SEA Reacts to GAO Report on Schedule F Implementation

SEA Reacts to GAO Report on Schedule F Implementation

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Marcus Hill, Vice Chair of the Board of Directors for the Senior Executives Association (SEA) – the leading professional association responsible for representing, convening, and cultivating members of the Senior Executive Service (SES) and senior career leaders across the federal government – released the following statement regarding the Government Accountability Office’s (GAO) September 28, 2022 report on “Agency Responses and Perspectives on Former Executive Order to Create a New Schedule F Category of Federal Positions”:

“The Government Accountability Office (GAO) report on Schedule F implementation underscores the need for Congressional action to safeguard and uphold the merit system. The Executive Order itself (E.O. 13957) provided little clarity on the scope of the order, leaving some agencies, like the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), to conclude 68 percent of their workforce could be stripped of due process protections. Meanwhile, some agencies, like the U.S. International Boundary and Water Commission, only identified 2 percent of their workforce that would be eligible to transition into Schedule F. The order empowered partisan agency heads to take control over what is meant to be an apolitical workforce. Overall, the order resulted in confusion and mismanagement at the expense of the merit system and government efficiency,” Hill explained. “The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) should take the lead in resolving this confusion and preventing mismanagement. Unfortunately, as GAO highlights, OPM took a back seat approach–waiting for agencies to experience issues before making attempts to provide clarity through implementing regulations. Again, this only compounds the issues at the expense of taxpayer services and employee protections. SEA continues to advocate for investment in OPM to increase their capacity to effectively address issues such as Schedule F that undermine the merit system and, in the alternative, lead change necessary for meaningful federal workforce modernization.”

“But as recent interviews with then-OMB Director Russ Vought confirm, the creation of Schedule F was never actually about accountability, it was about subjecting the workforce to an ‘ideological purity test.’ Stakeholders interviewed by GAO who both supported and opposed creating a Schedule F identified the heart of the issue as the need to expedite the hiring and removal of federal employees. These goals are attainable without compromising the merit system, which Congress put in place to protect taxpayers from the partisan delivery of government services and unequal enforcement of our nation’s laws,” Hill furthered.

“The EO undermined employee protections provided by the law and guaranteed by the Due Process Clause of the Constitution. As GAO notes, the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) raised serious concerns about the constitutionality of the order that the courts would likely need to resolve. Our merit system should not be reliant on lawsuits. Congress created the merit system to maintain the expertise driven delivery of government services. While the President sets priorities for the administration, employees are provided protections to ensure their loyalty remains to the law rather than an individual. Congress should be leading the way in maintaining the quintessential principle that we are a government of laws, not of people,” Hill explained.

“This week the full House of Representatives is considering the Chance to Compete Act (H.R.6967), bipartisan legislation led by Representatives Jody Hice and Ro Khanna, that would implement merit based reforms to the federal hiring process that replace degree-based hiring with skills- and competency-based hiring. This is a prime example of a mutually agreeable modernization option that would enhance the hiring of federal employees to ensure better service delivery without compromising the integrity of the federal workforce,” Hill explained. “Rather than a vaguely written executive order that gives the President unchecked authority to hire and fire federal employees based on their loyalty to the administration, Congress can and should take the lead in increasing accountability and defending merit principles.”

“We applaud the House of Representatives for taking affirmative steps in recent weeks to safeguard the role of Congress in determining the future of the civil service. In passing the bipartisan Preventing a Patronage System Act (H.R. 302) led by Representatives Gerry Connolly and Brian Fitzpatrick, the House of Representatives reaffirmed the commitment made in 1883 and 1978 to protecting the reliability and equal application of the law. We call on the Senate to take immediate action to pass this legislation into law. If the GAO report confirms anything, it is that Congress should have ultimate authority over the federal workforce in agencies created by Congress to execute the law,” Hill continued.

“This is what the Schedule F debate is ultimately about: who will decide the future of the federal workforce, The President or Congress? If it is the president, taxpayers and regulated entities will experience significant changes in their interactions with government with each new administration. The consistency of the rule of law would be detrimentally undermined. If the power remains with Congress, Congress can modernize, reform, and increase accountability in the federal workforce without fundamentally undermining the merit system. Again, the Preventing a Patronage System Act and the Chance to Compete Act are two examples of how bipartisan, effective change that maintains the integrity of our government is very achievable. Schedule F is not necessary or appropriate. It never was, and lawmakers across the political spectrum should reject its reimplementation. It is essential for the Senate to take up and pass the Preventing a Patronage System Act into law this year, to provide Congress time to continue these important debates for our democracy,” Hill concluded. 




The Senior Executives Association is a professional association that:

(1) promotes good government initiatives and practices that empower senior executives and federal leaders for mission success;

(2) advocates for legislation and policies in the interests of the federal career senior executive service; 

(3) facilitates networking opportunities for, and with, federal governmental leaders, and

(4) connects current, rising, and aspiring leaders with continuous professional development opportunities.