Unrealized Vision: Reimagining the Senior Executive Service
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Unrealized Vision: Reimagining the Senior Executive Service

August 20, 2009

Thirty-one years ago, as part of the most sweeping civil service reforms in more than a century, Congress created the Senior Executive Service (SES) to provide a unified, government-wide cadre of federal career executives with shared values, a broad perspective and solid leadership skills. This leadership corps, reformers believed, would move across agencies, bring their expertise and strategic thinking to a range of difficult issues and problems, and operate under a uniform and performance-based pay system. Today’s Senior Executive Service, however, only vaguely reflects and demonstrates this vision.

The Partnership for Public Service and Booz Allen Hamilton decided to study the SES, to examine to what extent it has achieved its original goals and is keeping up with the times, to see if there are impediments to its success, and to determine if changes should be made to improve the management of government.

The primary finding is that the Senior Executive Service as envisioned by reformers has fallen short of its promise. More importantly, the report found that the original vision itself is inadequate for today’s needs and does not provide the blueprint to build the kind of senior government leadership required for the future.

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