Increasing Accountability in the Civil Service

Increasing Accountability in the Civil Service

The reformers who created America’s civil service wanted a merit-based federal workforce. They believed this required a simple removal process as well as apolitical hiring. The federal government has strayed far from this vision. Federal agencies report that the federal dismissal process is difficult and time consuming to use. Few federal supervisors believe they could remove problematic employees.  Federal employees themselves express frustration that their agencies rarely remove poor performers.

Even more significantly, federal removal protections can prevent Americans from getting the policies they voted for. They can enable career employees to pursue their preferred policies without getting fired. The media documented widespread bureaucratic resistance during the Trump Administration. 

Defenders of the current system argue removal protections are necessary to avoid the spoils system. These claims are historically inaccurate; the federal civil service operated with few restraints regarding firing for 6 decades. State governments with at-will employment also demonstrate that a modern civil service does not need removal protections. The federal government could become an at-will employer while maintaining a professional civil service.

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