One Woman’s Opinion
by – Sheri de Grom


A congressional committee has recommended federal senior government executives be required to remain in place if recruitment of a replacement is considered difficult. Federal agency leadership (the hired, not the appointed ones) is facing a brain drain and Congress is largely to blame.

It’s understandable that there’s a significant shortage of qualified top managers. There’s been a 36% increase in departures from Senior Executive Service since 2009. It’s become more and more difficult to groom a replacement in federal service than in private sector positions.

A Senior Executive may lose their job if they are even suspected of training someone for their position. A Senior Executive may announce their departure months in advance but the announcement of a new position and the recruitment process cannot begin until the position is vacated. Critical positions remain open for months, sometimes years and are often never filled.

The largest driver of senior executives out of government has been age. Nearly 80 percent of departing SES employees since 2009 was voluntary, non-early retirees.

One in five, however, left through early retirement or resignation.

Senior executives told researchers the financial crisis, pay compensation, award suspension and sequester were major factors that drove them out of federal service.

Senior Executive Employees know nothing will happen this year as congress remains in gridlock. Gridlock is bad, especially if you want action. But if you are the chosen sacrificial lamb, aka a career federal civil servant, gridlock has a certain appeal. If congress can’t or won’t do anything good for you, they also can’t do anything bad to you.

Ultimately, extending the tenure of retirement-eligible managers while mentoring and training new talent will reduce productivity during any transition period.

As with most changes brought about by congress for the federal workforce or the military, it will be too little too late.

It’s difficult for a government employee at any level to think generously about members of congress when it’s public knowledge that the leaders making the employees’ lives miserable are going home to plush accommodations as they leave their offices.

Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid

Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid

Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid props his feet up at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Washington, D.C. While he may get a discounted rate, the cost per night at the Ritz starts at $649 and goes up to $810. Assuming the senator pays $3,000/weekly, that’s more than his take-home pay. Where does the money come from for such a lavish life-style for a ‘man of the people?’ His personal fortune? Do the taxpayers of Nevada believe Senator Harry Reid is so worthy as to pick up the tab for his living at the Ritz?

While Senator Reid is relaxing, you may take a tour of the Ritz at I can’t blame the Senator for loving the Ritz. I love the opulence, the charm and the feeling of no worries upon stepping through the gilded doorway.

Some say the Senator owns a condo at the Ritz. Oh, my heart be still.

Speaker of the House, John Boehner

Speaker of the House, John Boehner

Meanwhile, Speaker of the House John Boehner has long denied that his perpetual tan skin color is the result of sunless tanning. He just spends a lot of time outdoors; the Ohio Republican is known to say. If Speaker Boehner spends so much time out-of-doors, when does he have time to work?

Despite Boehner’s repeated denials of using tanning beds, he does have ties to the industry. Not only has he accepted campaign contributions from a group called the Indoor Tanning Association, Boehner lives in a D.C. apartment owned by a lobbyist for the American Suntanning Association.

In recent years, federal workers have been a primary target of deficit-fighters. The White House and Congress imposed the pay freeze, created the furloughs and shutdowns and are in agreement that feds should kick in more toward their retirement, and that future cost-of-living adjustments for retirees (federal, military and Social Security) should be trimmed, a tad, by using a new inflation-measuring yardstick.

In addition to raising retirement costs for current feds, there is talk and plans to eliminate the defined-benefit portion of the federal retirement package for future hires.

Many long-time feds, who have lived with cutback plans going back to the 1980s, have learned to grin and bear it. Lots of relative newcomers remain nervous. People who said that sequestration would never happen were proved wrong.

The good-news-bad-news (which is often the same thing when talking about political outcomes) is that Congress isn’t likely to do anything this year. They’ll focus all energy to see that everybody in Congress who wants to stay in the House or Senate stays in the House or Senate.

About Sheri de Grom

Retired Fed/JAG, 5 yrs. on Capitol Hill. Former book buyer for B and N. Concerned citizen of military drawdown. Currently involved in mental healthcare reform, health care strategist and actively pursuing legislative change wherein dual retirees are exempt from enrolling in Medicare at their own discretion without losing tertiary healthcare benefits. Monitor and comment on Federal Register proposed legislation involving Mental Health, Veterans Affairs, Health and Human Services, Medicare and rural libraries. Licensed OSHA Inspector to include Super Fund sites. Full time caregive to Vietnam era veteran. Conceptualized, investigated possible alternatives, authored, lobbied for, and successfully implemented Title X, Section 1095 (known as the Third Party Collection Program of Federal Insurance).
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  1. Reblogged this on By the Mighty Mumford and commented:

  2. jbw0123 says:

    I’m with you. Sick of Congress stringing itself from one campaign to the next as if running for office were the only thing that mattered. What to do?

  3. Sheri, what a great post,the brain drain has been an going problem for as long as I can remember. I watched it throughout my entire career. Yes it starts at the top, getting good people in to do the job (SES), and keeping them in place. The rules about mentoring have always made no sense, and still don’t. But the brain drain goes much deeper. The expectations of folks taking entry level federal jobs at the 7 thru 12 level, with the minimum of a BS degree is amazing especially at the lower levels. In DC a 7 or 9 is not even a living wage. 11’s and above can barely make it as a single income family. And this is the area where the talent is found and cultivated. In this day and age of contracting everything out, to the point where we have contractors monitoring contractors doing government contracts, it is no surprise that hardware store hammers still cost $2,000 each. Thankfully I am retired, so I only get pissed when I read about it, or talk to a few old friends. Smiling, I going to close this, we really need a few Mr. Smith’s to go to Washington. Maybe then something good will be done, and we can get a hammer for a reasonable price. Take care, Bill

    • Bill – For the life of me, I’ve been unable to get you thought-provoking comment to move over to my blog. It wants to stay in my pending file. I’ve approved it, sang and danced for it and even offered it a good stiff drink. [Well, my drinking days are over but if they weren’t, that would be 2 fingers of Jack Daniel’s]
      I so agree about the cost of living for entry level management employees. While the civilians (non-government employees are complaining gov. employees are aboard the gravy train) what’s really happening is many qualify for food stamps and subsidized housing.
      I think there’s another blog in your comment. When I filed for divorce from my 2nd husband, I’d just entered the beginning of my career with JAG. Of course I had to move out of military housing. I remember thinking, if I ever made it to a ‘9’ I would have it made in the shade. I was living in Monterey then and available rentals were 0%. I lived in my office two months along with my dog and cat. Once I found a 2nd job that didn’t interfere with my work at JAG, I finally found a tiny house. After rent, gas for the VW, utilities and dog and cat food, I had $25/each month to live on until the next month.
      When I arrived in DC many years later, I had a lot of empathy when I was given a staff with numerous members at the GS-5 and GS-7 level. I spent much of that first year rewriting job descriptions and allowing employees to have desk audits to up their grades and I also insisted they take time out and get hooked up with social services. How can an employee work when they gave their meal to their children or they are homeless?
      Thanks, Bill, for bringing up such an important issue.

  4. Lignum Draco says:

    The Federal Government faces a brain drain?
    Too late, the brain drain is already here, and not just in your part of the World.

  5. Gallivanta says:

    When our New Zealand Parliament was first established, the members of it were paid a small amount; a working man’s salary. The idea was that the salary would be sufficient to encourage ordinary men to enter Parliament, so there would be a true parliament of the people. This small monetary compensation was the norm for almost a hundred years, until someone had the bright idea that it wasn’t enough. Now our politicians are paid very well. Which would be fine, if they weren’t always so busy putting budget constraints on everyone else! I think that it should be beholden on all our elected representatives to spend at least half of their term on the minimum wage, or the equivalent of the unemployment benefit. How to achieve this change I don’t know. Although I have heard it suggested that if we somehow managed to get the young to vote in great numbers, there might be some big changes in politics. However, critical as I am, I am still glad that we have a Parliament and a Government that functions.

    • Yes, Gallivanta, I agree, I too am glad that we still have a government with some semblance of functioning. If it were up to this generation of our citizens to run for office, they would give everything away to themselves and third world countries. My own observation of adolescents and recent college graduates is the majority really don’t care if they ever become responsible wage earning citizens. Many have never worked a job or have a clue of even how to keep their own room clean.
      I like the idea your Parliament had in the beginning of paying each member a living man’s wage. Of course that amount would vary but it seems it would help keep things in perspective.
      We had our largest ‘young voters’ turnout the year legalizing medical marijuana was on the ballet. The initiate failed in our state but it was close.

      • Gallivanta says:

        I really don’t know what would excite young voters here. I was so passionate and eager to vote when the voting age was first set at 18. I probably had no real idea what I was voting for but it was very exciting to do so.

        • I clearly remember voting the first time and yes, I understood what an important occasion it was. I had returned to Kansas to visit my parents before departing to Europe for three years. Special arrangements had been made by the military wherein I was able to vote anywhere I wanted. I thought I had seen the world by then but of course I hadn’t even begun to live and truly appreciate what life had to offer.

          The location where I voted that day was in an old gymnasium where I’d first performed piano recitals, been a member of the cast in school plays in grades 1 – 4, competed in spelling bees and all the activities of the early age school child. Now, I was here in the same building to vote for the first time. This I remember as if it were yesterday. The voting booths (2 of them) were side by side and I voted using a short lead pencil on a yellowed card. Sophisticated automation had not reached rural Kansas but the experience is etched within my mind as if it were yesterday.

          • Gallivanta says:

            How wonderful you remember the voting in such detail. I remember the excitement but I don’t remember exactly where I voted. It would have been pen and paper though, as it still is in NZ!

  6. Elaine says:

    The more I hear the angrier I get. We need to get these people out of office and vote in candidates who truly do realize they are working for us–not the other way around! I would love to see term limits imposed as well. I see no reason for life long term of office in the congress with the members of the House and Senate getting richer and richer off our hard earned money. And they need to be held accountable for the things they do and do not do! I could go on and on but I won’t. Let’s just fire the lot of them and start over!

  7. M-R says:

    I like it in an enraged kind of way, Sheri … both for you, and for the fact that it’s exactly the same situation down here. These damned right-wing parties think they were born to rule, and when they can’t, they make it impossible for others to be effective. A pox on the lot of the bastards !!!

  8. sue marquis bishop says:

    It is getting so tiresome to witness the do nothings and the political maneuvering… !!!!!!

  9. mihrank says:

    very painful, deep topic!!

    • Thanks for stopping by, Mihran. Yes, it’s painful that our congress can turn a blind eye to a country that’s hurting so much.

      • mihrank says:

        Sheri – It is sad and I am confused by the congress approach. All their attempts failed, than Egypt is the meditator with the Palestinians to achieve peace.

        • Mihran – I agree that it is indeed a sad situation when our congress cannot agree on a single decision and therefore they do nothing. They’ve failed as many times to reach a resolution on important topics that face citizens of the United States, the very people they are supposed to represent and protect. Do you believe peace is possible between the Palestinians and their neighboring countries. I’ve been reading about the changing dynamics of the Israel population base. Do you think this will bring about a difference in how Israel views it’s enemies? This is a very complicated subject.

          • mihrank says:

            Sheri – Thank you so much. I am going to make it as simple as I can the conflict with the Palestinians. The main conflict is about the future of Jerusalem. And Jerusalem is divided into 4 different Quarters:

            The Four Quarters

            The Old City is divided into four neighborhoods, which are named according to the ethnic affiliation of most of the people who live in them. These quarters form a rectangular grid, but they are not equal in size. The dividing lines are the street that runs from Damascus Gate to the Zion Gate — which divides the city into east and west — and the street leading from the Jaffa Gate to Lion’s gate — which bifurcates the city north and south. Entering through the Jaffa Gate and traveling to David Street places the Christian Quarter on the left. On the right, as you continue down David Street, you’ll enter the Armenian Quarter. To the left of Jews Street is the Muslim Quarter, and, to the right, is the Jewish Quarter.

            Jerusalem is a focal point of conflict in the Middle East. Across the Arab world, millions oppose Israel’s hold on this historic city. Around the globe, millions of Muslims hope the day will come when Jerusalem is no longer under Israel’s.

            International proposals for Jerusalem to be an independent city, a ‘corpus separatum’, similar to the Vatican, have been steadily growing.

            Palestinians are educated nation, We want to do peace with the Palestinians and not Hamas. I believe that the Vatican will resolve out conflict with the Palestinians.

            • Miharan – Thank you so much for your explanation regarding Palestine’s exact division into the four quadrants. When you speak of ‘we’ in your comment of ‘we want to do peace with Palestinians and not Hamas,’ I assume you mean Israel? Am I assuming too much here. It’s difficult (but I know it’s true a thousand times over) for me to understand how Hamas and followers could have such deep hatred for mankind.

              It would be the answer to prayers around the world if the Vatican could resolve the conflict with the Palestinians.

              • mihrank says:

                Hello Sheri – Correct using “we” is us the Israelis.

                “The emerging agreement will be the most detailed that has been signed between Israel and the Palestinians since the Oslo Accords. If it is successful, it would set up a new framework of relations between Israel and a Palestinian government, because without it there will be no way to implement the agreement’s clauses. During the course of the talks, it has become clear to us that the question of [Israel] recognizing a Palestinian government is no longer an obstacle, not since the moment Israel agreed that this government will take an active, vital role in the agreement’s implemention.”

  10. mihrank says:

    Reblogged this on mihran Kalaydjian and commented:

  11. Our brats in government aren’t doing too well either. Misappropriation of taxpayers’ money in the millions. They got caught. Red-handed. Don’t know if there will be a good outcome of punishment.

    • Tess – I don’t think in ‘Country and Western’ verse often but upon your word red-handed took me straight to, ‘hang ’em from the highest tree.’ Is that too much to ask? I hope most of the money is still retrievable. These guys/gals think they can get away with anything and I am darn tired of it.

      • *bangs head on keyboard*
        I used to be proud of my citizenship but with all this criminal activity… Where there is money, there will always be greed. As well, taxpayers pockets are treated like a deep well. So many slippery characters are being caught but we don’t hear much about punishment. Maybe enough to make it sound something is being done and then silence.
        Trouble is, we can’t escape. There’s no place to go. Time to clean house instead.

  12. The most stupid practice is not filling positions until the retiree has left and what about training? That’s nuts. In the private sector the new guy gets a chance with the help of the retiree’s experience.
    Staying at the Carlton. Are these people for real. Who made them king? I so disagree with the perks to the top guys in government. Steal from the mouths of the poor and take, take, take until you can’t take anymore. This should be illegal.

    • Tess – Not only is not filling the vacancy of a retiring executive until the retiree has departed a practice, it is the law. The new hire sinks or swims on their own. I explained in my reply to Patricia down below how my position at Walter Reed was never filled after I left and now Walter Reed is closed. It certainly isn’t closed because of that, but when you have enough bad management, things are eventually going to collapse.

  13. cindy knoke says:

    Boehner makes my teeth hurt. Informative as usual Sheri~

  14. Well, this is surely an eye-opener! Staying at the Ritz Carlton? Come on! What is baffling to me is that a position must be vacated before recruitment can begin for the position. What? That is the dumbest thing ever. There MUST be some reasoning behind that. Do you know what it is?

    • Hi Patti – As always, great to see you here. The reasoning behind the original regulation governing the recruitment process was to ensure everyone the same opportunity when applying for a position. It was assumed if someone was selected for the position before the exiting person departed, this would be pre-selecting the employee and that of course is illegal. Unfortunately when you reach this level of expertise in an extremely specialized field in an even more limiting community (federal gov) I was the senior person in my case and when I left, there was no one to step into my office. I explained this in the 2nd paragraph of Paulette’s response below. Hope this makes sense.

  15. Oh this makes my blood boil! I’m specifically referring to the excess spending at the Ritz Carlton, etc. The hubris is disgusting and too bad it’s not considered a high crime as in the ancient Greece times. When I think of how many people I deal with on a daily basis who are suffering; not enough food, paycheck to mouth existences and in some cases no paycheck at all, won’t do medical tests that are necessary because don’t want to be strapped with the bills, on and on and on–in contrast to this hubris (including the poor senior exec replacement planning) I want to throw something! It really pisses me off. You know I don’t blow up too frequently on commenting but this did it. With all that is going on in the world, all the need everywhere, !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    And to you Sheri a big hug. Don’t want my anger to spill onto you, the messenger.

    • Hi, Paulette. Never fear. I don’t accept anger from my friends. I can feel anger for them but in this case, we share knowledge of a situation individuals in power should not be able to abuse. The more people know about this abuse of power the better off we are. I seek out information that normally doesn’t trickle down to everyone.

      Here’s something to think about. When I left Walter Reed no one applied for my position when it was announced the first two times. The third time it was announced they interviewed the candidates but no one would accept the position after they interviewed. This was a classic case of a position being impossible to fill. I had completely reworked my job to meet the demands of the office and no one else knew exactly what I did or how. What’s really scary is that no one bothered to ask me to even write out a description of how I accomplished anything. All that was known was they liked the results I accomplished and no one else knew how to do the same thing and that in and of itself is a crime.

      • That’s crazy, that no one asked you to debrief your job on paper. It’s a big fat web of irresponsibility.

        • Paulette, The air of stupidity surrounding some of the top layers is scary. I always did things my own way but much of what I did could have been modified and carried on.

        • Paulette, In the federal government, in the vast majority of jobs you are hired to do a specific set of requirements. But once hired the employee ends up (more often than not) doing things they are ill prepared for, that were not specificed at hiring, and this is the job they grow into. It’s not the employee’s fault, It’s growth or change in role without personal changing the job description. I worked for the federal govt for almost 40 yrs and sat thru one desk audit. The audit and the backwash from the audit were not pleasant. But I feel the audit itself did what it was supposed to do. What all this means is that you have a bunch of folks qualified for jobs that haven’t beem created, being evaluated on skill sets that are not related to the positions they hold, working clueless managers, that usually are in place administration to adminstation. And Paulette, I believe I hve sugar coated the experience. Take care, Bill.

          • Bill – It’s sad when departmental chiefs won’t take care of their own people. I always made it a priority to spend a full day with each employee under my direction each time I moved departments. I saw so many lazy chiefs that had come and gone that had not taken care of the people who had actually built the program. I considered it my responsibility to rewrite the job descriptions in question, have an audit performed, announce the position as required and hope like heck that my employee would make the list of applicants. I always had a good long talk with them about making sure they used each key KSA language in both surviving the audit and being awarded their own job upon open recruitment.

            I rewrote my own job description a total of six times and six times it served me well. I finally created a brand new position for the government and that was me in the first chair.

            For me, there’s never an excuse for a department head to allow jobs to stagger or be dumbed down. I never delegated the position of writing job descriptions to someone else. It’s a thankless task for everyone except the individual you are trying to help. Sheri

  16. Andy Oldham says:

    I just wonder if there is anyone that will stand up and do their job for America. I have a hard time even with the president, any president regardless of party, who works for a lousy 4-8 years and then retires with a nice paycheck and all the benefits for the rest of his life on the taxpayer dime. It would be nice if we all only had to work 4-8 years. OK, I’m getting down off my horse.

    • Hello Andy – Thanks for visiting and commenting. I’m all for everyone being on their horse, it makes it much easier to talk with each other when there’s not so much traffic and all. I spent 20 years working as a federal employee and learned a great deal on the ‘inside looking out.’ Please don’t lose faith on those of us that know how it is to work 80 hours a week and look back and wonder what for. I’ve worked with a lot of good people over the years but I’ve also worked with some real slime. I’ve lost all faith in our electoral system and the depth of corruption we’ve allowed to destroy our country. We’ve lost all chance of the popular vote of the people ever winning a presidential election.

      • Andy Oldham says:

        Like you, I too have lost faith in our electoral system. The last several years have destroyed so much of our beautiful America. I’m just sick. So based on what you have eluded to here in your comment, are these so-called “preppers” correct in their thinking and preparing for doomsday of America? I have built a pantry and begun preparing not as one of these but simply because I believe one should be prepared for any disaster. What are your thoughts?

        • Andy – I must apologize for taking so long in responding to your comment/question. You asked what I thought about the “preppers.” While I believe we should all have supplies on hand, just as you mentioned, I wonder how much is too much. Where is the sane dividing line or is there one? I noted in a brochure from a local university that arrived today, they’ve added a course for the community titled: Defy the Odds: Wilderness Survival. From the course description, they aren’t using sleeping bags and they aren’t taking bottled water with them!
          We’ve watched the community of Ferguson, MO explode. That shouldn’t have required a visit from the Attorney General in an attempt to calm things down. Then add the downsizing of the military while we’re actively engaging in foreign conflict(s). We have the militarization of city police forces and we know how well that works yet the police are often out-armed by the criminals. I don’t have an answer to you question. I offer up thoughts that roam around in my head without a place to land comfortably. Sheri

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