Conservatives to Bush: Dissolve labor partnerships, ignore career feds

President Bush should rely on political appointees rather than career civil servants and dissolve labor-management partnerships as first steps in reestablishing control over the executive branch, according to two new reports by scholars at the conservative Heritage Foundation. In one report, "Taking Charge of Federal Personnel," three scholars suggest Bush make major changes in the federal civil service system. The three are Heritage Policy Analyst Robert Moffit; Global USA Inc. Vice President George Nesterczuk, a former director of the House Government Reform Subcommittee on the Civil Service; and Donald Devine, a Heritage scholar and the Reagan administration's director of the Office of Personnel Management.

In a separate report, " Personnel is Policy: Why the New President Must Take Control of the Executive Branch," Moffit alone urges Bush to move to quickly establish control over the bureaucracy with his own political appointees. The first paper suggests that Bush revoke Executive Order 12871, which established labor-management partnerships during the Clinton administration. The order was intended to increase the involvement of unions in agency decision-making, and instructed federal managers to negotiate with unions over a wide range of issues, such as numbers, types and grades of employees assigned to an agency. According to the three scholars, Clinton's executive order undermined federal managers. "It weakens the authority of management to direct the work of the federal civil service," Moffit said. "The workforce has changed … managers have got to run the workforce." Bush should take other steps to reform the civil service, such as bringing in as many of his own people as quickly as possible, moving to a merit-based pay and benefit system, restoring merit principles to the federal hiring process and allowing political appointees to make key management decisions, the scholars said. "A lot of [federal managers] don't think the pay system actually reflects all that they do," Moffit said. The system, he added needs to be "a lot more rational than what we have now, this formula-driven system." In his paper on personnel policy, Moffit said President Bush should not depend on career civil servants if he wants to achieve his policy goals, but instead should focus on appointing people who support his agenda. "The truth of the matter is that the real success of the presidency is not simply at the Cabinet level. The ability of a President to act well and act forcibly is often very much at that staff line management position. Who really oversees the writing of the regulation? Who oversees the crafting of a legislative proposal to make sure it does exactly what the administration has in mind?," Moffit asked. Political appointees are more reliable in part because they are more easily held accountable, he added. "If they don't do the job, you can fire them…on the dot," said Moffit. "You don't have to go to the Merit Systems Protection Board." According to Moffit, no one thinks that career civil servants will do a bad job, or will try to subvert or sabotage an agenda. But, they may not know exactly what the agenda is, making it hard for them to carry it out. "I think it is profoundly unfair to saddle a career servant with carrying out the agenda," he said. Officials at the American Federation of Government Employees said they were disappointed by the "muddled thinking reflected in the Heritage Foundation reports." "The Heritage Foundation's recommendations are directly contrary to the promises of [President] Bush, who pledged to cut the number of middle management jobs and eschew the type of layering urged by the Heritage Foundation," said AFGE President Bobby Harnage. According to Harnage, repealing the executive order on labor-management partnerships would "weaken the political management, and would eliminate the possibility of implementing changes to make the agencies work better and cost less, changes which are almost always resisted by the non-political managers." "Unfortunately, the Heritage Foundation seems more interested in continuing old-fashioned fed-bashing than in suggesting positive and substantial improvements to how the government works," Harnage said.

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