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Group urges sweeping civil service reforms

Apr. 1, 2014 - 06:15PM   |  
By ANDY MEDICI   |   Comments
Government's Leadership Corps
Max Stier: Civil service systems is a relic of a bygone era. (STAFF)

The federal pay system would shrink from 15 to 5 levels, agencies would have greater flexibility in hiring and pay would be based on performance, under a new system laid out by the Partnership For Public Service in a report released April 2.

The report, issued in partnership with contractor Booz Allen Hamilton, calls for overhauling the entire civil service system, including pay, performance management, hiring, job classification, accountability and workplace justice and includes changes to the Senior Executive Service.

“Our nation’s civil service system is a relic of a bygone era,” said Max Stier, president and CEO of the Partnership for Public Service. “Our nation’s leadership must make it a priority to create a civil service system that our public servants deserve and that will produce the results our country needs.”

Pay would be tied to similar jobs in the labor market and Congress and the administration would have greater flexibility to control compensation spending, according to the report. The new system would include five levels ranging from “entry” to “executive” that would also cover subject matter experts as well as high-level managers.

Salary increases in the pay scale would apply toward specific occupations within the federal government and would do away with across-the-board pay increases.

The report also lays out a system to promote people into management who want to be there, instead of automatically becoming a manager within certain grades and a more rigorous review process for all employees that ties in more directly to performance.

Employees who fail to meet performance standard will not get a raise and automatic tenure-based pay raises would be eliminated, according to the report.

“Good government starts with good people, and our nation is fortunate to count some of the brightest, most dedicated professionals among its ranks. But they too often succeed in spite of the current system, not because of it,” Stier said.

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The American Federation of Government Employees president J. David Cox call the report a “retread” of the Defense Departments efforts to create a National Security Personnel System, which Congress repealed in 2009.

Cox called the plan a “thinly disguised effort” by Booz Allen Hamilton to gain hundreds of millions of dollars in new business as DoD contract spending shrinks.

“It’s the same, tired old refrain: reallocate salary dollars from rank-and-file, frontline employees to managers,” Cox said. “The well-meaning Partnership for Public Service should not be associated with this shameless attempt by a voracious contractor to conjure up more business for itself.”

He said the changes outlined in the report would undercut decades of progress in fighting against workplace discrimination and that instead the Merit Systems Protection Board should be given more resources to hear cases and protect employees.

“We reject outright the premise that the federal government is somehow broken and in need of urgent repair. On the contrary, federal employees continue to perform heroically despite the unprecedented budget cuts levied against them in recent years,” Cox said.

The report also recommends:

■Creating a four-tier senior executive service that would better prepare accomplished career civil servants for high-level agency positions.

■Filling key government management positions with senior career executives instead of political appointees to provide a long-term perspective and leadership continuity.

■Giving agencies greater flexibility in hiring without compromising such core principles as veterans’ preference, merit-based selection, diversity and equal opportunity

■These recommendations would help fix a “splintered” civil service system that contains a patchwork of hiring authorities, special rules and procedures that create “have and have not” agencies by creating a unified and flexible system, according to the report.

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