that it could send shockwaves through the ranks of the 7,058 career SESers government-wide. The pay range for SES members is from $120,749 to $181,500.

Many people, especially in the federal community, think Congress is overreacting, that the public (and the media) have it wrong, and that this will backfire, big time. But there are some people in government, and at the VA, who think it doesn’t go far enough.

I talked with a career VA employee (former military guy) who said many VA employees “lie on an ongoing basis” to cover for bosses or get bonuses.” Or simply keep out of trouble. “I see these guys (executives) on an ongoing basis … these guys are above the law.”

He said he has experienced, first hand, “employees who are fearful, and who want to keep their jobs and benefits,” so they either “look the other way” or actively “go along” even when they know of misconduct. He said he has appealed to both the Office of Special Counsel and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

“In the military, if you get caught lying, you get fired,” he said. ” In private companies, they can put you out the door immediately” but not, he said in government.

So is what Congress is doing too much, too little or just about the right thing? Today on our Your Turn radio show we’ll talk with Carol Bonosaro. She’s president of the Senior Executives Association and herself a former SES member. Later, we’ll be joined by Federal Times senior writer Andy Medici. He’ll talk about the VA and SES legislation, the chances for a federal pay raise, and a 10-year low in government hiring.

Listen live if you can, and call us (10 a.m. EDT) 292-465-3080. The shows are archived here, so you can listen anytime. Send questions and comments to me:


By Michael O’Connell

The Speaker of the House in Great Britain is not allowed to speak.



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