Senator questions cost of senior executives’ education

A senior senator is questioning what he calls "excessive" costs associated with training the government's top career civil servants.

Republican Charles Grassley of Iowa sent four letters on Tuesday, including one to the head of the Office of Personnel Management and another to the agency's Federal Executive Institute, on the amount of taxpayer money spent on training candidates and members of the Senior Executive Service.

"Although I am a strong proponent of maintaining a well-trained, highly competent federal workforce, I am alarmed by what appears to be the excessive costs related to these programs," Grassley wrote to OPM Director John Berry. OPM does not collect data on how many employees participate in its executive training programs or how much they cost annually.

OPM's Federal Executive Institute charges agencies $18,375 for an executive to attend its four-week "Leadership for a Democratic Society" program at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government, according to Grassley's letter and the course website. Participants receive 12 graduate college credits after completing the four-week program, according to the website.

Grassley, who also sent letters to the Kennedy School and the Center for Creative Leadership in North Carolina, argued that the costs associated with training senior executives exceeds the tuition, fees, room and board for one month at a four-year public or private university.

Bill Bransford, general counsel of the Senior Executives Association, said it was not fair to compare the costs of educating the government's senior executives with the expense of a four-year university, but said he could not comment directly on the quality or cost of the training programs.

"I do agree with the senator that we ought to have an idea of what the government spends on training," Bransford said, adding that that should be something OPM can rectify soon. "These are highly regarded programs that people who go to them say they benefit from."

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