Fresh from accusations that the Social Security administration is being used as propaganda farm, the Bush administration today launched a trial balloon to destroy civil service unions, and indeed the entire idea of a tenured (and, one must presume, nonpolitical) civil service.
Civil Service System on Way Out at DHS: The Bush administration unveiled a new personnel system for the Department of Homeland Security yesterday that will dramatically change the way workers are paid, promoted, deployed and disciplined — and soon the White House will ask Congress to grant all federal agencies similar authority to rewrite civil service rules governing their employees.
… . Bush officials said that the old rules were outdated and too restrictive and that the government needed a more “flexible” workforce [at DHS] to fight terrorism.
Most likely translation: We hate unions. We are the victors. We demand the spoils.
UPDATE: Washingtonpost.com hosts Undersecretary for Management at the Department of Homeland Security Janet Hale for online questions:
Arlington, Va.: Ms. Hale – I've worked in a few govenrment agencies in my 20 years. Unfortunately, I've seen some awful managers who liked power or used their position to create a click of favorite employees. How does the new rating system address the abuse of favoritism ? If fact, doesn't taking away the step structure only increase the potential for supervisor favoritism ?
Janet Hale: I heard this expressed alot as I traveled across the country and have talked to dedicated DHS employees. Our goal is to have a fair, transparent system that all will understand and trust. We are commited [sic] to implmenting [sic]the peformance [sic]management provisions wiht [sic]direct employee and their reprsentatives [sic]involvement in order to achieve our objective.
Most likely translation: Workers are so **f*** [sic].
That’s a big kick in the guts to the many longterm, dedicated employees at gov’t departments across Washington.
Civilian federal employees have always provided the consistency needed to do the work of government, in spite of political appointees (and above) changing the rules every four years. Without the civil service, we will have the entire government subject to the agenda of the politicians in power (read: rethuglicans). Sad day.
As I remember, civil service protection was instituted during the administration of Chester A. Arthur to prevent little problems that had come up like — well, for one thing — the assassination of President Garfield by a disgruntled office seeker who was unhappy with the “spoils system”. I know Rove wants to return to 1898 and the golden age of McKinley, but now it’s time to turn the clock back to 1880 and the Gilded Age?
Each time I think they can’t get any loonier, they manage to show me how sadly deficient is my imagination.