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News Release

Thursday, February 19, 2004
Contact: Brendan LaCivita
Tel: 202-606-2402

OPM Director Kay Coles James Pushes for Tougher SES Performance Standards

Agencies recognize the need to improve SES ratings and awards

Washington, D.C. - U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) Director Kay Coles James recently issued a memorandum (attached) to heads of departments and executive agencies on the need for more rigorous performance measures that directly link Senior Executive Service (SES) members' job performance to mission results. Achieving that linkage requires agencies to use performance appraisal systems that rely on credible and rigorous performance measurements to make meaningful distinctions based on relative performance.

"As you know, the Administration and the Office of Personnel Management have successfully engaged in a series of sweeping SES pay and performance reforms," James wrote in the memorandum. "As of January 2004, a new performance-based pay system is in effect for members of the SES. Among other things, the system allows significantly higher base pay rates for the best performing SES members, and in so doing, can significantly strengthen the linkage between agency performance and executive compensation."

OPM routinely collects information on SES members' performance ratings and awards as part of its government-wide oversight responsibility. Over the past several years, this information has been used to assess agencies' success in meeting certain performance management goals in the President's Management Agenda. Attached to the memorandum were charts that summarized agencies SES ratings and awards information for fiscal years 2000-2002.

"The data indicate a growing number of agencies have taken seriously the need to improve the distribution of SES ratings and awards to support the high-performance culture President Bush is determined to establish," wrote James. "For fiscal year 2003, SES performance ratings will again be an important indicator of the Administration's efforts to promote a government that is results-oriented, citizen-centered, and market-based, as well as agencies' readiness to move forward with the SES performance-based pay system."

James asked agencies to submit their FY 2003 ratings and awards reports immediately following receipt of the memorandum, which provided the forms necessary for reporting.

"The necessity for more rigorous and realistic ratings is especially clear in instances where agencies are not fulfilling their missions and reporting demonstrable results," wrote James. "The President, the Congress, and the American people expect the ratings and rewards that Federal executives receive to be commensurate with the results they have achieved."

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OPM leads and serves the Federal Government in enterprise human resources management by delivering policies and services to achieve a trusted, effective civilian workforce. By Empowering Excellence in Government through Great People, we provide leadership and support to U.S. agencies on issues including human resources policy and oversight, background investigations, federal employee benefits, retirement services, guidance on labor-management relations, and programs to improve workforce performance. For more information, visit or follow OPM on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn.

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