Jordan LaPier
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Partnership for Public Service Statement on the Civil Service Reform Proposals Outlined in the Fiscal Year 2019 Budget

February 12, 2018



WASHINGTON – Partnership for Public Service President and CEO Max Stier released the following statement on President Donald Trump’s fiscal year 2019 budget, which calls for modernizing the ways that the federal government hires and manages its workforce:


“President Trump is right to propose an update to the government’s 40-year-old federal personnel system and 70-year-old pay structure. These outdated systems stifle the innovation of today’s dedicated civil servants and impede their ability to effectively deliver services to the American people. A modern and nimble civil service system is needed to help ensure that our government has a first-class workforce capable of meeting the growing and complex needs of the country.


I applaud the president for prioritizing fixing the outdated federal hiring process, which is slow, complex and an impediment to attracting top talent needed for government today and in the future. If agencies can attract and hire the right people with the right skills, this would minimize performance issues down the line.”


Federal employees themselves recognize some of the deficiencies in the current system. A 2017 government-wide survey of federal employees, for example, found that only 40.9 percent feel that their work unit can recruit people with the right skills, only 40.2 percent believe that their senior leaders generate a high level of workforce motivation and commitment, and just 28.2 percent reported that steps are taken to deal with poor performers who cannot or will not improve.


Stier continued: “Updating the government’s 70-year old compensation system is also a necessary step to developing a federal workforce for the 21st century. The Partnership has long recommended a complete overhaul of the pay system so that federal salaries reflect the market for talent in any given position. Performance deserves more weight in pay increases and we are intrigued by the proposal to create a fund to encourage and reward top performers, but the government must first improve its performance management system, which currently offers no real differentiation between the most effective employees and those that are not performing at the same level. At the same time, we must continue doing all we can to ensure that government is able to recruit and retain mission-critical talent. However, the administration’s proposal for a government-wide pay freeze in fiscal year 2019 could do just the opposite. Finally, any changes to the civil service system must uphold the long-established merit principles, which grounds our civil service in nonpartisan, fair and equitable treatment, non-discrimination and due process.


Every year, discussions around the president’s budget gravitate towards issues that divide the parties. We should realize that common ground exists for bipartisan agreement on ways that government can attract, hire, retain and manage highly-skilled talent. Congress passed the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978 because of that kind of bipartisan commitment, and this approach should be a model for Congress in 2018.”


The Partnership for Public Service and the Volcker Alliance recently joined together to press for an overhaul of the outdated federal civil service system that has become an obstacle to a well-functioning government. The initiative, Renewing America’s Civil Service, backed by a bipartisan group of leaders from across sectors, focuses on identifying tangible legislative and executive branch solutions to the most severe problems in the government personnel system, including outdated pay and hiring policies.


During the past 17 years, the nonpartisan, nonprofit Partnership for Public Service has been dedicated to making the federal government more effective for the American people. We work across administrations to help transform the way government operates by increasing collaboration, accountability, efficiency and innovation. Visit to learn more.