In an effort to make the vast federal work force more efficient and more responsive to the direction of the White House, President Carter sent Congress last week, a broad, complex blueprint for revamping the U.S. Civil Service.
The proposals would facilitate the hiring, assigning and firing of government workers and would reward high-ranking civil servants for high-level performance.
One of the major features of the reorganization plan would be establishment of a Senior Executive Service for which about 9,000 officials at the top of the salary ladder would be eligible to volunteer. They would be offered the opportunity to trade some job security for a chance at higher pay and bonuses for superior performance.
Another important aspect of the plan would let each agency do its own hiring, rather than rely on often lengthy and labyrinthine Civil Service Commission procedures.
Under the new plan firing could also be faster, with only one chance to appeal after the actual dismissal.
The special perference given to veterans in federal hiring would be altered and limited.
One half of the Civil Service Commission would become an independent Merit Protection Board, with bipartisan leadership, which would hear and act on most employe appeals and complaints. A special counsel attached to the board would be charged with such duties as protecting the so called whistleblowers - employes who expose waste and wrongdoing in government.
In addition the proposals would make it possible for agencies to relate pay to performance. Length of service would no longer guarantee periodic pay raises for about 72,500 managers and supervisors in grades 13 to 15.
Late last week Washington Post staff writer Joann Ford Parks visited some federal agencies talking to those who would be most affected - federal employes working in the headquarters of the federal bureaucracy.
Here are their views:
Stulz, 32, trial attorney, Department of Transportation, GS-11: "I think there's a need to try and encourage a high standard of effort and achievement in the government. There's a general problem in the civil service of trying to maintain incentives.
"I think there's a bias in the whole bureaucracy against recognition. It even got to the point where the secretary of transportation lost his name and title. He was reduced to S-1. He has fought a battle, and won, to get his title back, but I don't think he's got his name. It seems if you fade into the woodwork you're safe.
"I do think it's important to try to reward achievement and reduce some of the barriers to releasing people who are not doing their jobs. I think the civil service rules have gone to an extreme and they need to be revised to get rid of people who aren't doing their job.
"The proposal concerning special defense for whistleblower's presents a problem. I think there's a problem for attorneys in an agency to conduct evaluations of their agency. Since the agency is our client we have a duty to respect them. We have a responsibility to be loyal to all our clients. Someone outside the agency would have to defend them."
Macklin, 42, director, Office of Administrative Services, GS-16: "I think it (the Senior Executive Service) is a good plan. I believe the federal government needs to have a lot more incentives in general, but executives need to be held a lot more accountable for what they do and don't do. I think one of the benefits would be to fit accountability more specifically.
"One of the things I think is disincentive is you can't get any specific, tangible measure for reward. I think people in the civil service work hard because they like what they're doing. And I think in public administration, particularly at the federal level, there's a just an infinite number of ways you can dissatisfy people. That means, regardless to what you do you're going to have people who are happy and people who are unhappy. There needs to be some consideration given to how you would get rid of people.
"In business you have your bottom line of you're making your profit, or you're not making your profit. You don't have that in government. So that bothers me a little.
"I think (SES) is a good thing. But it needs to be worked through. Whether I'll sign up if given the option to depends on if the bonus is there. Then there would be some personal incentive. I wouldn't hesitate to sign up. I like public service over working in the private sector."
Armstrong, director of personnel, Department of Housing and Urban Development, GS-17: "I think it's a very good, well done package, what I've seen of it. I think it has some interestring and innovative ideas. Some of them are controversial and I think the details will be debated in Congress. I hope the time is given for that debate. It's a very major change in terms of the way government will function, and I think they're much more reactionary than people have considered. I haven't made up my mind at this point as to whether I personally would opt for the senior executive system. Younger, upwardly ambitious or mobile people would have a sharper decision to make here, because the only way they would get ahead managerially would be through SES."
Richards, 22, staff clerk, General Services Administration, GS-5: "I like the proposal regarding hiring practices. People who made the higher scores and veterans are at the top of the register. But people on the lower end of the register may never get a job if they wait on the civil service register. This would give more people a chance if they let the agency hire directly."
Persil, 48, deputy director of the budget office, Department of Housing and Urban Development, GS-16: "I'm intrigued by the idea of having a separate merit review board. I'd like to know more about the general counsel's position and the role he would have legally in the office to protect whistleblowers. I think there's some incentive for getting more out of employes. Our employes here in our office do put out a lot. There's a minority that are exceptions.Concerning the Senior Executive Service, I feel I want to learn more about it. The idea for diversity of assignments, the idea for new experiences, I find that very exciting. I have to stress my reactions are intial ones. From the preliminary reports it (SES) does sound exciting and offers promise."
Nipper, 32, mail clerk, Department of Transportation, GS-5: "I think there's a lot of potential in the government they don't utilize.
They have these upward mobility programs, but if they're not job-related you can't take the course. People should be utilized in our areas to take them out of that lower level. Everything they're proposing seems to be geared to the people who already have it good. There are people who have the potential at the lower grades who don't have the opportunity to get out of that grade or field."
Wingo, an engineer in the Engineering and Hydrology Division of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, GS-12: "I think the current veterans preference system is a problem because other people are discriminated against even if they have equal experience or education. It needs to be limited because a person (a veteran) could have forgotten what he learned but he'll still given a certain number of preferential points that aren't for experience or education. Hiring and firing practices make a lot of differences regarding the kind of reaction you get from employees.
If they realize it's practically impossible to fire them for being incompetent it makes a big difference in job performance."
Scates, 26, secretary, Department of Transportation, GS-7: "I've heard Mr. Carter plans to put the secretaries under a different system, not to have the GS wage scale for them. That frightens me because I don't know if that would be higher or lower. Right now it's difficult enough but you still have a chance to go from a secretarial to a managerial scale."
Smith, 30, a program specialist, Department of Housing and Urban Development, GS-11: "The idea of being able to hire and fire easier is good in principle. That's really the way it's supposed to be now. As for allowing each agency to do its own hiring, what happens now is HUD advertises a position, you get candidates to interview, then the Civil Service Commission gives you a list of other people to interview. They're mostly civil service people out of state. Very often they're looking for a job out there, or very often you find some of them a job and didn't notify the civil service. It's frustrating because it's so time consuming. If his proposal works out it would simplify that. I think it would be a good idea to hire people who had already workd for HUD or are Washington residents looking for a government job."
Coe, 23, clerk-typist, General Services Administration, GS-4: "Since he's been elected there's been a lot of talk and no action. This is the same thing."