A bill proposed by Sen. Dan Akaka (D-HI) would delink senior executive pay from congressional pay and add performance bonuses to base salary for retirement pay calculations. 

The Senior Executive Service Reform Act of 2012 (S. 2249) “would invest in our senior leaders, giving them the tools and incentives they need to be effective,” Akaka said in a press release describing his bill.  His bill brings together reforms that address shortcomings of the Senior Executive Service that were identified in a hearing last year that Sen. Akaka held as chair of the Senate Subcommittee on Oversight and Government Management.

At that hearing, witnesses cited pay compression, workload level, diversity, and development and training as issues that often serve as disincentives for those considering applying to the SES.  In particular, Akaka pointed out that tying SES pay to congressional pay (current law) has resulted in pay increases that have not “kept pace with General Schedule (GS) pay, resulting in pay compression and some SES are paid less than the employees they supervise.”

Akaka’s bill would link SES pay with GS pay.  SES pay raises would be tied to GS pay raises, which Akaka says would decrease pay compression.  In addition, “performance awards would be counted as base pay in retirement calculations.”

To address other criticisms of the current SES system, the bill would increase career SES positions and limit the share of positions held by political employees.  SES performance ratings would be made more transparent by requiring an explanation if a final rating was lower than the initial recommendation.  The bill would also prohibit the use of quotas in setting performance pay adjustments. 

The bill would create a SES Resource Office to enhance career development.  This office would oversee SES development, management, and training programs.  The bill would establish programs for new SES employees and set guidelines for voluntary rotation and mobility programs.

To encourage diversity, agencies would be required to make ethnic minorities, women, and persons with disabilities to the recruitment and hiring process “when practicable.”

The SES reform bill will be considered by the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, which is chaired by Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT).