The head of the Civil Service Commission, breaking sharply with the long held Washington tradition of protecting one's "turf," suggested yesterday that his powerful agency be dismantled.
Alan K Campbell, the chairman of the Civil Service Commission, indicated that he leans strongly toward splitting the agency in two in order to cure what he called a built-in "conflict of interest" in the present system: its role as both the supporter of managers' interests and the protector of the worker against management abuses.
Campbell is chairman of a federal task force, part of the President's reorganization effort, that prepared the array of alternatives dealing with various aspects of federal polices toward workers. The task force emphasized that these are options to stimulate debate, not yet firm recommendations.
Under four of five options presented, civil service personnel management responsibilities would go to the White House, giving the President a greater role in federal personnel matters. The civil service role as "watchdog" over the merit system - investigation, enforcement, and adjudication of employee appeals - would go to an independent agency whose chiefs could not be fired by the President.
Such efforts, in the wake of President Carter's promises to clear out waste and inefficiency in the government, are the latest in a long line of attempts by the White House and others to wrestle the bureaucratic octopus into submission. There have been 20 "major" efforts since 1937, the task force noted, with "no real progress."
This time, the attempt might actually get somewhere, Campbell said, because of "a coincidence of influences you get mabye once in a generation - a management-minded President, a Congress that seems open to change, and the merit system abuses of recent years."
The Civil Service Commission came under heavy fire for its handling of widespread merit system violations by top career and political officials under the Johnson and Nixon administrations. As outlined in part last year in a report by the commission itself, top managers at various agencies had made a practice of giving preferential treatment to persons with political connections.
The administration's final proposals are bound to require substantial new legislation. Campbell acknowledged, "and it certainly won't get done overnight."
The task force is calling over 700 federal agencies and public interest groups to comment by Oct 3 on the more than 200 pages of complicated alternatives, before specific recommendations are made to the President.
Besides dealing with the organization of top management, yesterday's package of options also continued a thrust initiated in another package last week to give federal managers more flexibility in hiring, firing and promoting employees.
Focusing on the overall composition of the federal work force, the package contained such options as:
Creating federal public service jobs to cope with high unemployment without conflicting with the merit system.
Revising the current reduction-in-force system so that seniority and veterans preference are less likely to keep a person in his job than his performance on the job.
Creating a corps of temporary, noncareer employees from the academic or industrial sectors to "diversify" the federal work force.
Removing all ceilings on the number of employees a manager is allowed and relying instead on budget limitations, risking a "slight increase" in the number of employees but giving managers more flexibility in choosing between temporary employees, overtime pay or contracting out.
Authorizing managers to pay employees any salary within the range of a given grade, eliminating within-grade increases given automatically on top of the annual pay adjustment and also allowing managers to decrease workers' pay within the grade range for continuing poor performance.
Last week's package included such options as elimination of veterans preference in hiring, provision for mandatory early retirement and the reserving of certain jobs to top-rated minorities or women.
Among the results of the new options, according to the task force, could be increased merit system protection for employees, a system with greater "credibility" among employees, and increased accountability of managers for their performance.
Questioned as to whether the options really give employees increased protection generally. Campbell said that is a question of definition.
"If you mean ny protection, a tenure in a specific job, a difficulty for management in carrying out the function of his agency, we do inted to change that. If you define rigidities as protections. I don't see it that way."
Spokesmen for major federal employees unions indicated they were still picking their painful way through what one described as the "complicated kind of a snake pit" of voluminous option books coming from the task force. They said they favor "realistic" proposals for change, and that they plan to approach the options on a point-by-point basis and develop a unified response.
The task force's next package, to be released next week, will dealwith federal labor-management relations.