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Frequently Asked Questions Senior Executive Service

  • This system aims to balance the results-focused performance element, which remains a critical part of a well-rounded performance appraisal plan, with the other leadership responsibilities of Federal executives.  Agencies now have the flexibility to more fully reflect key priorities for their own executives within the basic SES performance appraisal system description and performance plan template by carefully selecting the applicable weights for each performance element.
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  • Each performance element has a minimum required percentage weight, all adding up to a total weight of 100%.  The minimum weight assigned to the “Results-Driven” performance element is 20%.  The minimum weight for each of the other four performance elements is 5%, with no single performance element weighing more than the “Results-Driven” performance element.
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  • Yes, the basic SES performance appraisal system description and performance plan template require that the performance requirements within the “Results Driven” performance element be strategically aligned.  Agencies have the flexibility to require such alignment within the remaining performance elements.
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  • Yes, by law (5 U.S.C 4312) agencies with SES members (i.e. subject to 5 U.S.C chapter 43 and 5 CFR 430) must have their SES performance management systems approved by OPM.  Additionally, by law (5 U.S.C. 5307(d)) and regulation (5 CFR 430 subpart D) agencies must have their SES performance management systems certified by OPM, with concurrence by OMB, to set SES member basic pay at a higher rate (i.e. up to the rate for level II of the Executive Schedule) and use a higher aggregate limit (i.e. up to the Vice President’s salary).  Both processes will be streamlined when using the basic system description.
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  • The pay freeze does not restrict these awards. Agencies are authorized to grant incentive awards and performance awards to SL/ST employees under chapter 45 of title 5.  However, OMB Memorandum 13-05 directs that discretionary monetary awards should not be issued from sequestered funds while sequestration is in place, unless issuance of such awards is legally required. Discretionary monetary awards include annual performance awards, group awards, and special act cash awards.  Agencies should contact their legal counsel to determine whether any awards they are considering are legally required.
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  • Yes. An agency might determine that a senior professional's change of position meets the criteria for the exception in section 147(c) of the Continuing Appropriations and Surface Transportation Act (which has been extended until December 31, 2013) and the timing supports an increase in pay through an annual pay adjustment under 5 CFR 534.504. The agency must still consider the 12-month restriction in 5 CFR 534.503(c) to determine whether the pay increase may be provided in this way or must be deferred until a later time. In this regard, 5 CFR 534.503(c)(2) provides that the annual adjustment in pay under 5 CFR 534.504 is not considered to be subject to the 12-month restriction if, and only if, the annual adjustment does not exceed the greater of the annual General Schedule adjustment under 5 U.S.C. 5303 or the Executive Schedule adjustment under 5 U.S.C. 5318, effective the same date. Since both the GS and EX statutory adjustments will be 0% between January 2011 and December 31, 2013, any annual adjustment proposed in January of 2011, 2012, or 2013 that is above 0% must be considered a pay adjustment subject to the 12-month restriction. For example, a senior professional last received a pay increase on April 25, 2010. In November 2010, the agency reassigned the individual to a position with substantially greater responsibility. The agency would have increased pay at that time but could not because of the 12-month restriction. Thus, on April 25th, 2011, the agency was able to grant the individual a pay adjustment since the criteria for the exception to the pay freeze in section147(c) of the Act was met and the 12-month period had expired. Note:  An agency should document the amount of a pay increase that is prevented by the 12-month restriction at the time of a change of position, or as soon as possible thereafter, and must document the basis for its finding that the reassignment meets the criteria for the exception in section 147(c) of the Act.
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  • The pay freeze does not apply to performance awards paid under 5 U.S.C. 5384 and 5 CFR 534.405.
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  • An agency head may grant a basic pay increase to a senior professional upon transfer from another agency only if the increase is based on a position change resulting in a substantial increase in responsibility, consistent with applicable statutory and regulatory requirements. The pay increase may be made within 12 months of the senior professional's last pay adjustment but would initiate a new 12-month waiting period, as provided in 5 CFR 534.503(c).
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  • While one of the criteria that reflect the application of agency appraisal systems is the agency's pay differentiation, OPM would consider the impact of the freeze when considering agency certification requests. Agencies will need to maintain their SES performance appraisal system certification in order to use the full SES rate range up to Executive Schedule Level II to hire new executives. While certification allows agencies to pay higher rates and use a higher aggregate limit on pay, this is not the sole purpose of certification. The certification process ensures agencies review their appraisal systems and the effectiveness of their executive performance plans. The criteria for certification require agency performance appraisal systems to provide for, and performance plans to execute, the following: alignment of executive performance requirements to agency mission; predominant focus on measurable results-based requirements; balanced measures, including customer and employee perspective; and accountability for effective performance management of subordinates.
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  • Such pay increases are precluded by the pay freeze. Section 147(c) of the Act applies "notwithstanding any other provision of law" to restrict a senior executive from receiving an increase in his or her rate of basic pay during the designated period. The Act also includes the criteria for an exception in that section - i.e., increases based on "a change of position that results in a substantial increase in responsibility, or a promotion." An agency may have its PRBs make recommendations on exceptions consistent with the pay freeze law, but pay adjustments that are based upon the results of a recently completed performance appraisal cycle do not meet the criteria for this exception.
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