Bush administration officials say that one effect of recently enacted authority to change the pay system for federal senior executives will be to underscore that senior execs – the highest level to which career managers typically can aspire – are a separate group and not simply the old general schedule “supergrades” above GS-15.

While the SES was created two decades ago to be a specialized cadre of employees who undergo rigorous scrutiny of their performance, officials say that some of that emphasis has been lost because SESers have been getting the same pay raises – including locality pay – as general schedule employees.

Under the new system – which will be designed mainly by the Office of Personnel Management – automatic annual raises would be gone, with pay set according to performance. Said one official of the new system, “The biggest change is that when people receive raises, the connect is not going to be that it’s the first pay period after January 1 . . . but rather it is based on performing up to expectations.”

One possible further result of underscoring the breakoff from the GS is a potential return to the emphasis on the SES as a mobile cadre; in practice, SES members have been far less subject to transfers, both self-initiated and agency-initiated, than was originally envisioned.