Many Reagan administration officials think that Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R-Va.) is a fine fellow -- except about his federal employe constituency.
When it comes time to "reform" the federal bureaucracy, some administration officials lump Wolf and his neighbor, Rep. Stan Parris (R-Va.), into the same category as Reps. Steny H. Hoyer and Michael D. Barnes, Democrats who are one river (the Potomac) and many political light-years away from the Virginia Republicans.
Wolf is upset because of published reports -- not, thank heaven, in this newspaper -- last Friday that had him endorsing an Office of Personnel Management plan to devalue seniority when workers face layoffs. Wolf said he likes the plan (which would make it much easier to fire competent longtime civil servants) the way he likes swine flu and rotten eggs.
For the past few years OPM has tried to implement the new rules. They would link pay raises and layoff protection more closely to performance with less emphasis on seniority. Like them or not, Congress repeatedly has blocked changes. OPM kept declaring victories, but the regulations never saw the light of day. The latest congressional ban expired this month. None of the changes has been made, and Congress is working on yet another ban. The House passed it Thursday. The Senate takes it up Tuesday.
Meanwhile, OPM is under new leadership and has been negotiating on revised rules in case Congress fails to stop the changes.
Wolf as recently as July 10 wrote White House chief of staff Donald T. Regan, Office of Management and Budget Director David A. Stockman and Acting OPM Director Loretta Cornelius. He said he opposes layoffs, but if they must happen, longtime employes with good records must be protected.
Under OPM's plan, an employe with five years' service and three annual "outstanding" job ratings could bump an employe with 20 years' service and three "fully successful" ratings out of work. Wolf says that isn't right.
He wrote the White House that he's a "team player" and is willing to give performance a greater role in layoff decisions, " . . . but I am not willing to consider proposals which totally undermine the integrity of the civil service by inflating retention scores . . . as proposed by OPM." Wolf wants a system that would protect any employe with at least 12 years of service and three "fully successful" job ratings from being riffed.
"I don't have any problem with the concept of pay-for-peformance," Wolf said, "but I believe the OPM regulations published in October . . . and blocked four times by Congress . . . are inequitable and will cause repercussions we will have to face for years to come."