View from the top: Not so hot

Wednesday - 8/14/2013, 2:00am EDT

Mike Causey on "In Depth" with Francis Rose

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So, you've got a steady job with a six-figure salary. Your retirement plan is excellent. The health insurance package, vacation time and the health plan are considered the best. Oh, and the "company" offers a generous 401k plan and will kick in up to 5 percent to boost your contributions.

The work can be challenging, often rewarding and — at least within the government family — prestigious. The pay ranges from $119,554 to $179,700 with the average (in 2011) at $166,529. Not Wall Street, but not Wal-Mart either.

And the problem is...

Some, including many members of Uncle Sam's Senior Executive Service — the cream of the crop — aren't happy. And although many, if not most SES members, feel they could make a lot more on the outside, pay isn't the issue. But money and public recognition for a job well done is a major issue. So is the impact of budget cuts and sequestration on the career civil service executives and their departments and agencies.

If you work for Uncle Sam, somebody in the career SES is your boss, even if you are way down the ladder. So who are members of the SES?

There are about 7,000 career SES members. As of 2012, the majority were in Defense (1,243) Justice (749), Homeland Security (614), Treasury (493), Energy (471) and Health and Human Services with 460.

Eight out of 10 career SES members in 2012 were white, and 11 percent were black. Asian Americans slightly outnumbered Latinos in the SES ranks, with each representing about 4 percent of the total.

Most members of the SES belong to or are represented by the Senior Executives Association. With the help of corporate sponsors, the SEA each year sponsors a banquet at the State Department. It's hosted in the Diplomatic Rooms of the State Department and filled with priceless early American artwork and antiques. One of the props is the table where the treaty that ended the War of 1812 was signed. For a lot of people attending, it is the thrill of a lifetime.

Many agency heads accompany their award winners. And it is usually a big media event — especially in Washington, D.C. or the winners' hometowns — because of White House backing, and, in years past, sometimes a loud "atta boy" from POTUS. Lately, not so much.

SES members feel the White House has backed away from the awards, perhaps because of the recession, perhaps not only for that reason. The White House said that instead of the traditional cash awards — 35 percent of base pay — for the winners, they would be honored in a "non-monetary" way this year. At least they won't be taxable, will they?

Earlier this year, previous award winners — all of them long-time executives and rock stars in the civil service — got together for an off-the-record, hair-down session. Among other things, they wondered how budget problems, the recession, nine more years of sequestration and reduced training will impact their agencies and future members of the SES.

The executives worry the emphasis on cuts and austerity, focus on government "scandals" and the hostility of some politicians toward government has or will become the new normal. Their discussions have been edited down into a 15-page monograph that key members of Congress and the administration might be wise to read. Maybe you, too. If so, click here.

Today at 10 a.m., SEA President Carol Bonosaro will be our guest on our Your Turn show. She'll talk about the new report, what it means to executives and the people who work for them and what the "new normal" means. You can send questions and comments for her by emailing me, or calling in during the show at (202) 465-3080.


NEARLY USELESS FACTOID

Compiled by Nicole Ogrysko

Most teddy bears are manufactured with a neutral expression on their faces. Why? So children can imagine their own emotions on their furry friends.

Source: Mental Floss


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