oversight

The Excepted Service: A Research Profile

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1997-05-01.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)

                United States General Accounting Office

GAO             Staff Study




May 1997
                THE EXCEPTED
                SERVICE
                A Research Profile




GAO/GGD-97-72
Preface


          The Government Performance and Results Act of 1993 (GPRA) has put
          discussions of civil service reform in a new light. Beginning this year, GPRA
          requires federal agencies to identify their missions and strategic goals,
          create measures by which to gauge their progress in meeting these goals,
          and focus their resources—whether budgetary, technological, or
          human—on creating results. But a key question is whether, under the
          current civil service system, agencies will have the flexibility to shape their
          human resource management (HRM) systems to meet these new needs. As
          we testified before the House Civil Service Subcommittee in October 1995,
          the civil service system as a whole is still viewed by many as burdensome
          to managers, unappealing to ambitious recruits, hidebound and outdated,
          overregulated, and inflexible.1

          When considering civil service reform, it is useful to remember that the
          federal government is not the “single employer” it is widely reputed to be.
          In the broadest sense, the civil service is actually divided into three
          services, for which different statutory provisions may apply for hiring, pay,
          labor-management relations, and other employment matters. The largest
          service—52 percent of the civil service in June 1996—is known as the
          “competitive service,” which has its statutory basis in the personnel
          provisions in title 5 of the U.S. Code. Almost all of the remaining 48
          percent of federal civilian workers—nearly 1.4 million in all—are in the
          “excepted service.” They are employed in agencies or other federal
          organizations (such as certain government corporations) that operate
          outside the appointment provisions in title 5 of the U.S. Code. Besides the
          “competitive service” and the “excepted service,” the civil service includes
          the “Senior Executive Service,” or SES, which in June 1996 included some
          7,000 members employed in many agencies across the federal government.

          Some positions in the excepted service are covered by alternative
          personnel systems. One of Congress’s reasons for establishing alternative
          personnel systems for some federal entities was to exempt them from the
          strict rules governing the competitive service under title 5. At the
          previously mentioned hearing, we said that Congress might consider
          examining these alternative personnel systems for ideas about how the
          competitive service could be made more flexible and results-oriented.2

          With the intention of delving further into the possibility that innovative
          models already exist, we took a broad, preliminary look at the excepted
          service as a whole. As the chapters that follow indicate, we found that the

          1
           Civil Service Reform: Changing Times Demand New Approaches (GAO/T-GGD-96-31, Oct. 12, 1995).
          2
           GAO/T-GGD-96-31, pp. 5-6.



          Page 1                                                  GAO/GGD-97-72 The Excepted Service
             Preface




             excepted service is not really a coherent “service” so much as a residual
             category covering all the many federal entities and groups of employees
             that are not part of the competitive service or the SES. Based on available
             data, this study portrays the distribution of excepted service employees
             across government, but with some significant omissions—primarily the
             intelligence agencies, for which official data were not readily available.
             (See chapter 1.) We found over 100 agencies employing excepted service
             employees in June 1996. These agencies ranged in size from the U.S. Postal
             Service, with more than 850,000 employees, to small agencies such as the
             Commission on Immigration Reform, with 14.

             We also identified a number of methodological difficulties in examining
             the excepted service systematically and in greater detail. These constitute
             real stumbling blocks to exploring the excepted service for models or
             lessons applicable to civil service reform. They could make a wide-ranging
             study of the excepted service a demanding one, in both time and
             resources.

             In preparing this study, our overarching objective was to provide an
             introduction to the excepted service and to identify issues that researchers
             would need to consider when planning future studies of it. Specifically,
             our objectives were to describe (1) the distribution of excepted service
             employees across government organizations; (2) the composition of the
             excepted service in terms of the various legal bases under which
             employees were appointed; (3) policy concerns and study focuses that
             have guided some prior studies; and (4) the coverage of agencies and
             employees, as well as data elements, in two data sources that were useful
             for studying the excepted service. Additionally, we sought to identify
             research issues and methodological difficulties associated with each of
             these objectives.


             As defined in section 2103 of title 5, the excepted service is a residual
Background   category of the civil service—that is, it comprises those civil service
             positions that are not in the competitive service or the SES. The Office of
             Personnel Management (OPM) has described the competitive service as
             including positions subject to the appointment provisions in chapter 33 of
             title 5; the excepted service includes all other positions (excluding those in
             the SES), regardless of whether they are subject to other chapters of title 5.
             For excepted service positions, each agency develops, within basic
             requirements prescribed by law or regulation, its own hiring system, which
             establishes the evaluation criteria to be used in filling these excepted



             Page 2                                       GAO/GGD-97-72 The Excepted Service
Preface




positions. Exceptions may be granted for agencies (such as the Tennessee
Valley Authority (TVA) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)) or for
specific positions (such as Foreign Service employees and certain medical
care personnel in the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)).3

Although exception from the appointment provisions of title 5 is the
minimum requirement for being considered part of the excepted service,
excepted service entities may be excepted from other personnel
provisions of title 5 as well, such as those covering position classification,
pay, leave, and retirement. Because the circumstances and rationales
under which these exceptions were granted or retained have varied, the
component entities and employment systems in the excepted service are
not uniformly excepted from the many personnel provisions of title 5. Nor
are they subject to any single alternative set of laws, rules, and regulations,
or to uniform oversight by OPM.

Originally, all federal employees were appointed noncompetitively, and a
widespread practice arose that based hiring on political
considerations—the so-called “spoils system.” But with the establishment
of the competitive service in 1883, some—initially very few—civil servants
came under the competitive service, for which positions were filled
competitively, while others—the vast majority—were “excepted.” Over
time, both the competitive and excepted services evolved significantly,
with the excepted service’s component agencies and employment systems
generally gaining or retaining their exceptions on an individual basis
rather than a systematic one. The Foreign Service, for example, traces its
exceptions back to the Constitution and to laws made in the 19th century,
while the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) received its general
exception in 1995.

The rationale for exceptions has varied from one situation to the next.4
For example, TVA received its exception on the basis that the agency ought
to be run like a business. The intelligence agencies (that is, the Central
Intelligence Agency (CIA), the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), and the

3
 Exceptions are authorized (1) under statute (for example, for TVA and FBI) and, pursuant to statute,
(2) under regulations issued by OPM (such as for certain positions held by attorneys, research
associates, or political appointees), and (3) by Executive Order (such as for foreign nationals
employed overseas and certain presidential appointees).
4
 We located only one general study of the excepted service done by the federal government that
sought to identify the reasons for continuing agency exceptions. That study was done by the Civil
Service Commission at the request of the Senate Committee on Post Office and Civil Service, and
resulted in the 1973 report, Statutory Exceptions to the Competitive Service. The study’s coverage was
not exhaustive of all exceptions; however, the study included about 40 agencies, and the Commission
believed that the study covered all significant statutory exceptions from the competitive service.



Page 3                                                      GAO/GGD-97-72 The Excepted Service
                       Preface




                       National Security Agency (NSA)) received their exceptions on national
                       security grounds. Doctors and nurses at VA were excepted under the
                       rationale that the job market for these professionals was highly
                       competitive.

                       The many exceptions have led to a range of variances from competitive
                       service practices. For example, the CIA internal regulations for adverse
                       actions are similar to the procedures of other federal agencies in providing
                       employees with some protections, at least in cases of the removal of an
                       employee. However, these protections are not guaranteed because CIA
                       regulations provide the director with carte blanche authority to remove an
                       employee. Also, in contrast to the right of most federal employees under
                       title 5 provisions, CIA employees have no general right to appeal adverse
                       actions to the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB).5


                       While federal entities and groups of federal employees have gained or
The Relevance of the   retained exceptions from the competitive service based on a variety of
Excepted Service to    rationales, the assumption common to many of these exceptions seems to
Civil Service Reform   have been that exception from competitive service rules would help
                       agencies do their jobs.6 A similar line of reasoning is commonly heard
                       today in discussions concerning the best way to ensure the successful
                       implementation of GPRA and, more broadly, to advance the idea of
                       results-oriented government.

                       Part of this debate is over whether, with the goal of enhancing productivity
                       and mission accomplishment, federal entities now governed by the
                       competitive service rules should be allowed further flexibility in
                       fashioning their HRM approaches, or even granted more widespread
                       exceptions from the competitive service requirements. For example, the
                       National Performance Review criticized competitive service rules as being
                       too restrictive, and proposed granting agencies more flexibility in
                       administering personnel systems that support their missions. This sort of
                       criticism of the competitive service is not uncommon, even though many
                       of the restrictions imposed on the competitive service have been loosened
                       over the past 2 decades. Beginning with the Civil Service Reform Act of

                       5
                        Intelligence Agencies: Personnel Practices at CIA, NSA, and DIA Compared With Those of Other
                       Agencies (GAO/NSIAD-96-6, March 11, 1996), especially pp. 4, 31-33. This study was limited to
                       examining equal employment opportunity and adverse action practices.
                       6
                        However, the reasons for some exceptions may be based in practicality (such as it being impractical
                       to examine, or impractical to hold competitive examinations, for certain government positions), or
                       other national goals (such as those reflected in veterans readjustment appointments, which are
                       noncompetitive appointments for certain veterans).



                       Page 4                                                      GAO/GGD-97-72 The Excepted Service
                       Preface




                       1978 (CSRA), repeated efforts have been made to create a competitive
                       service that would allow individual agencies greater flexibility in shaping
                       their own HRM practices. Nonetheless, what is sometimes heard today is a
                       call for escaping the confines of title 5 entirely. FAA, for example, was
                       granted a broad statutory exception in 1995 to develop its own HRM
                       system. The administration, in its proposal to create nine
                       performance-based organizations (PBO), would give these organizations
                       considerable personnel authority outside competitive service rules.

                       Because excepted service entities are, to one extent or another, already
                       outside title 5, we thought that comparing their existing employment
                       systems and HRM practices with the competitive service could shed light on
                       the current debate. A key question, however, for anyone who attempted so
                       wide-ranging an examination of the excepted service would be the scope
                       of the task at hand. We found, for example, that the heading “excepted
                       service” covers positions in 123 organizations, and many more
                       suborganizations. Further, we located relatively little recent research on
                       which to base secondhand descriptions and analysis of the various
                       personnel systems in the excepted service. Finally, we identified a variety
                       of methodological difficulties that would need to be addressed if the
                       excepted service were to be studied in depth.


                       Although studying the excepted service in depth might be worthwhile for
Challenges to Future   identifying innovative models for civil service reform, doing so could be a
Studies of the         substantial challenge. We found that issues range from the apparent lack
Excepted Service       of a central source of information on the excepted service personnel
                       systems, to the variations among excepted entities in the extent to which
                       they are excepted, to how little officials at excepted service entities might
                       understand of the differences between their systems and those of the
                       competitive service, to the limitations on the basic statistical data now
                       available.

                       Information on the excepted service entities’ personnel systems is
                       apparently not collected in a single place; therefore, determining any
                       trends or widespread practices in the excepted service would seem to
                       necessitate original research, including extensive data gathering in many
                       locations. Surveying the components of the excepted service could be
                       difficult because not all of them exist as discrete organizations. (See
                       chapter 2.) Some excepted entities are defined by agency—for example,
                       TVA. But other exceptions may exist for classes of employees defined by a
                       particular “appointing authority.” Federal workers employed under a



                       Page 5                                       GAO/GGD-97-72 The Excepted Service
Preface




single appointing authority do not necessarily work for a single federal
entity. We found that Foreign Service employees, for example, worked for
the Departments of State, Agriculture, and Commerce; the Agency for
International Development; and the Peace Corps. Similarly, we found that
the 2,156 workers employed under the Panama Canal Employment Service
appointing authority were spread over 32 separate organizations, from the
Panama Canal Commission (648 employees) to the Defense Mapping
Agency (1 employee). (See chapter 2.)

Another complexity in studying the excepted service arises from the
varying exceptions from title 5 that apply to excepted entities. FAA, for
example, is broadly excepted from title 5, in part to provide greater
flexibility in compensation. But the FBI, although its positions are excepted
from the competitive service, is still subject to the pay provisions of title 5.
We did not find a recent comprehensive example of anyone having
identified the statutory exceptions for all the excepted entities, proceeding
through title 5 by chapter, subchapter, and section.7 Nor did we find recent
broad studies on whether the many excepted entities have pursued
different HRM approaches than they would have had they not been
excepted.

Moreover, as suggested by findings from some previous studies, surveying
officials of the excepted service entities directly to determine the
differences between their HRM approaches and those of the competitive
service might have limited value because these officials might not be
familiar with the details of the title 5 requirements that do not apply to
them. Therefore, they might not be able to accurately describe how their
practices differ from those of the competitive service. (See chapter 3.)

Finally, merely drawing some statistical portraits of the excepted service
might pose difficulties. The two sources of statistical data available from
OPM both have advantages and disadvantages as sources of information on
the excepted service. (See chapter 4.)

These and other methodological difficulties are discussed in the chapters
that follow. These discussions are not intended to discourage further
inquiry into the excepted service, but merely to point out some of the
potential challenges such an inquiry would encounter. Some of the factors
that would create these challenges are the same ones that would make an
examination of the excepted service so promising—the sheer variety of

7
 The study we identified that comes closest is partial and somewhat dated. See “Comparison of
Selected Features of Competitive and Excepted Services,” Appendix XI of Personnel Management
Project, Volume 3, December 1977. The Personnel Management Project is discussed in chapter 3.



Page 6                                                   GAO/GGD-97-72 The Excepted Service
Preface




exceptions, for example, and the likely variety of resulting personnel
systems and practices. It is possible that approaches that would be new to
the competitive service already have a “track record” in the excepted
service, and that wider knowledge of some of these approaches would
inform the debate on civil service reform in a results-oriented
environment.

To mitigate some of the difficulties of researching the excepted service,
researchers might want to narrow the potential scope of their studies from
the entire excepted service to the personnel systems of specific excepted
service entities, as one agency has done on two occasions. (See chapter 3).
Remembering that most excepted service employees are located in a
relatively few government organizations (see chapter 1), this may be an
approach worth considering.

Major contributors to this study are identified in appendix II.




L. Nye Stevens
Director, Federal Management
   and Workforce Issues




Page 7                                       GAO/GGD-97-72 The Excepted Service
Contents



Preface                                                                                            1


Chapter 1                                                                                         10
                        Prevalence in Organizations                                               10
Organizational          The Location of Most Excepted Service Employees                           12
Distribution of         Research Issues                                                           21
Excepted Service
Employees
Chapter 2                                                                                         23
                        Many Appointing Authorities Within a Single Agency                        24
Excepted Service        Appointing Authorities Spanning Agencies                                  25
Employment by Types     Methodological Difficulties                                               25
of Appointing
Authority
Chapter 3                                                                                         29
                        Reasons for Exceptions                                                    29
Some Prior Studies of   Finding Models in the Excepted Service                                    31
the Excepted Service    Research Issues and Methodological Difficulties                           31

Chapter 4                                                                                         37
                        Coverage of Agencies                                                      37
Two Sources of Data     Available Information                                                     38
on the Excepted         Methodological Difficulties                                               39
Service
Appendixes              Appendix I: Objectives, Scope, and Methodology                            42
                        Appendix II: Major Contributors to This Staff Study                       44

Tables                  Table 1.1: Federal Civilian Employment by Type of Service and             11
                          Branch of Government
                        Table 1.2: Federal Civilian Employment by Type of Service in              12
                          Parts of the Executive Branch
                        Table 1.3: Excepted Service and Senior Executive Service                  13
                          Employees by Branch of Government
                        Table 1.4: Federal Civilian Employment in the Excepted and                14
                          Senior Executive Services, by Agency




                        Page 8                                     GAO/GGD-97-72 The Excepted Service
Contents




Table 2.1: Appointing Authorities for Excepted Service                   24
  Employees in the Veterans Health Administration
Table 2.2: Excepted Service Employees With Appointments                  25
  Under the Foreign Service Authority, by Agency
Table 2.3: Number of Excepted Service Employees With                     27
  Appointments Under the Panama Canal Employment Service
  Authority
Table 4.1: Comparison of Coverage of Federal Civilian                    38
  Employment for Two Data Sources




Abbreviations

CFR        Code of Federal Regulations
CIA        Central Intelligence Agency
CPDF       Central Personnel Data File
CSRA       Civil Service Reform Act
DIA        Defense Intelligence Agency
FAA        Federal Aviation Administration
FBI        Federal Bureau of Investigation
FEMA       Federal Emergency Management Agency
FIPS       Federal Information Processing Standards
FPM        Federal Personnel Manual
GPRA       Government Performance and Results Act
GSA        General Services Administration
HRM        Human resource management
MSPB       Merit Systems Protection Board
NRC        Nuclear Regulatory Commission
NSA        National Security Agency
OPM        Office of Personnel Management
OMB        Office of Management and Budget
PBO        Performance-based organizations
SES        Senior Executive Service
TVA        Tennessee Valley Authority
USC        United States Code
VA         Department of Veterans Affairs
VHA        Veterans Health Administration


Page 9                                    GAO/GGD-97-72 The Excepted Service
Chapter 1

Organizational Distribution of Excepted
Service Employees

                The distribution of the approximately 1.4 million excepted service
                employees among the three branches of government, and among federal
                agencies, resists a simple description. This difficulty derives from the fact
                that the excepted service encompasses workers in all branches and many
                agencies, who are distributed unequally across and within branches and
                agencies. The following description introduces some of that complexity,
                while indicating some key generalizations that can be made about these
                employees’ numbers and organizational locations. At the end of this
                discussion, we briefly note some additional portraits of the excepted
                service employees that could be done with the same data source.

                Our description is based on OPM data from its Monthly Report of Federal
                Civilian Employment (Monthly Report) for June 1996. Civil service
                positions are in three services: the competitive service, the Senior
                Executive Service (SES), and the excepted service. Monthly Report data do
                not count SES employees separately from excepted service employees. We
                will refer to these combined counts as only representing excepted service
                employees. Treating the SES component of the counts as negligible is
                justified because other data for most civil service employees indicated that
                SES employees were less than 2 percent of the combined total.



                Generalization 1: The majority of employees in the judicial and legislative
Prevalence in   branches were in the excepted service, but this was not true for the
Organizations   executive branch.

                As shown in table 1.1, excepted service personnel in June 1996 made up
                fewer than half of the employees in the executive branch, but they
                predominated in both the judicial and legislative branches. Indeed, almost
                every employee in the judicial branch was in the excepted service, as were
                almost 90 percent of employees in the legislative branch.8




                8
                 In the legislative branch, most agencies’ personnel were all in the excepted service. The major break
                with this generalization was in the Government Printing Office, where almost all of the employees
                were in the competitive service and accounted for most of the competitive service employees in the
                legislative branch.



                Page 10                                                      GAO/GGD-97-72 The Excepted Service
                                         Chapter 1
                                         Organizational Distribution of Excepted
                                         Service Employees




Table 1.1: Federal Civilian Employment
by Type of Service and Branch of                                 Total        Competitive service           Excepted service and SES
Government (June 1996)                   Branch of           number of      Number of        Percent of      Number of     Percent of
                                         government         employees       employees           branch       employees        branch
                                         Executive            2,826,659       1,503,837             53.2%     1,322,822           46.8%
                                                                                                        a
                                         Judicial                29,249                8             0.0         29,241          100.0a
                                         Legislative             32,715            3,895            11.9         28,820           88.1
                                         Total                2,888,623       1,507,740             52.2%     1,380,883           47.8%
                                         Note: Numbers include employees located in the United States and overseas. Numbers exclude
                                         employees of the CIA, DIA, and NSA.
                                         a
                                         Percentages equal 0.0 and 100.0 percent due to rounding.

                                         Source: GAO analysis of OPM’s Monthly Report of Federal Civilian Employment.



                                         Generalization 2: In the executive branch, excepted service personnel
                                         were more prevalent in independent agencies than in executive
                                         departments.

                                         Table 1.2 shows that the proportions of employees who were in the
                                         excepted service varied markedly between the parts of the executive
                                         branch. The largest employing part of the executive branch, executive
                                         departments, had a relatively low proportion of excepted service
                                         positions—about one employee in four was in the excepted service. In
                                         contrast, independent agencies, on average, predominantly employed
                                         excepted service employees. (Their proportion of 85 percent in the
                                         excepted service almost equaled the 88 percent of the legislative branch.)
                                         The part of the executive branch with the fewest employees, the Executive
                                         Office of the President, also predominantly employed excepted service
                                         employees, but to a somewhat lesser degree.




                                         Page 11                                                 GAO/GGD-97-72 The Excepted Service
                                         Chapter 1
                                         Organizational Distribution of Excepted
                                         Service Employees




Table 1.2: Federal Civilian Employment
by Type of Service in Parts of the       Parts of the
                                         executive                  Total  Competitive service    Excepted service and SES
Executive Branch (June 1996)
                                         branch of              number of Number of    Percent of   Number of    Percent of
                                         government            employees employees       the part employees         the part
                                         Executive Office             1,587           630             39.7%             957             60.3%
                                         of the President
                                         Executive               1,751,983     1,346,509              76.9         405,474              23.1
                                         departments
                                         Independent             1,073,089       156,698              14.6         916,391              85.4
                                         agencies
                                         Total                   2,826,659     1,503,837              53.2%      1,322,822              46.8%
                                         Note: Numbers include employees located in the United States and overseas. Numbers exclude
                                         employees of the CIA, DIA, and NSA.

                                         Source: GAO analysis of OPM’s Monthly Report of Federal Civilian Employment; OPM.




                                         Generalization 3: Most excepted service employees were located in the
The Location of Most                     executive branch, particularly among independent agencies.
Excepted Service
Employees                                Despite the fact that the proportions of excepted service employees were
                                         higher in the legislative and judicial branches, the much larger executive
                                         branch employed the vast majority of excepted service employees. As
                                         shown in table 1.3, almost 96 percent of excepted service employees were
                                         located in the executive branch. Most of these employees (constituting
                                         about two-thirds of all excepted service employees) were spread across
                                         the many independent agencies, ranging from large agencies, such as the
                                         Postal Service (which had 855,579 excepted service employees),9 to small
                                         agencies, such as the Commission of Fine Arts (which had 1 excepted
                                         service employee). The remaining 4 percent of all excepted service
                                         employees were about equally split between the judicial and legislative
                                         branches.




                                         9
                                          The Postal Reorganization Act of 1970 designated the Postal Service as an independent
                                         establishment—not agency—of the executive branch. Because we refer to it and others collectively as
                                         independent agencies, we do not maintain that distinction in the language of the text.



                                         Page 12                                                   GAO/GGD-97-72 The Excepted Service
                                         Chapter 1
                                         Organizational Distribution of Excepted
                                         Service Employees




Table 1.3: Excepted Service and Senior
Executive Service Employees by                                                                         Excepted service and SES
Branch of Government (June 1996)                                                                         Number of
                                         Branch of government                                            employees           Percent of total
                                         Executive                                                         1,322,822                       95.8%a
                                              Executive Office of the President                                   957                       0.1
                                              Executive departments                                          405,474                       29.4
                                              Independent agencies                                           916,391                       66.4
                                         Judicial                                                              29,241                       2.1
                                         Legislative                                                           28,820                       2.1
                                         Total                                                             1,380,883                      100.0%
                                         Note: Numbers include employees located in the United States and overseas. Numbers exclude
                                         employees of the CIA, DIA, and NSA.
                                         a
                                          The sum of the subtotal percentages does not precisely equal this percentage due to rounding
                                         error.

                                         Source: GAO analysis of OPM’s Monthly Report of Federal Civilian Employment.



                                         Generalization 4: Most excepted service employees were located in a
                                         relatively few government organizations.

                                         Although table 1.4 lists 123 government organizations that had at least 1
                                         excepted service employee, most excepted service employees were
                                         located in a few large organizations.10 A single agency, the U.S. Postal
                                         Service, employed 62 percent of such employees. The eight largest
                                         employers of excepted service workers employed over 90 percent of these
                                         employees. The first 32 organizations listed in table 1.4—those that had
                                         1,000 or more such employees—employed over 99 percent of all excepted
                                         service employees. The remaining 91 organizations (of which 65 employed
                                         fewer than 100 excepted service employees) accounted for the locations of
                                         the remaining 1 percent of excepted service employees.




                                         10
                                          Many of these organizations consist of suborganizations, such as departments, services, bureaus, and
                                         administrations. Excepted service employment was more concentrated in some of these
                                         suborganizations than in others. The headings shown in the table are the first-level headings published
                                         by OPM in its Employment and Trends reports.



                                         Page 13                                                     GAO/GGD-97-72 The Excepted Service
                                         Chapter 1
                                         Organizational Distribution of Excepted
                                         Service Employees




Table 1.4: Federal Civilian Employment
in the Excepted and Senior Executive                                                      Excepted service and SES
Services, by Agency (June 1996)                                                       Number of    Percent of    Cumulative
                                                                Organization          employees           all       percent
                                         1                      U.S. Postal Service     855,579          62.0%         62.0%
                                         2                      Defense, Military       124,761           9.0          71.0
                                                                Function (includes
                                                                military
                                                                departments;
                                                                Military Function
                                                                primarily excludes
                                                                the Army Corps of
                                                                Engineers)
                                         3                      Department of           112,800           8.2          79.2
                                                                Veterans Affairs
                                         4                      Department of            47,916           3.5          82.6
                                                                Transportation
                                         5                      Department of            43,059           3.1          85.8
                                                                Justice
                                         6                      U.S. Courts              28,857           2.1          87.8
                                                                (excludes the
                                                                Supreme Court)
                                         7                      Department of State      19,646           1.4          89.3
                                         8                      Congress                 17,964           1.3          90.6
                                         9                      Tennessee Valley         16,390           1.2          91.8
                                                                Authority
                                         10                     Department of            13,491           1.0          92.7
                                                                Health and Human
                                                                Services
                                         11                     Department of the        10,840           0.8          93.5
                                                                Interior
                                         12                     Department of            10,460           0.8          94.3
                                                                Agriculture
                                         13                     Panama Canal              9,152           0.7          94.9
                                                                Commission
                                         14                     Department of the         8,652           0.6          95.6
                                                                Treasury
                                         15                     Department of             6,814           0.5          96.1
                                                                Commerce
                                         16                     Library of Congress       4,580           0.3          96.4
                                         17                     U.S. Information          4,221           0.3          96.7
                                                                Agency
                                         18                     Social Security           3,813           0.3          97.0
                                                                Administration
                                         19                     General Accounting        3,623           0.3          97.2
                                                                Office
                                                                                                                 (continued)



                                         Page 14                                         GAO/GGD-97-72 The Excepted Service
Chapter 1
Organizational Distribution of Excepted
Service Employees




                                                  Excepted service and SES
                                              Number of    Percent of    Cumulative
                       Organization           employees           all       percent
20                     Defense, Civilian          3,389           0.2%         97.5%
                       Function (primarily
                       includes the Army
                       Corps of Engineers)
21                     Nuclear Regulatory         3,187           0.2          97.7
                       Commission
22                     Federal Emergency          2,884           0.2          97.9
                       Management
                       Agency
23                     Federal Deposit            2,313           0.2          98.1
                       Insurance
                       Corporation
24                     U.S. International         2,152           0.2          98.2
                       Development
                       Cooperation Agency
25                     Architect of the           1,984           0.1          98.4
                       Capitol
26                     Board of Governors,        1,744           0.1          98.5
                       Federal Reserve
                       System
27                     Environmental              1,728           0.1          98.6
                       Protection Agency
28                     Department of              1,456           0.1          98.7
                       Energy
29                     National Aeronautics       1,335           0.1          98.8
                       and Space
                       Administration
30                     Securities and             1,168           0.1          98.9
                       Exchange
                       Commission
31                     Peace Corps                1,125           0.1          99.0
32                     Small Business             1,019           0.1          99.1
                       Administration
33                     Executive Office of          957           0.1          99.1
                       the President
34                     Office of Personnel          830           0.1          99.2
                       Management
35                     Department of                791           0.1          99.3
                       Housing and Urban
                       Development
36                     National Labor               752           0.1          99.3
                       Relations Board
37                     National Archives            726           0.1          99.4
                       and Records
                       Administration
                                                                         (continued)


Page 15                                          GAO/GGD-97-72 The Excepted Service
Chapter 1
Organizational Distribution of Excepted
Service Employees




                                                  Excepted service and SES
                                              Number of    Percent of    Cumulative
                       Organization           employees           all       percent
38                     Department of                701           0.1%         99.4%
                       Education
39                     Department of Labor          698           0.1          99.5
40                     General Services             693           0.1          99.5
                       Administration
41                     Equal Employment             547           0.0          99.6
                       Opportunity
                       Commission
42                     Federal                      543           0.0          99.6
                       Communications
                       Commission
43                     Federal Trade                530           0.0          99.6
                       Commission
44                     National Science             479           0.0          99.7
                       Foundation
45                     Smithsonian                  463           0.0          99.7
                       (includes the
                       National Gallery of
                       Art, Smithsonian
                       Institution, Woodrow
                       Wilson Center, and
                       JFK Center for the
                       Performing Arts)
46                     Supreme Court                384           0.0          99.7
47                     American Battle              325           0.0          99.8
                       Monuments
                       Commission
48                     Federal Election             303           0.0          99.8
                       Commission
49                     Corporation for              284           0.0          99.8
                       National and
                       Community Service
50                     Congressional                243           0.0          99.8
                       Budget Office
51                     Commodity Futures            209           0.0          99.8
                       Trading Commission
52                     Federal Mediation            204           0.0          99.8
                       and Conciliation
                       Service
53                     U.S. Tax Court               153           0.0          99.9
54                     Armed Forces                 136           0.0          99.9
                       Retirement Home
55                     Merit Systems                135           0.0          99.9
                       Protection Board
                                                                         (continued)



Page 16                                          GAO/GGD-97-72 The Excepted Service
Chapter 1
Organizational Distribution of Excepted
Service Employees




                                                 Excepted service and SES
                                             Number of    Percent of    Cumulative
                       Organization          employees           all       percent
56                     Federal Labor               114           0.0%         99.9%
                       Relations Authority
57                     Pension Benefit             112           0.0          99.9
                       Guaranty
                       Corporation
58                     National Foundation         102           0.0          99.9
                       on the Arts and the
                       Humanities
59                     International Trade          86           0.0          99.9
                       Commission
60                     Defense Nuclear              78           0.0          99.9
                       Facilities Safety
                       Board
61                     U.S. Court of                76           0.0          99.9
                       Veterans Appeals
62                     National                     69           0.0          99.9
                       Transportation
                       Safety Board
63                     Government Printing          62           0.0          99.9
                       Office
64                     Consumer Product             58           0.0          99.9
                       Safety Commission
65                     U.S. Institute of            56           0.0          99.9
                       Peace
66                     Export-Import Bank           52           0.0          99.9
                       of the U.S.
67                     Arms Control and             52           0.0          99.9
                       Disarmament
                       Agency
68                     Holocaust Memorial           51           0.0          99.9
                       Council
69                     Botanic Garden               49           0.0         100.0
70                     Postal Rate                  49           0.0         100.0
                       Commission
71                     Federal Maritime             35           0.0         100.0
                       Commission
72                     Office of Special            34           0.0         100.0
                       Counsel
73                     Advisory Council on          34           0.0         100.0
                       Historical
                       Preservation
74                     Federal Housing              34           0.0         100.0
                       Finance Board
                                                                        (continued)



Page 17                                         GAO/GGD-97-72 The Excepted Service
Chapter 1
Organizational Distribution of Excepted
Service Employees




                                                  Excepted service and SES
                                              Number of    Percent of    Cumulative
                       Organization           employees           all       percent
75                     National Credit               33           0.0%        100.0%
                       Union Administration
76                     Commission on Civil           30           0.0         100.0
                       Rights
77                     Selective Service             28           0.0         100.0
                       System
78                     Occupational Safety           26           0.0         100.0
                       and Health Review
                       Commission
79                     U.S. Enrichment               25           0.0         100.0
                       Corporation
80                     Assassinations                23           0.0         100.0
                       Records Review
                       Board
81                     Federal Mine Safety           23           0.0         100.0
                       and Health Review
                       Commission
82                     Railroad Retirement           21           0.0         100.0
                       Board
83                     Office of                     21           0.0         100.0
                       Government Ethics
84                     Farm Credit                   21           0.0         100.0
                       Administration
85                     Federal Retirement            21           0.0         100.0
                       Thrift Investment
                       Board
86                     Physician Payment             18           0.0         100.0
                       Review Commission
87                     Office of Compliance          17           0.0         100.0
88                     International                 16           0.0         100.0
                       Boundary and Water
                       Commission (U.S.
                       and Mexico)
89                     Prospective                   15           0.0         100.0
                       Payment
                       Assessment
                       Commission
90                     Commission on                 14           0.0         100.0
                       Immigration Reform
91                     National Capital              13           0.0         100.0
                       Planning
                       Commission
92                     National Mediation            13           0.0         100.0
                       Board
                                                                         (continued)



Page 18                                          GAO/GGD-97-72 The Excepted Service
Chapter 1
Organizational Distribution of Excepted
Service Employees




                                                  Excepted service and SES
                                              Number of    Percent of    Cumulative
                       Organization           employees           all       percent
93                     Advisory                      11           0.0%        100.0%
                       Commission on
                       Intergovernmental
                       Relations
94                     Nuclear Waste                 11           0.0         100.0
                       Technical Review
                       Board
95                     Commission on                  8           0.0         100.0
                       Protecting and
                       Reducing
                       Government Secrecy
96                     Inter-American                 7           0.0         100.0
                       Foundation
97                     National                       7           0.0         100.0
                       Commission on
                       Libraries and
                       Information Science
98                     James Madison                  7           0.0         100.0
                       Memorial
                       Scholarship
                       Foundation
99                     International                  7           0.0         100.0
                       Boundary
                       Commission (U.S.
                       and Canada)
100                    Competitiveness                6           0.0         100.0
                       Policy Council
101                    John C. Stennis                5           0.0         100.0
                       Center for Public
                       Service Training and
                       Development
102                    International Joint            4           0.0         100.0
                       Commission (U.S.
                       and Canada)
103                    Architectural and              4           0.0         100.0
                       Transportation
                       Barriers Compliance
                       Board
104                    National Education             3           0.0         100.0
                       Goals Panel
105                    National Council on            3           0.0         100.0
                       Disability
106                    African                        3           0.0         100.0
                       Development
                       Foundation
                                                                         (continued)



Page 19                                          GAO/GGD-97-72 The Excepted Service
Chapter 1
Organizational Distribution of Excepted
Service Employees




                                                  Excepted service and SES
                                              Number of    Percent of    Cumulative
                       Organization           employees           all       percent
107                    National Bankruptcy            3           0.0%        100.0%
                       Review Commission
108                    Appalachian                    3           0.0         100.0
                       Regional
                       Commission
109                    Harry S. Truman                2           0.0         100.0
                       Scholarship
                       Foundation
110                    Office of Navajo and           2           0.0         100.0
                       Hopi Indian
                       Relocation
111                    Marine Mammal                  2           0.0         100.0
                       Commission
112                    Arctic Research                2           0.0         100.0
                       Commission
113                    Morris K. Udall                2           0.0         100.0
                       Scholarship and
                       Excellence in
                       National
                       Environmental Policy
                       Foundation
114                    Committee for                  2           0.0         100.0
                       Purchase from
                       People Who Are
                       Blind or Severely
                       Disabled
115                    Barry Goldwater                2           0.0         100.0
                       Scholarship and
                       Excellence in
                       Education
                       Foundation
116                    Martin Luther King,            1           0.0         100.0
                       Jr. Federal Holiday
                       Commission
117                    Farm Credit System             1           0.0         100.0
                       Insurance
                       Corporation
118                    Federal Financial              1           0.0         100.0
                       Institutions
                       Examination Council
119                    Japan-U.S.                     1           0.0         100.0
                       Friendship
                       Commission
120                    Delaware River                 1           0.0         100.0
                       Basin Commission
                                                                         (continued)



Page 20                                          GAO/GGD-97-72 The Excepted Service
                  Chapter 1
                  Organizational Distribution of Excepted
                  Service Employees




                                                                             Excepted service and SES
                                                                      Number of        Percent of       Cumulative
                                            Organization              employees               all          percent
                  121                       Susquehanna River                     1              0.0%            100.0%
                                            Basin Commission
                  122                       Columbus                              1              0.0             100.0
                                            Fellowship
                                            Foundation
                  123                       Commission of Fine                    1              0.0             100.0
                                            Arts
                  Total                                                 1,380,883            100.0%              100.0%

                  Note 1: Numbers include employees located in the United States and overseas. Numbers
                  exclude employees of the CIA, DIA, and NSA.

                  Note 2: The “cumulative percent” will not always precisely equal the sum of all the relevant
                  “percent of all” numbers due to rounding error. Numbers of employees that do not round up to
                  0.1 percent will show no impact on the percentages in the table.

                  Source: GAO analysis of OPM’s Monthly Report of Federal Civilian Employment.




                  Since the excepted service is not a static entity, research interest may
Research Issues   focus on the changing numbers and locations of excepted service
                  employees. Change can occur for a variety of reasons. For instance, some
                  agencies (for example, the Pennsylvania Avenue Development
                  Corporation in 1996) may cease to exist; some (for example, the Office of
                  Compliance in 1995) may come into being; and yet others (for instance,
                  the Federal Aviation Administration, effective in 1996) may be newly
                  excepted. Through OPM’s Employment and Trends reports, which routinely
                  provide tables based on Monthly Report data, these changes can be traced.
                  Some data on the early history and growth of the competitive service can
                  be found in the U.S. Civil Service Commission’s History of the Federal
                  Civil Service: 1789 to the Present (1941).

                  For some research purposes, it may be important to separate
                  nonpermanent (temporary or indefinite) employees from permanent
                  employees. The Monthly Report data allow for this separation. Agencies
                  can vary greatly in their mix of permanent and nonpermanent
                  appointments among excepted service employees. For example, according
                  to the June 1996 data, 3 percent of the excepted service appointments in
                  the Nuclear Regulatory Commission were nonpermanent appointments;
                  the corresponding figure was 89 percent in the Federal Emergency




                  Page 21                                                  GAO/GGD-97-72 The Excepted Service
Chapter 1
Organizational Distribution of Excepted
Service Employees




Management Agency. (The average for all agencies with excepted service
employees was 19 percent.)




Page 22                                   GAO/GGD-97-72 The Excepted Service
Chapter 2

Excepted Service Employment by Types of
Appointing Authority

              In chapter 1, we described the distribution of excepted service employees
              among federal branches and agencies. Another way to portray the
              distribution of excepted service employees is according to the many legal
              bases under which excepted service employees are appointed to their
              jobs.

              The 1977 staff report for the President’s Personnel Management Project
              characterized the complexities of the excepted service as “a tangled,
              confusing web of laws, regulations, authorities, and exceptions.”11
              Exceptions may be granted for entire agencies (for example, the
              Tennessee Valley Authority or the Postal Service); parts of departments
              (for example, the Federal Bureau of Investigation within the Department
              of Justice); or specific positions (for example, Foreign Service positions in
              various agencies). In some instances, the exception applies to all
              personnel provisions of the competitive service; in other instances, the
              exception applies only to some provisions. Moreover, the legal basis of the
              exception may be by statute, or pursuant to statute through a regulation or
              an executive order.12

              The purpose of this chapter is to examine some of the patterns and
              complexities of the excepted service that are associated with appointing
              authorities. The illustrations are based on OPM’s Central Personnel Data
              File (CPDF) data on appointing authorities for June 1996.13 First, we
              illustrate that a single agency may include excepted service employees
              appointed under various authorities. Second, we discuss how a single
              appointing authority may be used to appoint excepted service employees
              in various agencies. Finally, we note some methodological difficulties
              arising out of the limitations of the CPDF data and the complexities of
              appointing authorities.



              11
               The President’s Reorganization Project: Personnel Management Project: Final Staff Report, Volume 1,
              December 1977, p. 42.
              12
                Under 5 U.S.C. 3302, the president is authorized to prescribe rules governing the competitive service,
              including authority to provide for necessary exceptions from competitive service. The president has
              delegated to OPM the authority to promulgate regulations implementing this provision.
              13
                According to the technical definition used by CPDF, “current appointment authority” refers to the
              law, executive order, rule, regulation, or other basis that authorizes an employee’s most recent
              conversion or accession action.

              CPDF data are not directly comparable to the Monthly Report data, which were used in chapter 1 to
              describe the distribution of excepted service employees. Among other differences between the two
              data sources, which are detailed in chapter 4, the CPDF has less comprehensive coverage of agencies
              than the Monthly Report. However, of the two data sources, only the CPDF includes appointing
              authority data.



              Page 23                                                      GAO/GGD-97-72 The Excepted Service
                                        Chapter 2
                                        Excepted Service Employment by Types of
                                        Appointing Authority




                                        Beyond excepted service employees possibly working side by side with
Many Appointing                         competitive service employees in an agency, excepted service employees
Authorities Within a                    appointed under many different authorities may work in the same agency.
Single Agency                           As shown in table 2.1, as of June 1996, excepted service employees in the
                                        Veterans Health Administration (VHA) within VA were appointed under a
                                        variety of authorities. They were predominantly appointed under the
                                        authority of the VA Medical Personnel system, which is codified in title 38
                                        of the U.S. Code. However, VHA also employed other excepted service
                                        employees under Schedules A, B, or C.14 VHA also had two presidential
                                        appointees. About 6,200 other employees had been appointed through
                                        another OPM regulation (5 CFR 307.103), which provides for the excepted
                                        service appointment of eligible veterans. A few others were appointed
                                        under other miscellaneous authorities. (As indicated by the authority
                                        categories of “missing codes” and “other citation,” this data source did not
                                        identify the appointing authority of over 21,000 excepted service
                                        employees in VHA.)

Table 2.1: Appointing Authorities for
Excepted Service Employees in the       Appointing authority                                                           Number of employees
Veterans Health Administration          VA medical personnel (38 U.S.C.)                                                                  80,024
(June 1996)
                                        Schedule A                                                                                             1,786
                                        Schedule B                                                                                             1,070
                                        Schedule C                                                                                                4
                                        Presidential                                                                                              2
                                        Veterans’ readjustment                                                                                 6,208
                                        Miscellaneous authoritiesa                                                                               23
                                                            b
                                        “Other citation”                                                                                  21,095
                                        No information (missing codes)                                                                          586
                                        Total                                                                                            110,798
                                        a
                                         This category includes appointments under additional authorities, such as those governing
                                        restored employment.
                                        b
                                            In the data, some appointing authorities are no more specifically defined than “other citation.”

                                        Source: GAO analysis of OPM’s Central Personnel Data File.




                                        14
                                         Appointments under Schedule A are for positions, such as attorneys and chaplains, for which it is
                                        impracticable to examine. Schedule B covers positions for which it is impracticable to hold an open
                                        competition or to apply usual competitive examining procedures—for example, students in
                                        cooperative education programs. Appointments under Schedule C are for positions of a confidential or
                                        policy-determining nature, or which involve a close and confidential working relationship with the
                                        agency head or other key appointed officials; these positions include the majority of political
                                        appointees below cabinet and subcabinet levels. As described in part 213 of title 5 of the Code of
                                        Federal Regulations (5 CFR 213), OPM authorizes agencies to make appointments under these
                                        schedules.



                                        Page 24                                                         GAO/GGD-97-72 The Excepted Service
                                    Chapter 2
                                    Excepted Service Employment by Types of
                                    Appointing Authority




                                    Appointing authorities may span agencies. An example is provided in table
Appointing                          2.2, which portrays the distribution of excepted service employees
Authorities Spanning                appointed under the authority of the Foreign Service statutory provisions,
Agencies                            which are codified under title 22 of the U.S. Code. Although most of these
                                    employees were located in the Department of State and the Agency for
                                    International Development, this appointing authority was used in seven
                                    organizations.

Table 2.2: Excepted Service
Employees With Appointments Under                                                     Number of excepted service employees
the Foreign Service Authority, by                                                                  appointed
Agency (June 1996)                                                                         Under Foreign           Under other
                                    Organization                                         Service authority          authorities
                                    Department of State                                              9,223                 678
                                    Agency for International Development                             1,399                 195
                                    Department of Commerce: International                              218                 105
                                    Trade Administration
                                    Department of Agriculture: Foreign                                 189                 128
                                    Agricultural Service
                                    Department of Agriculture: Animal and Plant                         67               2,045
                                    Health Inspection Service
                                    Department of Commerce: unknown                                      9                   0
                                    suborganization
                                    Peace Corps                                                          1                 879
                                    Total                                                           11,106               4,030
                                    Source: GAO analysis of OPM’s Central Personnel Data File.




                                    The complexity of the excepted service raises various methodological
Methodological                      difficulties. One is the difficulty of designing questionnaires or interviews
Difficulties                        that will successfully elicit information on various categories of excepted
                                    service employees. For example, excepted service employees in a single
                                    agency may be employed under different appointing authorities and may,
                                    therefore, be under differing sets of exceptions. Thus, a survey directed to
                                    their agency would either have to specify the categories of excepted
                                    service employees to which the various questions applied or allow the
                                    respondents to designate the categories of employees for which their
                                    answers applied.

                                    Another methodological difficulty concerns identifying the entities for
                                    research, since excepted service entities can be either individually
                                    excepted agencies or appointing authorities under which workers are



                                    Page 25                                                  GAO/GGD-97-72 The Excepted Service
Chapter 2
Excepted Service Employment by Types of
Appointing Authority




employed in several, or even many, agencies. A related issue is that of
deciding the level of organization, and the number of entities within an
agency or appointing authority, from which data should be gathered. If, for
example, one were researching the Panama Canal Employment Service
appointing authority, one could choose to gather data from as many as 32
entities employing workers under its auspices. (See table 2.3.) The
decision on how many entities to study in order to get adequate coverage
of the Panama Canal Employment Service appointing authority might be a
difficult one because significant variations in personnel systems among
the entities might be unknown before surveying them, while trying to
identify and contact respondents at every site might be difficult.




Page 26                                     GAO/GGD-97-72 The Excepted Service
                                        Chapter 2
                                        Excepted Service Employment by Types of
                                        Appointing Authority




Table 2.3: Number of Excepted Service
Employees With Appointments Under       Agency/ suborganization                                              Number of employees
the Panama Canal Employment             Panama Canal Commission                                                                    648
Service Authority (June 1996)
                                        Army—U.S. Army Southern Command                                                            502
                                        Air Force—Air Combat Command                                                               291
                                        Army—U.S. Army Information Systems Command                                                 170
                                        Army—U.S. Army Medical Command                                                             141
                                        Army—Joint Activities                                                                      118
                                        Navy—Atlantic Fleet                                                                         83
                                        Department of Defense—Dependents Schools                                                    75
                                        Air Force—Air Mobility Command                                                              31
                                        Department of Defense—Defense Commissary Agency                                             20
                                        Army—U.S. Army Armament, Munitions and Chemical                                             17
                                        Command
                                        Army—Field Operating Office of Office of Secretary of Army                                   8
                                        GSA—Federal Supply Service                                                                   7
                                        Army—U.S. Army Forces Command                                                                6
                                        Army—Military Traffic Management Command                                                     5
                                        Department of Defense—Defense Logistics Agency                                               4
                                        Army—U.S. Army Aviation Systems Command                                                      4
                                        Army—Materiel Readiness Activities                                                           4
                                        Navy—Naval Facilities Engineering Command                                                    3
                                        Army—U.S. Army Corps of Engineers                                                            3
                                        Navy—Naval Medical Command                                                                   2
                                        Navy—Naval Education and Training Command                                                    2
                                        Air Force—Office of Special Investigations                                                   2
                                        Army—U.S. Army Test and Evaluation Command                                                   2
                                        Army—U.S. Special Operations Command (Army)                                                  1
                                        Navy—Naval Security Group Command                                                            1
                                        Army—U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command                                                1
                                        Department of Defense—Defense Mapping Agency                                                 1
                                        Army—U.S. Army Tank Automotive Command                                                       1
                                        Army—U.S. Army Communications Electronics Command                                            1
                                        Army—U.S. Army Intelligence and Security Command                                             1
                                        Army—Field Operations Agencies of the Army Staff                                             1
                                        resourced through OA-22
                                        Total                                                                                     2,156
                                        Note: Numbers exclude foreign nationals employed overseas. Numbers exclude employees of
                                        the CIA, DIA, and NSA.

                                        Source: GAO analysis of OPM’s Central Personnel Data File.




                                        Page 27                                                  GAO/GGD-97-72 The Excepted Service
Chapter 2
Excepted Service Employment by Types of
Appointing Authority




Another methodological difficulty involves the CPDF. Our analysis above
shows the usefulness of the CPDF data for tracing appointing authorities
within and among agencies. Nevertheless, the CPDF has some important
methodological limitations when used for this purpose. In particular, it
cannot be used for comprehensive descriptions of the excepted service
because it excludes some important excepted service agencies (for
instance, the Postal Service, the CIA, NSA, and DIA) and foreign nationals
working overseas. Further, CPDF information for a significant number of
employees did not identify a specific appointing authority. For example,
the authority for all of the excepted service employees in the FBI was only
identified as “other citation.” (Additional information about the CPDF as a
data source can be found in chapter 4.)




Page 28                                      GAO/GGD-97-72 The Excepted Service
Chapter 3

Some Prior Studies of the Excepted Service


               Past policy concerns about the excepted service have led to different
               study focuses. One policy concern about the lack of unity resulting from
               the number of alternative personnel systems within the civil service led to
               studies of the validity of reasons for continuing agencies’ exceptions to the
               competitive service. For example, why did one agency need policies
               different from those found in the competitive service to fill a clerk’s job?
               Another concern focused on the criticisms of the competitive service’s
               laws and regulations. This led to examinations of whether the various
               personnel systems in the excepted service offered beneficial models for
               reforming the competitive service.

               In this chapter, we examine some prior reviews and studies that discussed
               these policy concerns. We also discuss some methodological difficulties
               that were revealed by the studies.


               At the request of the Senate Committee on Post Office and Civil Service,
Reasons for    the Civil Service Commission produced a 1973 report, Statutory
Exceptions     Exceptions to the Competitive Service. A central question at that time
               concerned the circumstances requiring agencies to have different
               personnel policies. The Commission addressed this question by asking 44
               agencies to offer reasons that would justify the continuation of their
               exceptions. The study concentrated on exceptions from appointment
               provisions rather than on possible exceptions from the many other areas
               of human resource management covered by title 5.

               This study revealed diverse reasons used to justify exceptions. Reasons
               included the need to work in a business-like fashion (TVA, Postal Service,
               and Veterans Canteen Service); the need to maintain secrecy about
               personnel matters for national security reasons (intelligence agencies); the
               need to serve several—federal, state, and military—masters concurrently
               (National Guard civilians); special needs in staffing overseas positions
               (Department of State); special needs in recruiting and paying medical
               personnel (VA); and the need for separate treatment of government
               branches (Library of Congress). The Commission concluded that a
               common theme throughout the various justifications was an emphasis on
               the flexibility provided by being excepted from the competitive service.

               The Commission also reported its own technical opinion on the
               desirability of continuing each exception. It generally found the
               justifications lacking, concluding that many of the historical reasons for
               the statutory exceptions had ceased to exist. It expressed concern “over



               Page 29                                      GAO/GGD-97-72 The Excepted Service
Chapter 3
Some Prior Studies of the Excepted Service




the agencies’ apparent inability to articulate specific reasons for
continuing the statutory exceptions.”15 In its view, the inflexibilities of the
competitive service perceived by the agencies were not numerous or of
overwhelming significance, and the competitive service could be adapted
to include some flexibility features found in the excepted service. The
Commission also expressed its general preference for further modification
of the competitive service rather than for the exception of agencies or
segments of agencies from the competitive service.

Similar to the Civil Service Commission’s earlier report, the 1977 final staff
report, Personnel Management Project (done as part of the President’s
Reorganization Project), characterized the excepted service in a way that
generally questioned the reason for continuing exceptions. It stated that
most agencies with exceptions operated smaller merit systems with
features that paralleled or were comparable to the key merit requirements
of the competitive service. To paraphrase the question asked in the report:
If the competitive service could be reformed to provide greater policy
diversity and procedural flexibility, and the circumstances that supported
creating the exceptions had already greatly changed, what would be the
remaining logic for the excepted service?16

The staff report differed from the earlier Commission report in that it did
not try to catalog agencies’ reasons for exceptions; rather, it recommended
creating a framework to end the exceptions that could not be justified.
(The Commission had differentiated its technical opinions from
recommendations for legislative action, which would have had to take into
account other factors, such as disruptions of functioning personnel
systems and administrative and legislative convenience.) The staff report
proposed the establishment of criteria by which to evaluate the need to
continue to except certain agencies and alternative personnel systems
from the competitive service. Under the proposal, agencies with
alternative systems would have been required to present justifications,
based on these criteria, to the president for his decision on whether to
continue their excepted status or recommend to Congress legislation to
change that status.




15
 U.S. Civil Service Commission, Statutory Exceptions to the Competitive Service, September 1973, p.
323.
16
 The President’s Reorganization Project: Personnel Management Project: Final Staff Report, Volume 1,
December 1977, pp. 42-43.



Page 30                                                    GAO/GGD-97-72 The Excepted Service
                        Chapter 3
                        Some Prior Studies of the Excepted Service




                        Other studies have had a different focus, one that sought to compare the
Finding Models in the   personnel systems of individual excepted service entities with the systems
Excepted Service        created under title 5. These studies were based on the premise that
                        particular alternative personnel systems included in the excepted service
                        might provide models for rules, methods, or practices that could be
                        beneficially adopted in the competitive service. The Merit Systems
                        Protection Board (MSPB) has done two case studies based on this
                        premise—one on health care occupations within VA and one on TVA.17 In
                        contrast to the Commission’s report, the MSPB studies focused on
                        personnel systems rather than on appointments and tenure, and MSPB
                        considered personnel improvements without raising the possibility of
                        ending exceptions.

                        MSPB’s study focus and policy concerns are illustrated by its report on TVA.
                        On the one hand, MSPB noted that TVA had certain policies, such as granting
                        union preference for certain hiring, that appeared to conflict with merit
                        principles. It recommended that TVA change these policies. On the other
                        hand, MSPB suggested that TVA’s managerial discretion and ability to make
                        rapid and significant changes in human resource management helped it to
                        meet new or changing organizational demands. Here, MSPB recommended
                        that Congress, OPM, and individual agencies consider TVA’s policies and
                        practices as they seek to improve relevant personnel laws, policies, and
                        practices.


                        These previous studies implicitly or explicitly raise many research issues
Research Issues and     and methodological difficulties. These include how to judge the validity of
Methodological          reasons for exceptions, to measure the impact of a personnel practice on
Difficulties            an agency’s mission, and to determine whether successful features of a
                        personnel system in one agency might be beneficially transferred to
                        another agency.

                        Three other relevant issues are discussed below. These concern how to
                        establish reasons for exceptions, determine the reliability of agency
                        responses about flexibility, and describe and compare personnel systems.
                        For each of these issues, prior studies illustrate some important
                        methodological difficulties.




                        17
                         MSPB published its studies as The Title 38 Personnel System in the Department of Veterans Affairs:
                        An Alternative Approach (1991) and The Tennessee Valley Authority and the Merit Principles (1989).



                        Page 31                                                    GAO/GGD-97-72 The Excepted Service
                              Chapter 3
                              Some Prior Studies of the Excepted Service




Establishing the Reasons      Establishing the reasons for exceptions poses certain methodological
for Exceptions                difficulties for gathering adequate information. Although examining the
                              legislative history might be helpful in determining the original reasons for
                              the exceptions, there are limitations to this approach. First, the available
                              legislative history record may not be definitive, since, as the Civil Service
                              Commission noted in its 1973 report, it is reasonable to assume that
                              considerations may have been involved that were not fully reflected in
                              historical records. Second, unless the exception was created recently,
                              legislative histories may not be relevant for establishing the current
                              reasons because circumstances may have changed since the exception’s
                              creation.18

                              Another approach to establishing current reasons may be to ask agencies
                              to justify their exceptions. This approach requires respondents to
                              construct reasons, and the Commission’s 1973 study raised issues about
                              what constitutes an adequate response. The Commission concluded that
                              most agencies were unable to articulate specific reasons for continuing
                              their statutory exceptions. It is unclear whether this vagueness resulted
                              from an actual lack of adequate justification, the respondents’
                              misunderstanding of what constituted an adequately specific justification,
                              or the respondents’ lack of knowledge about the competitive service
                              provisions to which their exceptions needed to be compared. The
                              Commission’s study relied on agencies to provide narrative justifications
                              for continuing the exceptions, and the Commission emphasized that it had
                              asked respondents to be very specific. Any future researcher might
                              consider whether, and if so how, more specific responses could be elicited
                              from respondents.


Determining the Reliability   A second research issue is whether agency respondents can reliably assess
of Responses                  the flexibility of personnel requirements and practices under the
                              competitive service. In Statutory Exceptions to the Competitive Service
                              (1973), the Civil Service Commission agreed with certain agencies’
                              assertions that their personnel practices would not be allowed under title
                              5, and disagreed with others. For example, the Commission stated that
                              several agencies were under the misconception that competitive
                              procedures for selection necessarily required a written test; it also noted


                              18
                                Although a complete legislative history of an agency’s operation outside of, or prior to, the creation
                              of the competitive service may go back more than a century, the history of many current exceptions
                              goes back no farther than the Ramspeck Act of 1940. That act authorized the president to remove
                              almost all exceptions that had been created since the passage of the Civil Service Act of 1883. In the
                              Civil Service Commission’s 1973 report about statutory exceptions, it is noted that the Ramspeck Act
                              resulted in the Commission being largely concerned with exceptions that had occurred since 1940.



                              Page 32                                                       GAO/GGD-97-72 The Excepted Service
Chapter 3
Some Prior Studies of the Excepted Service




that both interviews and peer referrals could have their place in
competitive service selections. The Commission speculated that some
responses might reflect some excepted service agencies’ long
independence from competitive service appointment laws and regulations;
such respondents might not be familiar with the ways in which the
competitive service had evolved in response to concerns with past
rigidities and weaknesses.

However, this reliability problem may not simply reflect the
misperceptions of officials in excepted service agencies, whose role might
not require a working knowledge of the competitive service provisions
that cover other agencies. Our prior work suggests that some agency
officials may not clearly understand the actual sources of perceived
inflexibilities or constraints in their own agencies. For example, at a 1995
symposium we sponsored,19 a participant recounted an incident in which
Internal Revenue Service officials learned that constraints on their
prerogatives were not so extensive as they had thought; OPM
representatives at one meeting told them a particular constraint was
self-imposed and not an OPM requirement. In addition, a recent study of
ours found that several participating agencies discovered, while preparing
their waiver requests for a pilot project, that the burdens and constraints
that confronted their managers often were imposed by the agency itself or
its parent department and were not the result of requirements imposed by
central management agencies.20

This reliability issue is critical to a comparison of the flexibility of
personnel systems in the competitive and excepted services. If
respondents’ assessments cannot be assumed to be reliable, any
comparison based on their views would be suspect. Thus, one would be
uncertain whether policies and procedures found in excepted service
agencies would be unavailable to competitive service agencies due to the
stricter requirements of title 5. Conversely, one would also be uncertain
whether excepted service agencies needed their exceptions in order to
adopt particular policies or procedures.

Consequently, researchers addressing the flexibility issue might take one
of two differing approaches to reliably determining and comparing the


19
 Transforming the Civil Service: Building the Workforce of the Future: Results of a GAO-Sponsored
Symposium (GAO/GGD-96-35, Dec. 26, 1995), p. 9.
20
 GPRA: Managerial Accountability and Flexibility Pilot Did Not Work as Intended (GAO/GGD-97-36,
April 1997) p.4. A similar instance is reported in Management Reform: Status of Agency Reinvention
Efforts (GAO/GGD-96-69, March 1996).



Page 33                                                    GAO/GGD-97-72 The Excepted Service
                           Chapter 3
                           Some Prior Studies of the Excepted Service




                           approaches and legal bases of personnel systems in the two services. The
                           first approach would be to rely on respondents to make the comparisons,
                           while (1) ensuring that respondents were adequately knowledgeable in
                           this regard and/or (2) finding methods to confirm the legal basis of any
                           constraints they perceived. The second approach would be to rely on the
                           respondents only for descriptions of their personnel systems; the
                           researchers would then compare the personnel systems and determine
                           their legal bases. The second approach would probably require more time
                           and expertise on the part of researchers than would the first.


Describing and Comparing   Identifying the appointing authority (as was done in chapter 2) is only a
Personnel Systems          starting point for describing a personnel system in the excepted service.
                           Such a description could include the personnel system’s various
                           exceptions from title 5; its statutory, regulatory, and policy bases; and the
                           actual practices it involves. The set of exceptions might be identified
                           through an extensive review of the many relevant chapters and
                           subchapters of title 5 where exceptions to coverage by particular
                           provisions are defined.21 The statutory requirements for the personnel
                           system might be found in a separate title of the U.S. Code, and regulatory
                           requirements might be found in the Code of Federal Regulations.
                           Personnel manuals and union agreements might further define policies
                           and procedures covering particular personnel systems within the excepted
                           service. To understand actual day-to-day practices and how the features of
                           the personnel system interact would likely require additional information
                           for each personnel system to be studied. This information might already
                           exist, for example, in previous research documents, or new information
                           might be gathered through case studies.

                           However, legal research may well involve complications that are not
                           immediately apparent. For example, all applicable statutes for an
                           alternative personnel system may not be explicit in the public law creating
                           the exception. For instance, section 347 of the 1996 Department of
                           Transportation Appropriation Act directed the FAA to develop a new
                           personnel management system. The act states that the new system is not
                           subject to title 5 provisions, except for some clearly specified sections and
                           chapters. Although other applicable statutes are not explicitly specified in
                           the act, an FAA document explains that FAA continues to be subject to four
                           more chapters of title 5, the non-personnel management provisions of title
                           5, and those portions of title 5 that specifically apply to the Secretary of

                           21
                            This type of analysis is illustrated in Appendix XI, “Comparison of Selected Features of Competitive
                           and Excepted Services,” in Personnel Management Project, Volume 3, December 1977.



                           Page 34                                                     GAO/GGD-97-72 The Excepted Service
Chapter 3
Some Prior Studies of the Excepted Service




Transportation. Through its own discretion, FAA also incorporated
additional sections and chapters of title 5 into its new personnel
management system.22

A researcher can also find complexities in the configuration of exceptions
under a single appointing authority. For instance, according to the 1991
MSPB report, the law provides for different personnel rules for the different
medical care occupations under title 38 U.S.C. Seven
occupations—physician, dentist, registered nurse, expanded-function
dental auxiliary, optometrist, physician assistant, and podiatrist—“are
covered by rules separate from those of title 5 for placement, pay
administration, leave, hours of duty, discipline, adverse actions and
appeals, and performance management. These employees are covered only
by the title 5 retirement rules.”23 Another five occupations—practical
nurse, occupational therapist, pharmacist, physical therapist, and
respiratory therapist—share placement and pay administration provisions
with other title 38 occupations. However, unlike other title 38 employees,
persons in these occupations are paid under the General Schedule rather
than under a separate pay scale and are subject to title 5 performance
management, leave, and discipline provisions.

Comparing excepted service and competitive service human resource
management systems may require detailed examinations of the personnel
systems within both services. In some ways, title 5 provisions do provide
stark contrasts with personnel practices in some excepted service
agencies. For example, TVA negotiates with employee unions on a wide
range of matters, including pay, job classification, and health insurance,
but title 5 specifically prohibits agencies from negotiating on these and
other specific matters. Nevertheless, one cannot assume that the title 5
requirements result in a single personnel system among competitive
service agencies that always sharply contrasts with those of excepted
service agencies. For example, title 5 provides OPM the discretion to use
pay and grade-setting provisions provided under title 38 for VA health care
occupations currently covered under title 5 in other agencies; in effect,
this means that some competitive service positions could have the same
pay and grade-setting provisions as found in the excepted positions in VA.
A second example arises from OPM’s authority under title 5 to conduct
demonstration projects, under which participating agencies can diverge
from a broad range of title 5 requirements. Thus, to the extent that the

22
  FAA Personnel Management System, March 28, 1996, pp. i-ii.
23
  The Title 38 Personnel System in the Department of Veterans Affairs: An Alternative Approach
(1991), p. 7.



Page 35                                                    GAO/GGD-97-72 The Excepted Service
Chapter 3
Some Prior Studies of the Excepted Service




flexibilities allowed under title 5 result in less uniform agency personnel
systems in the competitive service, comparisons between the competitive
service and the excepted service personnel systems would have to
consider variations in the competitive service, as well as in the excepted
service.24




24
 Recent proposals for performance-based organizations have described some of the existing
personnel flexibilities under title 5. For example, see OPM’s “Template of Personnel Flexibilities for
Use by Agencies Selected for Conversion to Performance-Based Organizations,” March 27, 1996,
especially part II.



Page 36                                                       GAO/GGD-97-72 The Excepted Service
Chapter 4

Two Sources of Data on the Excepted
Service

                       OPM maintains two data sources, based on data routinely submitted by
                       agencies, that provide information about the excepted service. One is the
                       Monthly Report of Federal Civilian Employment (Monthly Report), which
                       contains summary employment data for agencies. The other is the Central
                       Personnel Data File (CPDF), which contains personnel information on most
                       federal civilian employees. Each data source has advantages and
                       disadvantages for providing information about the excepted service.

                       In chapters 1 and 2, we used these data sources to draw different
                       statistical portraits of the excepted service. In this chapter, we detail the
                       differences between the two data sources that affect their use for this
                       purpose. We also identify some unresolved issues concerning their
                       coverage and accuracy, as well as the methodological difficulty of mixing
                       data from the two sources in an analysis.


                       Of the two sources, the Monthly Report gives more comprehensive
Coverage of Agencies   information on the governmentwide distribution of excepted service
                       employees. As shown in table 4.1, the Monthly Report was designed to
                       provide more comprehensive coverage of federal agencies than the CPDF.
                       Although both sources exclude nonappropriated fund employees25 and
                       some agencies (for example, the CIA, DIA, and NSA), the CPDF excludes more
                       agencies (for example, all judicial branch agencies and many legislative
                       branch agencies). The CPDF also excludes the Postal Service, which
                       employed 62 percent of all excepted service employees in June 1996.




                       25
                        These include employees paid from nonappropriated funds of the Army and Air Force Exchange
                       Service, Army and Air Force Motion Picture Service, Navy exchanges, Marine Corps exchanges, Coast
                       Guard exchanges, and other instrumentalities of the United States conducted for the comfort and
                       improvement of personnel of the armed forces. These employees are broadly excepted from title 5, as
                       specified in section 2105 of that title.



                       Page 37                                                   GAO/GGD-97-72 The Excepted Service
                                       Chapter 4
                                       Two Sources of Data on the Excepted
                                       Service




Table 4.1: Comparison of Coverage of
Federal Civilian Employment for Two                                                      Monthly Report of Federal Civilian
Data Sources                           Central Personnel Data File                       Employment
                                       Includes employees in the executive               Includes employees in the executive
                                       branch, with some exclusions:                     branch, with some exclusions:

                                       Excludes White House Office and Office of
                                       the Vice President employees.

                                       Excludes Board of Governors of the Federal
                                       Reserve System, Postal Rate Commission,
                                       U.S. Postal Service, and Tennessee Valley
                                       Authority employees.

                                       Excludes commissioned officers in the
                                       Department of Commerce, Department of
                                       Health and Human Services, and the
                                       Environmental Protection Agency.

                                       Excludes Central Intelligence Agency,             Excludes Central Intelligence Agency,
                                       Defense Intelligence Agency, and National         Defense Intelligence Agency, and National
                                       Security Agency employees.                        Security Agency employees.
                                       Excludes employees in the judicial branch.        Includes employees in the judicial branch.
                                       Includes legislative branch employees in          Includes employees in the legislative
                                       only the Government Printing Office, the          branch.
                                       U.S. Tax Court, and several small
                                       commissions.
                                       Excludes most nonappropriated fund                Excludes nonappropriated fund personnel.
                                       personnel.
                                       Excludes non-U.S. citizens in foreign             Includes non-U.S. citizens in foreign
                                       countries.                                        countries.
                                       Source: OPM, Operating Manual: Federal Workforce Reporting Systems, December 26, 1994.




                                       Although limited to fewer agencies, the CPDF has been designed to provide
Available Information                  more information about excepted service employees than does the
                                       Monthly Report. The Monthly Report collects summary counts for
                                       employees in the excepted service and the SES (combined) by agency, with
                                       breakouts for permanent (versus temporary or indefinite) appointments,
                                       major geographic locations, and accessions.26 (Accessions are additions to
                                       an agency’s workforce resulting from new hires, reappointments,
                                       transfers, and other personnel actions.)



                                       26
                                        The reporting system for the Monthly Report is described in OPM’s Operating Manual: Federal
                                       Workforce Reporting Systems, December 26, 1994. Additional details are found in OPM’s Standard
                                       Form 113-A: Monthly Report of Federal Civilian Employment: User Guide, August 1, 1996. Tables
                                       based on the data are routinely disseminated through OPM’s Employment and Trends reports.



                                       Page 38                                                   GAO/GGD-97-72 The Excepted Service
                 Chapter 4
                 Two Sources of Data on the Excepted
                 Service




                 In contrast, the CPDF includes all this information and considerably more
                 personnel data, such as occupation and pay plan,27 and collects this data
                 on each employee. Perhaps most importantly, the CPDF can separate
                 excepted service employees from SES and competitive service employees.
                 It also indicates the legal or regulatory basis (that is, the appointing
                 authority) for appointing excepted service employees. For agencies
                 covered by both sources, the CPDF also provides data on more agency
                 suborganizations. Thus, the CPDF—and not the Monthly Report—could
                 show, for example, that most excepted service employees in VA were
                 within the Veterans Health Administration, and that most of these were
                 appointed under the Veterans Medical Personnel Authority.


                 Future researchers will have to consider at least two unresolved issues
Methodological   about these data sources. As we have shown, the Monthly Report has
Difficulties     better coverage of the excepted service than does the CPDF; the first
                 unresolved issue concerns the completeness of the Monthly Report’s
                 coverage. A second unresolved issue is the accuracy of data in the CPDF
                 and the Monthly Report. Moreover, future researchers should be aware of
                 the methodological difficulty of mixing data from the two data sources.

                 Since the Monthly Report is designed to capture almost all federal civilian
                 employment, it does provide an extensive list of agencies with excepted
                 service employees. However, we have not verified that it is an exhaustive
                 list.28 In particular, although the Monthly Report includes data on
                 government corporations, we have not verified that all corporations with
                 federal civilian employment are reported in it.29 Previous studies of the
                 excepted service, although dated, have examined other entities that are
                 explicitly excluded from reporting to the Monthly Report. These include
                 the major intelligence agencies and the nonappropriated fund employees

                 27
                  The many data elements of the CPDF are listed in OPM’s Operating Manual: Federal Workforce
                 Reporting Systems, December 26, 1994. The full data dictionary is found in The Guide to Personnel
                 Data Standards (previously known as FPM Supplement 292-1, Personnel Data Standards).
                 28
                   Other agencies’ lists of federal agencies might be used to identify federal agencies, if any, that do not
                 appear in OPM lists. These other lists include the Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB) annual
                 list of designated federal entities and federal entities, OMB’s federal budget data by agency, the
                 National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Codes for the Identification of Federal and Federally
                 Assisted Organizations (FIPS PUB 95-1), and the Office of the Federal Register’s The United States
                 Government Manual. Even if additional agencies were found on these lists, further investigation would
                 be necessary to determine whether the discovered agencies were subsumed under other agencies in
                 the OPM lists, and whether they were employing excepted service employees.
                 29
                  Determining the universe of government corporations may be difficult. Our prior study found that no
                 comprehensive descriptive definition of, or criteria for, creating government corporations existed, and
                 counts of their number have varied widely. See Government Corporations: Profiles of Existing
                 Corporations (GAO/GGD-96-14, December 1995).



                 Page 39                                                        GAO/GGD-97-72 The Excepted Service
Chapter 4
Two Sources of Data on the Excepted
Service




at various agencies. (According to a Department of Defense official, that
department alone had about 170,000 nonappropriated fund employees.)

We have not examined the accuracy of either data source. According to
OPM, a number of quality control operations are performed on CPDF data,
and, where possible, comparisons are made between CPDF data and
Monthly Report data to identify any large data discrepancies.30 OPM has
also developed a program for checking Monthly Report data for logical
inconsistencies, missing values, and out-of-expected-range data; through
this program, agencies may interactively correct their data in response to
error messages, when they have electronically submitted their data.31

Given the differences between the two data sources, mixing their data in
an analysis can raise issues of accuracy. Since the Monthly Report data
cover different agencies than do CPDF data, aggregate findings are not
directly comparable between the two data sources. Moreover, even data
for the same agency drawn from the two sources may not be comparable.
Discrepancies in counts for agencies—whether resulting from
understandable differences in coverage (such as CPDF’s exclusion of
foreign nationals employed overseas) or other possible reasons, such as
inaccurate counts—can be fairly large. For instance, CPDF data as of
June 1996 indicated that the Federal Emergency Management Agency
(FEMA) employed 7,984 excepted service employees; Monthly Report data
for the same month indicated that FEMA employed 2,884.32




30
  We have a separate study currently under way to examine the accuracy of data in the CPDF.
31
 OPM’s efforts to promote quality control for the CPDF are described in its Operating Manual: Federal
Workforce Reporting Systems, December 26, 1994, especially pp. 2-3, 41. OPM’s program to check
Monthly Report data is presented in its “Listing of SF 113-A Reporting Edits,” Standard Form 113-A:
Monthly Report of Federal Civilian Employment: User Guide, August 1, 1996, pp. 36-45.
32
 According to an OPM official, this discrepancy primarily resulted from the many FEMA employees on
nonpay status in June 1996, who were counted in the CPDF data and not in the Monthly Report data.



Page 40                                                    GAO/GGD-97-72 The Excepted Service
Page 41   GAO/GGD-97-72 The Excepted Service
Appendix I

Objectives, Scope, and Methodology


              Our overarching objective was to provide an introduction to the excepted
              service and to identify research issues for planning future studies of it.
              Specifically, our objectives were to describe (1) the distribution of
              excepted service employees across government organizations; (2) the
              composition of the excepted service in terms of the various legal bases
              under which employees were appointed; (3) policy concerns and study
              focuses that have guided some prior studies; and (4) the coverage of
              agencies and employees, and available information, in two data sources
              that were useful for studying the excepted service. Additionally, we sought
              to identify research issues and methodological difficulties associated with
              each of these objectives.

              For the first objective of describing the distribution of excepted service
              employees across government organizations, we analyzed OPM data from
              the Monthly Report of Federal Civilian Employment (Monthly Report) for
              June 1996. Since Monthly Report data do not count SES employees
              separately from excepted service employees, our use of the combined
              number is not a precise count of excepted service employees. However,
              we determined that the imprecision was very small; based on our analysis
              of data from the CPDF, which covers most federal civilian employees, SES
              employees made up less than 2 percent of the combined count in
              June 1996. Although the Monthly Report covers almost all agencies, it does
              not provide a full count of excepted service employees since it collects
              data neither from the major intelligence agencies nor on nonappropriated
              fund employees who were included in some previous studies of statutory
              exceptions to the competitive service.

              For the second objective of describing the legal bases of excepted service
              employees’ appointments, we analyzed OPM’s CPDF data on appointing
              authorities for June 1996. Because the CPDF data exclude over half the
              positions in the excepted service, we illustrate patterns for particular
              agencies and appointment authorities, rather than describing the entire
              excepted service.

              For the first and second objectives, we did not verify the data used in our
              descriptions since that was beyond the scope of this introduction to the
              excepted service. The descriptions are for June 1996.

              To identify policy concerns and study focuses in prior studies of the
              excepted service, we reviewed four studies that illustrate significantly
              different approaches to studying the excepted service.




              Page 42                                      GAO/GGD-97-72 The Excepted Service
Appendix I
Objectives, Scope, and Methodology




Our fourth objective was to describe the completeness of coverage and
available information in two data sources, the CPDF and the Monthly
Report, that we used for analyzing aspects of the excepted service for
objectives 1 and 2. We described their coverage and information based
primarily on OPM documentation, although we also clarified some details
about the Monthly Report with the OPM manager in charge of it.

We identified research issues and methodological difficulties associated
with the four objectives by considering them in light of our standard
processes for planning a study.33 We examined the various ways in which
data on the personnel systems in the excepted service might be collected,
and identified the limitations on what these data might reveal and on what
we might be able to report about them. These considerations, and our
review of some previous studies, led us to identify certain research issues
and methodological difficulties that are likely to confront any researcher
who intends to delve more deeply into the excepted service in the future.




33
  These processes include identifying research questions, the needed data, available data sources,
methods of data collection and analysis, the type of supportable findings, and potential limitations of
findings.



Page 43                                                       GAO/GGD-97-72 The Excepted Service
Appendix II

Major Contributors to This Staff Study


                        Stephen E. Altman, Assistant Director, Federal Management and
General Government      Workforce Issues
Division, Washington,   Michael J. O’Donnell, Advisor
D.C.                    Gregory H. Wilmoth, Senior Social Science Analyst

                        Terry J. Hanford, Evaluator-in-Charge
Denver Regional
Office




(410077)                Page 44                                  GAO/GGD-97-72 The Excepted Service
Ordering Information

The first copy of each GAO report and testimony is free.
Additional copies are $2 each. Orders should be sent to the
following address, accompanied by a check or money order
made out to the Superintendent of Documents, when
necessary. VISA and MasterCard credit cards are accepted, also.
Orders for 100 or more copies to be mailed to a single address
are discounted 25 percent.

Orders by mail:

U.S. General Accounting Office
P.O. Box 6015
Gaithersburg, MD 20884-6015

or visit:

Room 1100
700 4th St. NW (corner of 4th and G Sts. NW)
U.S. General Accounting Office
Washington, DC

Orders may also be placed by calling (202) 512-6000
or by using fax number (301) 258-4066, or TDD (301) 413-0006.

Each day, GAO issues a list of newly available reports and
testimony. To receive facsimile copies of the daily list or any
list from the past 30 days, please call (202) 512-6000 using a
touchtone phone. A recorded menu will provide information on
how to obtain these lists.

For information on how to access GAO reports on the INTERNET,
send an e-mail message with "info" in the body to:

info@www.gao.gov

or visit GAO’s World Wide Web Home Page at:

http://www.gao.gov




PRINTED ON    RECYCLED PAPER
United States                       Bulk Rate
General Accounting Office      Postage & Fees Paid
Washington, D.C. 20548-0001           GAO
                                 Permit No. G100
Official Business
Penalty for Private Use $300

Address Correction Requested