Presidential Management Fellows

Presidential Management Fellows

Unique among federal agencies, the Forest Service cultivates future leaders through a comprehensive leadership development program largely run by the future leaders themselves.  We recruit and hire new talent through the federal Presidential Management Fellows (PMF) program, and then welcome our future leaders with an extensive network of peers, direct engagement with agency leaders, challenging high-level assignments, and exposure to diverse parts of the agency. 

Since 1982, the Forest Service has hired over 80 new employees through the PMF program.  These new employees include recent Masters, JD, and PhD graduates from a variety of disciplines -- including public policy, business management and economics, biology, forestry, natural resource management, and law.  The majority have been hired since 2000, 12 to 15 per year. 

Current and alum PMFs hold a variety of positions within the agency and are stationed all across the country.  These “future leaders” have proven themselves as “current leaders” with demonstrated leadership, creative thinking, and passion that is helping the agency address challenging mission-related issues such as climate change, rising wildfire costs, emerging ecosystem service markets, and urbanization.

“Our PMF cadre are showing up thoughout the Forest Service, whether working on the land or in a laboratory - and from planning to policy. They consistently bring a sharp focus to the tasks at hand, with just enough challenge to "conventional wisdom" to bring a new perspective to issues and an enthusiasm that is contagious.” –Dr. Ann M. Bartuska, USDA Forest Service Deputy Chief for Research

Learn more about the Forest Service PMF program from an interview with Sally Collins, Former Associate Chief and current Director of the USDA Office of Ecosystem Services and Markets.

How the program works

Presidential Management Fellows (PMFs) are identified by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) through a national competitive process that includes nomination by the graduate’s academic institution.  OPM gauges competency in critical thinking, interpersonal skills, and commitment to public service. These core competencies are built upon throughout the fellowship. A typical PMF fellowship consists of the following elements, but can vary somewhat with each individual’s experience and qualifications:

  • Two-year excepted service appointment at the GS-9 level, with promotion after the first year to GS-11, and conversion at the GS-11 or GS-12 level.*
  • Rotation assignments to other staffs, federal agencies, and/or outside organizations.
  • Developmental assignments and at least 80 hours of formal training per year.
  • OPM-sponsored orientation.

And that’s not it…the Forest Service goes well beyond the required elements of the PMF program and also provides new employees with:

  •   An extensive and cohesive network of peers to give support and guidance.
  •   Direct leadership and management experience through stewardship of the program.
  •   Access to and mentorship from top executives and other current leaders;.
  •   High-level, challenging assignments and leadership opportunities.
  •   Continued career support and mentorship for program alumni. 

Through a unique innovation, the Forest Service PMF program was largely created, developed, and is implemented by the fellows themselves. We put future leaders in charge of their own development program with advice and counsel as needed from current leadership.  The program is continually expanding and evolving to meet the needs of PMFs, helping these new employees quickly assume leadership roles in the organization and fully capitalizing on their fresh ideas, creativity, and passion.  Together each year, current and alum PMFs: 

  • Organize their own orientation and training sessions.
  • Coordinate and manage an executive-level advisory committee.
  • Run a competitive process within the agency to select and fund new positions.
  • Provide mentoring for their peers.
  • Recruit new employees.
  • Work together tackling and soliciting priority assignments from top executives.

“What sold me on the Forest Service was the opportunity to work for an agency that could immediately utilize my skills and knowledge, and the opportunity to work for an agency whose mission I strongly appreciated.” – Grants Policy Analyst, Class of 2004, Christopher Coppenbarger

Impacts of the PMF program in the Forest Service

The program is breaking down cultural norms and challenging the agency’s perception of leadership. Effective leadership by current and former PMFs—district safety officers, project managers, district rangers, advisors to the Chief—demonstrates that the benefit of focusing on people with skills, talent, common sense, a good work ethic, and commitment is worth taking the risk on less experienced employees. Forest Service PMFs are helping to keep the organization relevant in an ever changing world.

*The typical promotion progression is GS-9 during the first year of the Fellowship, GS-11 during the second year, and conversion at GS-11 or GS-12.  The Forest Service PMF Advisory Board has established policy for hiring PMFs at above a GS-9 level in rare cases.


Forest Service PMFs in the News

Jen Cramer Current PMF

The work of Forest Service PMFs has been featured by a wide range of news media outlets.