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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.

Gingrich's Civil Service Plan: Cut $500B a Year

Evan Vucci/AP


It's old hat for presidential candidates to claim there are big savings to be found in managing the federal bureaucracy more efficiently. In fact, it's almost required. And sometimes they go so far as to take up the arcane subject of civil service reform. Newt Gingrich, however, took things to a whole other level this week. 

Talking Points Memo notes that that Newt Gingrich said the following in Wednesday night's GOP debate in Arizona:

I agree generally with the need to reform government. I think that, if we were prepared to repeal the 130-year-old civil service laws, go to a modern management system, we could save a minimum of $500 billion a year with a better system.

Well that's certainly ambitious, especially when you consider, as Federal Times' Stephen Losey points out, that the government's total personel costs -- including the entire U.S. military and all of the Postal Service -- totaled $432 billion last year.

And it's interesting that Gingrich sets the time machine at 130 years in his quest for laws to overhaul. That goes all the way to the Pendleton Act, which established a competitive civil service. But it didn't create the modern federal system of classifiying jobs and setting pay scales. That wasn't created until 1949. So is Gingrich saying the big savings are to be found in a return to the spoils system?

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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