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Personnel reform may be hard sell for Bush administration

When the history of the Bush administration is written, it will include detailed chapters on the Sept. 11 attacks, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the effort to revamp Social Security. It's also likely to include a section on a less heralded initiative to hammer home the most far-reaching civil service changes in more than a quarter-century.

In his 2006 budget request, President Bush proposed allowing all executive branch agencies to dismantle the General Schedule pay system, tighten disciplinary rules and reduce union bargaining rights. Just days earlier, the Homeland Security Department became the first Cabinet agency to announce its plan to revamp civil service rules, using authority it won from Congress in 2002. The Defense Department, granted similar power in 2003, followed with its rules in February.

Comptroller General David M. Walker, head of the Government Accountability Office, is relieved that the administration wants to bring consistency to civil service reform. Last December, he expressed concerns about the piecemeal approach taken by DHS and Defense. What was lacking, said Walker, was a clear delineation of the "core set of values and principles" that define the civil service, "the glue that binds us together."

In the March 1 issue of Government Executive staff correspondent Shawn Zeller examines the Bush administration's mission to makeover the federal workforce. To read the full story, click here.