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U.S. Office of Personnel Management - Ensuring the Federal Government has an effective civilian workforce

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About the Senior Executive Service


The Senior Executive Service (SES) was established by Title IV of the Civil Service Reform Act (CSRA) of 1978 (P.L. 95-454, October 13, 1978) and became effective on July 13, 1979. The CSRA envisioned a Senior Executive Service whose members have shared values, a broad perspective of government, and solid executive skills. Its stated purpose was to "ensure that the executive management of the Government of the United States is responsive to the needs, policies, and goals of the nation and otherwise is of the highest quality." The Government's senior executives would be held accountable for individual and organizational performance. To achieve this purpose, the CSRA gave greater authority to agencies to manage their executive resources and assigned OPM the responsibility for governmentwide leadership, direction, and oversight.

Under the CSRA, the SES was set up as a "third" service, completely separate from the competitive and excepted services. It replaced over 60 separate executive personnel authorities covering from one to several thousand positions. Top management positions that had been subject to disparate rules and practices, with requirements for prior approval of almost every personnel action, were joined into a unified and distinct personnel system that provided for considerable agency authority and flexibility.

Since 1979, OPM's approach to executive resources management has gradually evolved from the traditional regulatory and procedure oriented approach to one that focuses on leadership, provides expert assistance and quality services to agencies and executives, and preserves merit principles and other governmentwide interests. Our goal today is to maintain a proper balance between the agencies' need for flexibility and OPM's responsibility to preserve the governmentwide interests of a corporate, merit-based executive service.