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News Release

Thursday, October 28, 2004
Contact: Brendan LaCivita
Tel: 202-606-2402

OPM Approves 10 Agency Requests for Certification of Senior Executive Service Appraisal Systems

Washington, D.C. - U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) Director Kay Coles James today reemphasized observing due diligence in considering federal agencies' requests for certification of their Senior Executive Service (SES) performance appraisal systems. OPM and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) last August jointly issued important rules linking the pay of federal senior executives and senior professionals to their performance on the job. Agencies must submit requests to OPM for certification that their appraisal systems make meaningful distinctions among levels of performance in order to be permitted to increase the salaries of their highest performing senior executives.

"I want to assure agencies that OPM is actively reviewing recent SES appraisal system certification submissions," stated James. "OPM will fully ensure the integrity of the SES system certification process as we move promptly to assist agency teammates in their efforts to secure approvals. OPM staff has been on the phones daily with agencies answering questions and providing expertise and help to better develop the quality of agency submissions."

The SES rule changes represent the culmination of a long-term focus on improving the performance of the government through its senior executives and more directly linking their pay and performance. For the past three years, consistent with President George W. Bush's focus on achieving results through his Management Agenda, James has directed federal agencies to make meaningful distinctions in the performance ratings of their senior executives.

When issued later this year, the final regulations will allow an agency possessing a certified performance appraisal system to set basic pay up to level II of the Executive Schedule (currently $158,100) for the best-performing senior executives. The final rules also will allow agencies with certified systems to apply a higher aggregate limitation on pay in a calendar year, up to the rate of pay for the Vice President (currently $203,000), for senior executives and senior professionals.

Full certification requires that agencies' SES Performance Appraisal Systems meet nine criteria in the areas of strategic alignment, consultation, results, balance, assessment and guidance, oversight, accountability, performance differentiation, and pay differentiation.  Provisional certification is given to agencies whose performance appraisal systems have met five of the nine aforementioned criteria: strategic alignment, consultation, results, balance, and accountability. Full certification cannot be given to any agency unless they can demonstrate two years of results under the pay differentiation and performance differentiation criteria.

Ten agencies have been granted provisional certification from OPM with OMB concurrence, and 15 agencies still are in various levels of review. One agency, the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC), has received full certification for their senior level staff. As a government corporation, the PBGC is not covered by the SES.

Listed below are the agencies granted provisional certification from OPM with concurrence from OMB:


Department of Health and Human Services

Department of the Interior

Department of Transportation

Environmental Protection Agency

Federal Energy Regulatory Commission

Federal Trade Commission

Office of National Drug Control Policy

Merit Systems Protection Board

Railroad Retirement Board

Social Security Administration

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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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