Protecting Democracy: Safeguarding the Civil Service

Protecting Democracy 

Safeguarding the Civil Service

Public Perceptions of Government

Our Vision for a Better Government

How to Champion the Civil Service

About the Partnership for Public Service

The Partnership for Public Service is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, nonpartisan organization committed to building a better government and a stronger democracy.  

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Our nation’s civil servants are composed of roughly 2 million individuals who work in communities across the country and around the world. They are our family members, our friends and our neighbors.

In fact, 85% of federal employees live and work away from our nation’s capital. While policies and priorities are typically set at headquarters in the Washington, D.C., area, employees in the field do much of the day-to-day work of delivering on the mission of our government. They care for our veterans, support our farmers, inspect our roads and bridges, protect our food supply and respond to disasters. Notably, more than 70% of career civil servants work in defense and security-related agencies, and veterans make up nearly one-third of the career federal workforce.  

These career civil servants are hired based on their merit and expertise—not their political beliefs or party. The merit-based and apolitical nature of the federal civil service ensures that these employees are qualified and committed to serving the public good and upholding the Constitution above all else.   

Watch the below explainer video to learn more about the civil service.

Read the report Explore the dashboard

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Our Vision for a
Better Government

Through conversations with stakeholders working across sectors and political parties, the Partnership has identified five solutions that would create a more accountable, responsive and modern government and civil service. This reform agenda serves as a framework for stakeholders to champion and guide future improvements for good governance.  

Read our recommendations

Career civil servants are a conduit between federal agencies and the public, ensuring that the services we expect from our government are delivered to all.

Championing their work and impact—and their role as nonpartisan employees committed to the public good—is critical to reinvigorating faith in government. The Partnership’s research has identified three core strategies to help advance a positive vision of the nation’s civil service.

(National Institutes of Health)

1. Strategic messaging

Career federal employees make our nation safer, stronger, healthier, more prosperous and more equitable. They are responsible for many noteworthy and inspiring accomplishments, most of which are seldom told. Public perceptions of the federal workforce and our government are shaped by negative narratives that people hear in the news, on social media and in popular culture. 

We built this messaging toolkit to help the public better understand what career civil servants do and how they impact our country. Based on empirical research and decades of experience working in the federal space, we’ve developed a set of messages to help organizations and individuals consistently communicate and produce a steady stream of stories that improve perceptions of career federal employees.  

Please use and tailor these messages to best suit the needs of your audience.  

View the toolkit

2. Storytelling

Clarify the role and impact of the federal government and the career civil service. 

To better understand the role of public servants and their impact on the country, people need to hear stories of the hard work that career federal employees do every day. Use our database of civil servant stories and their impact to share these stories with your constituents and help grow understanding of and appreciation for the role of these individuals in our democracy, in serving the public and in protecting our national security. 

Explore the story database
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Tyrell K. Morris)
(NRCS photo by Brandon O’Connor)

3. Advocacy through
coalition building

It is critical to build buy-in for positive civil service reform across sectors by sharing ideas to make government work better—and the consequences of a more political federal workforce—with your networks and with leaders in government, business, philanthropy, the media and democracy protection organizations. 

The Partnership stands ready to work with you to advance a more effective government. Contact us to discuss how we can work together to protect and advance our democracy. 

Contact us

Public Service Leadership Model

The Partnership’s Public Service Leadership Model seeks to set the standard for effective federal leadership. It identifies four key competencies—self-awareness, achieving results, leading change and engaging others—that federal leaders should possess to better serve our country and meet the complex challenges of the 21st century.

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Our Government Explained Video Series 

It is easy to forget how the federal government supports and improves our daily lives. This video series explores how our government—and its career civil servants—contribute to the public good and move the country forward.

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News Articles and Op-Eds

Washington Post | Trump plans to replace the civil service with a government of amateurs.
The Washington Post examines how declining trust in government is helping to fuel attacks on the nonpartisan civil service, featuring polling data and recommendations from the Partnership’s 2024 trust report. 


Chicago Sun Times | Our federal government is bloated with political appointees, and that weakens democracy 
Partnership President and CEO Max Stier explains why we need to reduce the number of political appointees to help our government more effectively address challenges facing the country. 


Politico | ‘A very large earthquake’: How Trump could decimate the civil service 
In an interview with Politico, Partnership President and CEO Max Stier highlights the importance of a merit-based, nonpartisan civil service to our democracy and explains why proposals to convert members of the career workforce to at-will political appointees would harm the public.  


Partnership for Public Service statement on OPM merit system rule 
Partnership President and CEO Max Stier commends the Office of Personnel Management’s final rule to safeguard the civil service from partisan interference and emphasizes the need for agencies and the administration to make government more responsive, transparent and accountable.