Informing government decision makers through research & industry insights.

A New Framework for a Troubled Civil Service

Photo by Kristoffer Tripplaar

The American federal civil service system is increasingly outdated and needs structural reform to compete with the private sector for in-demand talent. That’s the central message presented by Booz Allen Hamilton Vice President Ron Sanders and Partnership for Public Service Vice President of Communications and research Lara Shane at Excellence in Government 2014. Presenting high-level findings from their new report, Sanders and Shane described how the civil service, as currently structured, is simply no longer competitive with the private sector. Federal employee pay is disconnected from the broader labor market, agencies too often fail to reward excellent performance and address poor performance, and the civil service system has become balkanized, with some agencies receiving special exemptions from Congress to better compete in the labor market.

Sanders and Shane proposed establishing a unified civil service system based on five tried and true government hiring and management principles - merit-based decision-making, nonpartisanship, veterans preference in hiring, non-discrimination, and due process - as the core of their report’s reform package. Beyond these core principles, the new civil service framework has a common base of hiring and management procedures and standards for all agencies and agency-specific configurations as needed to ensure flexibility. Some more specific recommendations include

  • Simplifying the job classification system to more closely mirror fields of expertise.
  • Creating a market-sensitive compensation system
  • Adopting an incentives-based performance management model
  • Expanding flexibility in hiring to all agencies, and holding managers accountable for attracting top talent
  • Consolidating complaints and appeals processes to help ensure better accountability
  • Establishing a single, four-tiered executive service focused on preparing civil servants for enterprise leadership.

Because legislation is needed to make such fundamental reforms, changing the civil service requires broad political support. Sanders and Shane were realistic about the difficulties of attracting bipartisan support, but they are convinced that civil service reform can happen. Politicians may disagree on what missions government should undertake, but they can certainly agree that government should be able to achieve those it does.

For more from 2014 Excellence in Government, check out GBC’s EIG2014 recap series.

Disclaimer

This post is written by Government Business Council; it is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Government Executive Media Group's editorial staff. For more information, see our advertising guidelines.

FROM OUR SPONSORS

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by G Suite

    Cross-Agency Teamwork, Anytime and Anywhere

    Dan McCrae, director of IT service delivery division, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

    Download
  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

    Download
  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

    Download
  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.