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Federal Diary: Union Chiefs Defend GS System, Up to a Point

But he did say that the Obama administration will "develop a performance appraisal system that gives substantial rewards to our very best workers, recognizes the good work of the vast majority of our employees, and disciplines and removes the few bad apples who have been given the chance to improve but have either failed or refused to do so."

That would be part of the "comprehensive reform, from recruitment and hiring to pay and training" Berry said the federal workplace needs.

"We have, by and large, the best workers in the world, but we do not have the systems or policies we need to support them."

Much of Berry's speech, titled "A New Day for the Civil Service," was devoted to praising federal civil servants. After ticking off a list of their accomplishments, Berry said perceptions of federal employees "changed for the worse as it became fashionable for politicians of both parties to run against Washington and the boogey man of 'the bureaucracy.' "

It was a bit ironic that Berry mentioned those politicians in a building named for Reagan, who did more to dump on government than anyone, famously saying "government is the problem" in his first inaugural address.

Berry, describing himself as the "chief people-person for the federal government" strongly defended the federal workforce, saying "It's time the denigration ends."

"I argue today that the premise of these attacks was not only misguided -- it was completely wrong," he added. "The American people were sold a bill of goods. Federal workers are not second class or inferior to workers in the private sector, and we never were."

Curiously, some of his applause lines like that one were met with silence.

Maybe some federal workers believe the bull that's been spread about them.

Read John Berry's speech here.

Contact Joe Davidson at

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