The Dawn of Meaningful Government Reform

by on January 27th, 2005

The one thing that clearly marks the outset of President Bush’s second term is the grand scope of the initiatives he is pursuing. Social Security reform, Income Tax reform, tort reform and immigration reform. There is one initiative that has the potential to dwarf all of them in terms of impact on the operation of government, and thus on the impact of government on American citizens. The reform of civil service rules.

One of the most contentious issues surrounding the creation of the Department of Homeland Security was the White House’s insistence that the department not be hampered with existing civil service regulation. The White House wanted to be able to promote, demote, pay and fire employees based on their performance.

The plan to reform employment rules at DHS has taken two years to develop and will probably take 4 years to fully implement.

A raise or promotion — moving up in a pay range or rising to the next one — will depend on receiving a satisfactory performance rating from a supervisor, said officials with homeland security and the Office of Personnel Management.

“We really have created a system that rewards performance, not longevity,” OPM Director Kay Coles James said in a briefing for reporters. “It can truly serve as a model for the rest of the federal government.”

It is expected that the White House will be submitting legislation to allow all federal agencies to change their personnel management.

As expected spokesman for federal employee labor unions were quick to voice opposition.

They said the system would undermine the morale of homeland security employees and make it harder to attract and keep talented workers.

This one statement shows clearly how much the union leaders don’t understand reality. Under the current system, there is no incentive to excel. No reason to do more than barely enough. No display of talent or initiative is compensated. You are paid based on time served. The proposed reforms will reward hard work, and ability. Those rewards will attract the talent.

John gage, president of the American of Government employees said

“This is not a modern system. This is a step backward.”

An yet the basic approach of rewarding employees based on performance seems to work well for millions of Americans working for private companies.

Staff the DHS with people who are motivated to do a decent job. Reward those who do the job well with raises and promotions. Roll the system out through the entire Federal Government as quickly as possible.

Stephen Macklin