OPM has told agencies to reconsider their numbers of positions in the SES and at other senior levels in light of the administration’s directive requiring them to review their operations for potential efficiency improvements.

In a memo, OPM extended through September 30 a process in which agencies request authority for such positions for two-year periods. OPM said that it “expects agencies will exercise restraint and be judicious in making requests for additional allocations” and that they should first: move or convert existing slots to meet their needs; make sure that at least 90 percent of authorized slots remain filled; and “ensure alignment of any request for additional allocations, or changes to current allocations, with the agency’s own reform plan.”

In addition, “Agencies considering the elimination of programs or the use of workforce reduction flexibilities to address changes in budget or agency priorities (e.g., early retirements or voluntary separations), should refrain from requesting additional allocations,” it said.

The largest category of positions at senior levels is the Senior Executive Service, about 8,000 positions, of which 90 percent are career and the rest political appointees or temporary appointees. Limiting the number of those positions in term restricts career advancement opportunities of middle managers for whom the SES is typically the highest level they can reach within the government.