Carter administration officials have apparently shelved, at least for the time being, a controversial affirmative action plan that would have permitted dual promotion tracks in some federal agencies to benefit minorities.
Under a plan that Civil Service Commission brass are considering federal agencies would be encouraged to increase the number of women, blacks and Hispanics they employ and to promote minority workers. Plans are under way to make it easier for agencies to bring those workers into government, on a trial basis, outside the regular civil service merit system.
To make it easier to promote women and minorities. CSC officials have talked about setting up a dual track system of promotion registers. These are lists of employees, all of whom are rated "highly qualified" and eligible for upgrading.
In many cases the promotion registers do not contain names of women or minorities. In that instance, the CSC plan would have allowed the agency to draw up another register of employees who are also rated "highly qualified" but who didn't rate high enough to make the initial list. It would include minorities.
Under the CSC plan, the agency head would then have the option of giving the promotion to somebody on either list. That option, plus the push to upgrade minorities, would benefit many women and blacks.
That proposal has run into a firestorm of criticism from career bureaucrats who say it would cripple the merit system. But that isn't the reason, insiders say, that CSC has decided to put it aside for the time being.
"We've got too many things going now," a commission aide said, "and we have to concentrate on some basics first." Those basics, he said, would include special hiring of minorities, and a new system of identifying women, blacks, Oriental-Americans, Hispanics and American Indians. The new system, which will be announced soon, will require job applicants to list their race, sex and ethnic background.
That information will be used to identify "problem areas" within various federal occupations (where there are few minority group members) and authorize agencies to make special hiring and promotion efforts.
Later on, when that data is available for most of the government's work force, officials expect the dual track promotion system idea will be revived. Now agencies simply don't have the information available to tell whether the people on promotion registers are all white and all male, or whether they have minority group candidates among them.