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Donald Devine served as director of the Office of Personnel Management under President Ronald Reagan and is a senior scholar at The Fund for American Studies.
At the very pinnacle of the modern progressive program to make government competent stands the ideal of a professionalized, career civil service.
Turn - Century - Progressives - System - Train
Since the turn of the 20th century, progressives have sought a system that could effectively select, train, reward, and guard from partisan influence the neutral scientific experts they believe are required to staff the national government and run the administrative state.
Our current system, largely implemented during the New Deal, was designed to replace the amateurism and corruption that were endemic to the old spoils system, wherein government jobs were used to reward loyal partisan foot soldiers, with professionalized, scientific, and politically neutral administration. While progressives designed the merit system to promote expertise and shield bureaucrats from partisan political pressure, it now insulates civil servants from accountability.
Study - Heritage - Foundation - Merit - System
As I argue in a new study for The Heritage Foundation, the modern merit system has made it impossible to fire all but the most incompetent civil servants. Complying with arcane rules regarding recruiting, rating, hiring, and firing has replaced the goal of cultivating competence and expertise.
The current system is long overdue for a thoroughgoing makeover. When it comes to basic human resources decisions, employee performance should come first. The federal government should remove red tape that prevents agencies from hiring, promoting, and retaining top talent.
Quality - Career - Service
But the quality of the career civil service...
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