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Government Executive Editor in Chief Tom Shoop, along with other editors and staff correspondents, look at the federal bureaucracy from the outside in.

Making Hiring Reform Real


So the day has arrived--the Obama administration is ready to make it's foray into federal hiring reform. Let's hope this isn't just a trip into the Fire Swamp.

After all, this is hardly the first time that government has sought to overhaul its application process. Remember the death of the dreaded form SF-171 and the move to resume-based hiring? That was back in 1995. It took years to make the shift, and the result was a hybrid creature known as the "federal resume," which required much more specific, tailored information than a standard resume. (Keep that history in mind when OPM's John Berry talks about the Obama administration's effort as a shift to a resume-based system. That was supposed to have happened years ago.)

The problem with reforms to standard federal processes like this is agencies tend to try to find ways to continue to keep using their old methods. In January 1994, then-OPM Director Jim King famously dumped a wheelbarrow containing all the pages of the old Federal Personnel Manual into a recycling truck to symbolize the fact that agencies were freed from its restrictions. But what many of them came up with to replace it looked suspiciously like the old FPM.

The test of this latest reform effort may be whether or not agency officials are given the leeway simply to put old wine in new bottles.

Tom Shoop is vice president and editor in chief at Government Executive Media Group, where he oversees both print and online editorial operations. He started as associate editor of Government Executive magazine in 1989; launched the company’s flagship website, GovExec.com, in 1996; and was named editor in chief in 2007.

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