Civil Service Reform Might Not Be a Pipe Dream

“This is a difficult time in Congress to do anything, but this is changing and we have an opportunity,” said Ted Kaufman, D-Del. “This is a difficult time in Congress to do anything, but this is changing and we have an opportunity,” said Ted Kaufman, D-Del. Susan Walsh/AP file photo

Compared with the Affordable Care Act, civil service reform “is a walk in the park,” said former Sen. Ted Kaufman, D-Del., on Wednesday.

He spoke at a largely optimistic panel evaluating prospects for the Partnership for Public Service and Booz Allen Hamilton’s new compendium of proposals to improve federal hiring practices, reward top performers and create a more market-based pay structure.

“This is a difficult time in Congress to do anything, but this is changing and we have an opportunity,” said Kaufman, a veteran Senate staffer and currently a visiting professor at Duke University Law School. “Even if we had the most friendly Congress in the world, it would be a long process.” Most lawmakers “want to have a good civil service -- with a few notable exceptions,” he added. The public’s hostility toward government is largely a function of the bad economy, he said.

The report -- titled “Building the Enterprise: A New Civil Service Framework” -- was the product of two years’ work drawing from previous government reform efforts, said Lara Shane, vice president of research and communications for the Partnership. “Most ideas have been tried before, so we sought lessons learned” from why they didn’t take. PPS chose the term “framework” rather than “blueprint” as a way to “start the conversation,” said its president, Max Stier.

Reform will move forward only if there is agreement among all stakeholders, said Robert Tobias, former president of the National Treasury Employees Union and now director of the Institute for the Study of Public Policy Implementation at American University. “It’s not just the unions, but Congress and the administration have to build an infrastructure of trust on what you can agree on,” he said, because there “will be winners and losers.”

But Tobias said he sees the present political climate as opportune because “there is no crisis, so it’s the best environment for a rational discussion.” He added that “most people don’t care about this issue, which can be an advantage in driving the legislation.” Because the reform proposals are likely “budget-neutral,” the panelists noted, any bill would bypass the budget and appropriations committees and perhaps be championed by a small group of lawmakers.

But the 1978 civil service reforms, came about “with a bipartisan coalition for good government that is missing today,” Tobias cautioned.

Businesses want to avoid getting involved in the “dynamics of Congress versus the administration,” added Tony Miller, former deputy Education secretary now a partner with the Vistria Group. “It’s important that reform not be framed in a partisan way -- if you’re for smaller government, it’s still good. But it is important to create a sense of urgency, a burning platform,” while gauging the “opportunity cost” of not acting now.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

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

  • Sponsored by Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

    Download
  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

    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 Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

    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
  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.

    Download

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