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Federal Civil Service Reform and Reorganization Remarks and a Question-and-Answer Session at a Roundtable Discussion.

August 03, 1978

THE PRESIDENT. First of all, let me say how delighted I am to have this opportunity to meet with a group of highly interested citizens of our country, in the presence of distinguished public servants, and with a superb panel, whom I just met a few moments ago, with whom I'll have a discussion about one of the most important subjects that faces our Nation and the Congress this year.

I believe that the taxpayers of the United States have a right to expect a good return from their investment in the United States Government. I spent 2 years campaigning for the office that I hold, and one of the most intense desires of the American people is to have a government, a bureaucracy, that's effective and efficient, and which serves them well.

The only group I know of who has a more intense desire to see this than the average citizen is those who give their lives in public service as career employees of the United States Government.

We began 15 months ago to assess how we could evolve amendments to the civil service laws, which have now been in effect for about 92 years, that would incorporate necessary improvements, that would let managers manage, let the superb capability of executive officers be realized for the benefit of us all; to reward dedication and excellence, and to single out those who are incompetent or lazy or not dedicated, and discipline them or inspire them or fire them.

The essence of what we proposed also includes the protection of the rights of those who are part of the civil service system, and we are also very interested in seeing the so-called whistleblowers, those who see defects in our Government, violations of the law, gross waste, protected when they point out these deficiencies, leading to correction of errors in our Government.

I'm deeply concerned about the Vietnam veterans and veterans who are permanently disabled, and I was concerned to discover that over 50 percent of all the veterans hired were either discharged before the Vietnam war or have been discharged from the service with full retirement benefits. We need to concentrate the veterans preference on those who have been discharged recently—and we define that by the last 15 years—and those who are permanently disabled.

We don't have an adequate opportunity to hire minority citizens and women, and overall, we need fairness, an incentive for better work, a clear assignment of responsibility. And in the process we have proposed embedding in the law the labor relations aspects of Government employment, which have in the past only been instituted by Executive order of the President and which could be eliminated in a time of labor dispute or crisis, simply by the stroke of a pen.

There is no way that this legislation which has been proposed and which the Congress is considering can possibly hurt any competent and dedicated public servant.

All these things are encompassed in a very far-reaching piece of legislation. Congressman Joe Fisher, who is here tonight with us, and other Members of Congress in the audience, Scotty Campbell, a professional, this panel, and I will now discuss the details of the legislation which affects many people in this area and all over the country, as a matter of fact. And following this discussion around the table, we'll have questions from the audience.

Again, let me thank you for a chance to come and, through your own presence and the television broadcast in this area, to let the people of our Government consider how we can make it even better in the greatest nation on Earth.

Thank you very much.


DWIGHT F. RETTIE. Mr. President, thank you for meeting with us. I'm a career professional, now proud to be serving with the National Park Service. I have a career that spans some 22 years of public service that has touched on four departments in our Government. I'm very pleased to tell you that I warmly welcome and grandly support much of your efforts to modernize the civil service, but I'm deeply troubled by what seems to me to be a very fundamental change represented by some of those proposals in the basic rationale and reasoning for public service.

Unlike much of private industry, the work of government can only rarely be evaluated on profit-and-loss statements or in the products of an assembly line. Most of the career people, including myself, whom I've been associated with draw their principal rewards from highly intangible, albeit deeply felt satisfactions of helping to try to make a difference in the quality of national life.

Adequate pay, of course, is important. And legislation for comparability of pay was intended to resolve that issue. But now it's suggested that the best way to recruit and motivate and retain people for quality public service is with the chance for cash bonuses and incentive pay and membership in an elite managerial corps.

Mr. President, how will it be possible to borrow from private industry a rewards-and-bonus system that seems so basically at odds with the concept of public service?

THE PRESIDENT. I've chosen a career of public service myself. Recognizing that the profit from someone who serves, as you and I and these others do, is in the better delivery of services to our fellow citizens through government, the Senior Executive Service concept is designed to let those who are competent, who are highly motivated, and who are successful in their efforts be rewarded not just with increased monetary gain, income, but also with increased responsibility, a chance to serve better, to let their own influence, their own talents be used to a much greater and fuller extent.

I think it's accurate to say that the organizations which represent the executive-level public servant is overwhelmingly in favor of this legislation. So, it's not just a matter of increased financial reward; it's also a matter of letting those who are competent and dedicated be rewarded by a chance to serve better and in a more responsible position.


PAUL H. GILBERT. Mr. President, I'm Paul Gilbert, out of the Department of the Navy. I'm a civilian personnel management specialist, and I've been involved with the reorganization that we're planning to effect in the near future.

The civil service reform is designed to bring about greater efficiency and better management in the Federal sector. The proposed legislation is designed to disestablish the Civil Service Commission and set up three new organizations. I feel that the charter for these organizations will in many cases provide conflicting missions and functions. I'm concerned that we're moving toward fractionalization versus consolidation.

How do you foresee the proposed reorganization improving the efficiency of the Federal sector in such adversarial conditions?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, in one instance, the national labor relations organization, this is just a transfer of responsibility, and the major benefit there is that in the future those bargaining rights and other labor relations elements in our Government structure which have, as I've said in the past, just been a matter of a Presidential Executive order, will be incorporated in the structure of the law so that employees will have their bargaining rights protected on a permanent basis.

There is one additional agency formed, however. We will now have instead of the Civil Service Commission, which is responsible for personnel management on the one hand, and the same people responsible for the protection of the employees, we'll have two separate entities.

The Office of Personnel Management will be responsible for assuring that the civil service system works, that proper hiring techniques are prescribed, examinations, competitive relationships, to make sure that our Government is more effective.

Separated from that and removing the inherent conflict that did exist in the past will be a Merit System Protection Board, which will have as its unique responsibility the protection of the rights of those who serve in government. And a new office completely independent from the President, serving, I believe, for 7 years, removable only for cause, will be a new special counsel, completely separated from the management of the civil service system, but dedicated completely to ensuring that the rights of employees are not violated.

So, I believe that the division of those two responsibilities—personnel management on one hand, and the protection of employees on the other—is a logical division and one which was needed in the past when the civil service system has on occasion been abused.


RUTH G. VAN CLEVE. Mr. President, may I ask you to comment on the Senior Executive Service? You called your reform proposal a centerpiece. I think the Senior Executive Service is the centerpiece of the centerpiece. I am a Federal employee of many, many years' standing. I hope the Senior Executive Service comes into being. I look forward to being a part of it, and look forward to that with enthusiasm.

At the same time, perhaps I should digress to point out that I have not said that, I think, before to anyone, and I believe my views and, indeed, so far as I know, the views of all of the members of this panel were not known before this enterprise was established tonight. We have all expressed within our own group great pleasure at the fact that this is as open as it is. We have not been quizzed with respect to our position.

However fortuitously, I am in favor of the Senior Executive Service, but I am concerned with the fact that many of my colleagues in the executive branch view it with grave apprehension, because they see it as introducing politics into agencies and into jobs where politics have not before been present, and where politics, in my view, and I think in the view of most of us, have no place. This is a danger which would give any of us pause, and I'd like you to comment on that danger and to tell us, if you will, how you would seek to avoid it or overcome it.

THE PRESIDENT. Let me give a brief response, and then ask Scotty Campbell to add his voice to what I say.

As you know, participation in the Senior Executive Service is voluntary. And if someone moves into that category of increased opportunity for service, also increased pay, they can at any time move back to their previous position at a CS-15 level and have their rights carefully preserved. It's an opportunity for increased service, increased responsibility, increased influence, and increased reward.

We are very concerned about some of the abuses that have taken place in the past with the unwarranted addition of political appointees that sometimes moved career public servants to the rear or out of their jobs which were desirable.

There is no limit now, under the law, as to how many noncareer appointees can be put in their jobs by the President. We have advocated and I think the Congress will go along with a limit of 10 percent, which is a very stringent limit, only half of what was proposed earlier under President Nixon, when he advocated an executive service.

In addition to that, this new, separate adjudicatory body, the Merit System Protection Board, has the responsibility, along with the special counsel, to comply with the laws, which will be very stringent, even requiring heavy penalty, to ensure that there can be no political abuse.

The law specifically spells out the definition of what is political abuse. And I believe that these four things, a 10-percent limit, the new protection board, the special counsel, and the laws prescribing prohibition against politics, will give much greater protection against politics than presently exists.

Perhaps Scotty Campbell could add an additional comment to what I've said or correct if I've made an error.

ALAN K. CAMPBELL. Just a word, Mr. President, and you indeed made no errors and pointed out the fundamental characteristics of the Senior Executive Service, which clearly is a more protected system in terms of political intrusion than is the current system; not only because of the 10-percent limitation, which the President mentioned, but in addition to that, selection to the Senior Executive Service will be made by boards that have a majority of career people on them, awards for bonuses will be recommended by boards which have a majority of career people on them.

It will also open up for career people movement to jobs as high as executive level IV's without giving up any loss of rights to the system. Therefore, we'll not have this problem of career people who have served so well being selected for Assistant Secretary positions, for example, on a political basis, and then not being able to return back to the career service.

So, what we have done here is provided a kind of high-level executive corps which will be the top managers of the Federal Government. And may I just say that the idea has been around a long time. It was first suggested in the second Hoover Commission Report, and when former President Hoover presented that report to President Eisenhower, he said the single most important recommendation in these many, many volumes is the Senior Executive Service.

And we obviously are pleased that organizations like the National Academy of Public Administration, the National Civil Service League, people like Elmer Staats, the Comptroller General of the United States, are all very strong supporters of this. And for this intelligent audience about these kinds of organizations they know full well that these kinds of groups would not endorse a kind of service which itself could be politicized.

THE PRESIDENT. Congressman Joe Fisher would like to comment.

REPRESENTATIVE JOSEPH L. FISHER. Yes. I have thought that a Senior Executive Service, properly handled and with adequate protections, could enliven the Federal service a great deal. But one of the apprehensions that has been expressed to me many times in the last few weeks is that people will come up out of the higher grades in the civil service into this special elite corps and somehow will be found wanting, perhaps because they don't toe the line politically, and will go back, drop back to their CS-15, until, ultimately, people will be brought up into the Senior Executive Service who somehow conform or follow the right politics. And this is the apprehension I've heard and would be—I know many people here would be pleased to have a comment on this.

THE PRESIDENT. I think there are two elements that might alleviate some concern. In the first place, it's human nature for anybody to be concerned about change, and that's an understandable attitude, particularly among those who don't have complete control over their own careers—and that is the case.

But to repeat what's already been said, in the first place, entry into the Senior Executive Service is completely voluntary. If someone does occupy a CS-15 or CS-16 level position and they don't want to go into the more advanced Senior Executive Service and perhaps be as high as an Assistant Secretary, they don't have to be. If they should get to that point of deciding, "Let me expand my life, expand my responsibilities, expand my contribution," and they don't work out, perhaps they are not compatible with the Cabinet officer, then they can always go back to their previous position without loss of pay and with their full previous rights preserved.

So, I think the insurance built in and the exciting opportunities for that executive service make a very good combination to protect the rights of employees.

Thank you very much, Mrs. Van Cleve.


JAMES P. SCHLICHT. Mr. President, I'm a budget specialist with the Office of Management and Budget. And I too feel that the Senior Executive Service and Merit Pay System for mid-managers are sound proposals in attaining high managerial qualities in the Federal Government. However, to have even more efficiency and productivity in the Federal work force, why doesn't this Merit Pay System extend to all professionals and totally eliminate automatic longevity step increases?

THE PRESIDENT. That was one of the things that we considered, to apply the incentive rewards all the way down at least to GS-9. We talked to many of the senior private personnel managers throughout the country in the formative stages of the legislation. They advised us not to take that big a step at once.

So, there is a mid-level, GS-13 to GS-15, where there are incentive rewards planned. This will not be the same as the Senior Executive Service, but it will reward superior managerial experience and obviously will open up to superiors a chance to observe that good work, later leading in one's career development to the Senior Executive Service.

I believe I've got the GS levels correct, but, Scotty, you might correct me.

MR. CAMPBELL. You do have them correct, and your point is exactly right. When we were deciding at what levels the incentive pay system should apply and consulted with top compensation people from the private sector, they urged us to adopt an incentive pay system, but take a small step first as we learned how to use it, and then perhaps could expand it later as we became more competent in its use. And it was for that reason that we have 13 to 15 instead of the 9 to 15, which is what I originally favored.

THE PRESIDENT. My guess is that in a year or two after this system goes into effect that there will be a persistent demand from the GS-9, 10, 11, and 12 grades that they be included in the midlevel incentive opportunity bracket. And the Congress can always amend the law to move down to lower levels, which would let these fine managerial personnel be rewarded and be given extra responsibility and opportunities.


WAYNE F. BUCKLE. Mr. President, I come from the American Federation of Government Employees, and we're concerned about some of the handling of employees who are given a lot of publicity in this procedure, namely, the question of getting rid of people.

One of the things that's given me a lot of concern in publicity that's happened has been making it easier to fire people. And I'm a little concerned that there can get to be too much emphasis on this question of how you get rid of people, versus the due process that ought to be given consideration in our society.

Our president, Ken Blaylock, has worked with your administration and the Congress in trying to resolve some of these problems. And I think we've come up in the bill that the House committee has reported to deal with this a little more effectively than we started out with, namely, that people who are accused of wrongdoing or who are believed incompetent can be given the right of a hearing and that the management must show a preponderance of evidence that they either have been guilty of misconduct or incompetent.

Now, I believe that this is more in line with our concepts of justice in dealing with people who will have problems. And I wonder if you are prepared to back the House legislation as it comes from the committee along those lines?

THE PRESIDENT. There are some amendments that the House committee put on with which I don't agree. I'm not qualified to understand all the technical changes that were made. But let me say that I'm convinced that under this legislation as it was proposed by us to the Congress—and it's been modified, I think, according to your desires even since then—that the rights of Federal employees will be much better protected than under the present system.

There will be a special counsel, a highly qualified attorney, completely independent of me or anyone else, responsible only to the employees themselves to guard against abuse, to investigate, to present evidence to the Merit System Protection Board, which, as you know, is a three- person, bipartisan board that serves for 7 years, isolated from politics, with a unique responsibility to preserve rights. So, I think that in the routine case, the employees' rights will be much better protected than they are now.

Let me give you a notable example from past history, perhaps the most famous person who has suffered. And that's Ernest Fitzgerald, who, through his own insistence, pointed out an example of great waste in the Federal Government. Under the present merit system, he has, through his own analysis, been punished because of that whistleblowing experience. That would not be possible under the proposed legislation. He would be protected and could not be punished, could not be silenced, in fact, may very well have been rewarded.

So, I think that the average employee will be protected even better than now, and the past abuses of whistleblowers, so-called, will be prevented in the future.

Now, I'm convinced that that's true, and I believe that your organization and Ken Blaylock, who's been superb in helping us protect employees' rights, would agree with what I've said.

MR. BUCKLE. We applaud your separation of the Civil Service Commission into the Personnel Management Office and the Merit System Protection Board.

THE PRESIDENT. Thank you, Mr. Buckle.

CEOLA B. NAYLOR. Mr. President, I'm Ceola Naylor. I'm a secretary with the Department of Housing and Urban Development. I would like to know what will be the effects of the reorganization on nonmanagerial employees such as secretaries and clericals.

THE PRESIDENT. I think part of my answer to Mr. Buckle's question would apply as well, that your basic rights would be protected. There will be a more effective analysis of competence and dedication and, I think, quicker reward.

For those who are seeking jobs, the hiring delays will be minimized. If an employee is recommended for discharge, the hearing of the case protecting the worker's rights even better would be abbreviated, so there wouldn't be these long, dragged out procedures. And I think it's good to remember that here in the presence of people who are obviously competent and dedicated, that it's an abuse for a good employee to protect one who's no good. That's an extreme minority, I know. But if you have a person sitting next to you who is a laggard or lazy or incompetent, supposedly sharing the workload, in effect you have to do that person's work, or part of it, in addition to your own.

So, I think there will be a much better recognition of achievement at all levels of employment and a much quicker correction if someone is assigned to a job and doesn't perform it.

Perhaps again I could call on Scotty Campbell to add some remarks.

MR. CAMBELL. Just a quick comment, Mr. President. As I've traveled around the country talking to Federal employees, and as we heard from the agencies in Washington when hearings were held there, a major criticism in the Federal Government, as you are undoubtedly aware, is of the managers and the supervisors not doing an adequate job in terms of rank-and-file employees, that I have often been accused of pointing my finger at the wrong people because we have not emphasized sufficiently the problems on the managerial side. And I think that's a fair comment.

And I would guess that one of the best things that will come out of these changes is a fantastic improvement in the quality of supervision and management in the Federal Government, which will be produced by the incentive pay, the Senior Executive Service. And I think that will have an effect on the character and environment of the workplace, which will make it a much more exciting, a much more interesting place to work than it has traditionally been, and add that to the kinds of protections which will now exist in the system, which can be done speedily, which will recognize the fact that an employee doesn't have 3 years in which to fight a case, and that you will find it just a much better place to work for all employees—managers and others as well.

THE PRESIDENT. Thank you, Ceola, very much.


LARRY T. SUITERS. Mr. President?


MR. SUITERS. I'm a life-long resident of this area who is self-employed and who has never been a member of the Federal civil service. You have stated your opposition to expanding collective bargaining for Federal employee unions beyond Federal Executive Order 11491. Recent action by the House committee has significantly expanded collective-bargaining rights beyond those set forth in the Executive order. It has also been. reported that you have indicated to Federal employee union officials that you favor a system of labor relations which approximates that which exists in private industry.

To those of us in the private sector, collective bargaining is a very broad term which includes many elements, the most significant and controversial of which are, one, the right of unions to negotiate wages and benefits, and, two, the issue of open or closed agency shops.

Would you please state the essential elements which you include in your definition of collective bargaining and indicate specifically whether or not you would accept or reject legislation which grants Federal employee unions the right as a part of the collective-bargaining process to negotiate the wages in open or closed agency shops?

THE PRESIDENT. My preference is to limit the collective-bargaining process in this legislation to what is included in the Executive order today.

There have been a few technical amendments worked out with Ken Blaylock and the union before the legislation was introduced that would expand that in some ways that I don't quite understand. But I personally don't favor some of the additions that were made by the Post Office and Civil Service Committee. I would again like to turn to the professional on my left, Scotty Campbell, to explain the small additional technical amendments that we did approve, and then perhaps Congressman Fisher would like to comment as well.

MR. CAMPBELL. Yes. First, neither the administration nor the House committee bill nor the Senate committee bill contain bargaining for wages and benefits, nor do they contain agency shop. And there is no intention on the part of either Congress or the administration to move in that direction as far as collective bargaining is concerned.

The one area of expansion in collective bargaining which the administration supports is to allow the negotiation of an agreement whereby an employee who is disciplined, discharged, suspended, may use arbitration as a means of challenging that, rather than using the statutory appeals system. We believe this serves the interest of both labor and management, because it speeds the process, does provide the employee an alternative for arbitration against the statutory appeals which, even in our new system, will not be as rapid as arbitration.

There are some other rather technical amendments that have been added in the House committee, some of them mentioned already by Mr. Buckle, with which we still disagree and hope to get them amended on the House floor or in conference.

REPRESENTATIVE FISHER. I have thought that labor relations, if you want to call them that, in the Government service are different in significant ways from labor relations in the private sector. And basically, this goes back to Mr. Rettie's opening comments having to do with, well, philosophical differences between public service and private employment.

It does seem to me in the present context that there should not be collective bargaining on pay and benefits and that the agency shop arrangement should not be in the picture. And I would agree with you, Mr. President, and the House committee and others on that.

The disputes, I think, come as to whether, within the reach of collective bargaining, should be such things as layoffs, promotions, setting job classifications, job assignments, and things like that. I haven't really thought my way through it. The House has added these things and one or two others. And I think we ought to have just a very thorough airing of this to see how far we want to go.

THE PRESIDENT. Which will probably take place in the House debate.

REPRESENTATIVE FISHER. Yes, I'm sure it will, and in the Senate.

THE PRESIDENT. Yes, I know. Mary Anne?


MARY ANNE LECOS. Mr. President, as a long-time member of a local school board which bargained collectively with some success for many years, I approve the codification of the Executive order under which Federal employees can organize and bargain, but I am disturbed by the House committee actions which extend those rights to what I consider management responsibilities in such areas as job classification, defining layoffs and promotion standards, determining the number and types of employees assigned to jobs. I think this is totally inconsistent with your goal of achieving more efficiency and more effective management in government.

I'd like to know, Mr. President, how you feel about other committee action which has had the effect of turning the centerpiece of your legislative program into a sort of Christmas tree with the addition of such controversial and unrelated subjects as the Hatch Act revision and the reduction in the firefighters' work week.

THE PRESIDENT. I'm opposed to those very strongly as parts of the civil service reform. I don't think they are germane at all.

As you know, the Hatch Act legislation is legislation that I did support and do support. It was passed by the House and is now in the Senate. But the Hatch Act applies to a completely new category of workers not covered by civil service, the Post Office workers, tens of thousands of them.

And the abbreviation of the firefighters' week I oppose on several grounds, the most important of which I'll mention tonight is a tremendous increase in the wages paid them for a given number of hours of work. During regular working hours, the wage increase would amount to 30 percent, and in overtime, another extra 15 percent.

We just can't afford that. Just take one department, for instance, the Department of Defense. In order to provide the same level of fire fighting service, they would have to employ 4,600 employees additional at the cost of tens of millions of additional dollars. And this is money that we cannot afford to spend or, I think, to waste.

I believe that some modification is needed for firefighters, but I personally believe that this legislation was too inflationary. I vetoed the legislation after it had been passed by the Congress once this year, and I don't believe it's germane to the legislation that we are trying to consider.

Civil service reform is so crucial to the better management of government and the provision of better services to the Nation and the protection of employees' rights and adequate management and promotion and reward for those who do a good job, I hate to see it delayed by the kind of amendments to which you did refer.

It still faces formidable opposition, and I think the only way that this legislation could be defeated this year, having the overwhelming support of the Congress, the overwhelming support of the American people, is for deliberate delay to be pursued. This is something that we need to guard against. And I would hope that all those who watch this program or who are here tonight will add your voices .to my own and others to encourage a rapid conclusion of this very important legislation. The people are ready for it throughout the country, and the group in our Nation who would benefit most are those who have given their entire careers to public service.


MR. BUCKLE. Mr. President, in connection with this issue on the Hatch Act reform that's incorporated in the bill, as you indicated, you've given your support to Hatch Act reform in the past. As you'll recall, this went through both Houses of the Congress during President Ford's administration, and he vetoed it. It's now passed the House and is waiting in the Senate. How do you feel about helping the Senate to get it on the floor and at least let it be debated on the floor without having to be filibustered?

THE PRESIDENT. I would like to see the Hatch Act legislation come to the Senate floor and be passed, and I would be glad to sign it.

MR. CAMPBELL. Could I just add, Mr. President, to that, that we've made every effort to get the bill to the floor. We have sought a floor leader for it. The problem is that there is a threatened filibuster, and it is not clear that there are the votes necessary to overcome that filibuster in case the bill was taken up.

THE PRESIDENT. The crux of the matter though, just to repeat an important point, is that with the Hatch Act tied to the civil service reform legislation, my guess is that neither one would pass, which would be a very bad thing to have happen.

Perhaps now we might in the time remaining go to the audience. Yes?



Q. Good evening. Hello. My name's Eleanor Fischer, and I've been a Federal employee for 9 years. And one of the things that I've experienced as a Federal employee is a fair amount of criticism-comes from my brothers and sisters and friends and neighbors—that being a Federal employee is not in their perception a very good thing for me to do. As a matter of fact, I noticed about a week ago that I was feeling ashamed of being a Federal employee. And one of the things that I wanted to mention was that my reading about this new bill is that it is announced to be a tool that will facilitate the firing of Federal employees, which infers that there are a lot of us deserving firing.

In my experience—I train your managers, and in my experience that's really not true. So, what I would like for you to comment on is in two ways: First of all, how do you think this bill will enhance the image of the public employee in the eyes of the American people; and secondly, since you're my boss, how do you intend to use the bill as a tool to motivate people like me to feel like we make a difference, we make a contribution?

THE PRESIDENT. Thank you very much. As President, I have some of the same feelings that you do. [Laughter] Some of my old classmates and friends think that I've disgraced my class by becoming a full-time Government employee. [Laughter] But I think that it's unfortunate that the firing aspect, which is important, but a very small increment of the total legislation, is emphasized by some people.

I think that the delineation or the distinction between a competent and dedicated Federal employee on one hand, who will be rewarded under this entire system much more quickly and much more effectively and much more assuredly than under the present civil service laws, compared to the employee who does not do a good job, but now almost moves in lockstep- you have an excellent employee and a very poor employee who come into public service at the same time. They both move together now, almost inexorably at the same rate of promotion and reward.

And I believe that many employees who don't do a good job now knowing that they will be protected no matter how poorly they perform—will, under this new legislation, be inspired to do a much better job. I think we'll make better employees out of bad ones and superb employees out of good ones, and we'll reward those whose performance deserves reward.

The other thing that's very important is to let the public who are not involved in full-time government service know the superb contribution that is made. Nobody can deny that the Federal Government now delivers a much broader range of services than it did 10 years ago. The number of civilian employees in the Federal Government is almost exactly the same as it was 10 years ago. There's a greater responsibility on those who serve full-time, and one of the things that I believe this legislation and this debate can bring out is a recognition of the great contribution, sometimes the sacrificial contribution of the dedicated and competent public employee who gives their life to serve others.


Q. Mr. President, my name is Evangeline Jackson, and I'm president of Local 2211 with AFGE. My question tonight is similar to' the first young lady's. It's obvious that the public feels that government workers receive fat checks for no work and are ensured comfortable positions, in many cases receive no reprisal for misconduct. But I have learned from my own experience that in many cases monitoring systems outside of the individual agencies are not as effective as we would hope they would be.

In many cases, quite a few agencies need to have a monitoring system set up where outside agencies, such as the Civil Service Commission, the Merit System Protection Board, the national labor relations organization that you're speaking of, could come in and monitor the functions of these agencies from time to time to see how they are handling the rights of their employees.

I would like to know if you see in the near future any chance with this reform bill of a monitoring system for individual agencies that are repeatedly accused of abusing their employees' rights?

MR. CAMPBELL. May I comment on that?

I think the new system, by separating what are now the conflicting roles of the Civil Service Commission, where it is, on the one hand, supposed to represent the management side of the Federal Government, carry out strong managerial policies while simultaneously protecting employee rights, has resulted in an inability of it to do its job. And, therefore, I don't think that this audience would disagree the Civil Service Commission has lost substantial credibility.

The change, in my judgment, will end that, and, indeed, the Merit Systems Protection Board, with the special counsel, will provide a monitoring system and an investigative system which will be far superior to that which we now have, because that will be its sole function, while simultaneously, the Office of Personnel Management will be able to go into agencies and in a consultive service capacity be able to help them improve their management, improve productivity, improve the quality of Federal service.

And may I say that I am sympathetic with the concern expressed here about public attitudes toward public employees, not only Federal but State and local as well, as represented by Proposition 13, that it doesn't do us any good to just deplore that; we must respond to that by improving how well we do our jobs, by improving the quality of service. And I believe when we do that, the public will then come to recognize the kind of quality which in fact, as the President has described, does exist in the Federal service.

THE PRESIDENT. That's an excellent question. Thank you very much, Evangeline.


Q. Mr. President, my name is Gilbert Sandate. I represent IMAGE, a national Hispanic organization concerned with government employment opportunities for Hispanic Americans and with adequate delivery of services to our Hispanic communities across the country by our public institutions. I'd just like to make one brief observation before my question. It is disappointing to us to note that out of the 200,000 Hispanic American citizens that reside in this metropolitan area, that not one was seen fit to represent us on this select panel.

My question: Hispanic Americans are currently under-represented by 100,000 jobs in the Federal sector, if we are to reach parity with our numbers in the population. Inadequate delivery of services has cost Hispanic communities millions of dollars annually. The civil service system throughout its history has virtually excluded Hispanic Americans from full participation. The Senior Executive Service, the Incentive Pay System, and all the other facets of your package that you have presented are very fine, but if we're not represented in the senior levels-which we are not—if we're not represented in the mid-level management, or the higher level managers—which we are not—the package is virtually meaningless to the Hispanic American constituents.

What, in your opinion, does the civil service reform package do or have to offer to try to offset some of these concerns?

THE PRESIDENT. There's no doubt in my mind that with the change in the hiring practices involved, the change in the veterans preference, that we can have a much more equitable opportunity for Americans. One of the things that we are changing is quite controversial, that is opposed, for instance, by the American Legion, of which I'm a member and of which my father was a member, is to eliminate the veterans preference, for instance, for a Navy commander who has completed his full service in the Navy, has full retirement benefits, a pension, and still can come in and seek a Federal job and get it with absolute lifetime veterans preference.

This means that many who deserve jobs, including Vietnam veterans who are recently discharged, can't compete and can't get that same job.

We also recognize that those of us who can make the political appointments, the 10 percent at the executive level that is permitted under the proposed law, have a responsibility to recognize Spanish speaking Americans. At the executive level now, there are 109 Latin American citizens who have been selected by me to serve—I think four or five times more than ever have been before—and some of them head up major agencies in government, the community services agency and the Immigration and Naturalization Service, for instance.

So, we are trying to make progress in this correction of discrimination that's built into the civil service law now. It's not deliberate at this point, but you have to discriminate to protect those that don't need protection. And I think that if we do protect the rights of veterans who have been discharged in the last 15 years and protect the rights of preference for those who are disabled for a lifetime, that that is an adequate rewarding of veterans, and that would in effect help to solve the problem that you've described.

Perhaps Congressman Fisher or Scotty Campbell want to add a comment.

MR. CAMPBELL. Just a brief comment, Mr. President. Unfortunately, one of the provisions in the original proposal which you made to Congress, which would have broadened the hiring authority beyond the current system of restricting the selection to just a very small number, has been taken out by both the House committee and the Senate committee. And it is our hope that on the floor of one or the other of the two Houses, we will be able to get that restored, and if so, that will help us much in recruiting for minorities and women and others who have suffered discrimination.

Your point about the lack of Hispanics and other minorities and women at the executive levels is exactly right, and if you look at the levels just below them, Grades 13, 14, and 15, the percentage is just as low. That means that you aren't going to solve the problem completely by promotion policies.

There's going to have to be some reaching outside the service to find qualified people in order to do that, and I can assure you the current leadership of the Civil Service Commission is committed to doing that.

THE PRESIDENT. I might just give you two points: In the GS-16, 17, and 18 levels, 65 percent of those people are veterans. Only 3 percent—

MR. CAMPBELL. White male veterans.

THE PRESIDENT. White male veterans, excuse me. Only 3 percent of those people are women. So we recognize not only the problems with Spanish-speaking Americans, but also with women, who happen to make up a majority.

Now them is a requirement that the selection be made from the top three people on the list. And we asked to have a rule of seven so that you could select for a given opening one of the top seven. This would at least give us a broader range of selection.

We have an instance now in the Washington area where there's a vacancy, and one of the women applicants scored 100, perfect score, and she's 47th on the list. There's no possibility that she would be selected because of abuse of the veterans preference. But I want to make clear that we are trying to keep the veterans preference for those recently discharged and for those who are disabled, but remove the abuse that exsists. [See APP Note below.]

REPRESENTATIVE FISHER. I might add that IMAGE the organization this young man represents, is really a wonderful organization. I've come to know it. I'd add only this: that I think there ought to be up and down and cross-wise in the agencies a much more determined effort to hire Hispanic Americans and other minority groups. It's just got to seep all through the system.

THE PRESIDENT. I might say that the panel didn't leave a vacancy, because you filled it very well.

Thank you very much, Mr. Sandate.


Q. Mr. President, my name is John Worley. I'm presently working on a business degree now and with hopes of working for the Federal Government, 19131. [Laughter] What I would like to know, if this act is passed, what will the job market be like for me and others my age?

THE PRESIDENT. Overall, the job market is much better now than it was 18 months ago. The unemployment rate has dropped greatly, and we have added a net of about 6 1/2 million jobs in the entire Nation. Some of those are government jobs created specifically for groups that need special help through the local public works and CETA programs and other jobs that were designed to be filled specifically by congressional legislation.

I would say that if you are competent when you finish your college education that you would have a much better chance to get a job on your own merits, absent politics, in a free, competitive environment than you would otherwise.

My belief is that the total employment in the Federal Government is not likely to increase, but that means that each employee in the Federal Government is going to have to do a better and better job.

Productivity in the general economic sector of our Nation is not increasing very rapidly. It's increasing very, very slowly. But productivity—that is, the work done per employee—is holding its own in the Federal Government and increasing very well.

But I wish you well. We need top business graduates in the Federal Government, and I think that it's a credit to you that you want to serve with us.

Let me say in closing that we don't have time for another question. I'm very grateful to—maybe for the question, but not the answer. But go ahead. [Laughter] I didn't know you were already standing there.


Q. Yes, sir. I'm a Government employee for the Federal Reserve System, an independent agency within the Government.

I wonder if you could state briefly what the effect of the legislation would be on those of us who are not covered by civil service.

MR. CAMPBELL. Just very briefly, there are some of the agencies excepted, such as the intelligence agencies, some of the other independent agencies, but as far as the Senior Executive Service is concerned, it is possible for independent agencies to be covered. And we hope that organizations like the Federal Reserve Board will want to be a part of that so that we can have fresh blood flowing between agencies in the Federal Government from organizations like yours as well as the regular departments.

THE PRESIDENT. Again, it would be voluntary on your part. You wouldn't have to participate if you didn't want to.

Let me say in closing that this has been a very interesting session for me and, I know, for Congressman Fisher and for Scotty Campbell and the superb panel that we've had.

I've learned a lot tonight from your questions and from listening to the answers of others. We are all partners in the same enterprise, that is, to have a great government, with dedicated public servants, trying to give better services to the people who trust us. And there's a general appreciation throughout the country of not only our country and our Government but individual employees as well. And I think we can make it even better if this exciting and sometimes confusing, sometimes dreaded legislation becomes law.

The only dread comes in because people are afraid to make a change. But I can assure you—and as you know, Scotty Campbell is the Chairman of the Civil Service Commission, and he will join me assuring you—that every aspect of this legislation as it is changing the present laws will be for the advantage of the competent and dedicated public servants who make our Government as great as it is.

Thank you very much.

Note: The discussion began at 8 p.m. in the Fairfax High School cafeteria in Fairfax City, Va. It was broadcast live on radio and television.

[APP Note: Near the end of the document a spelling error, "exsists" was present in the original printed version. We attempt to reproduce the original document precisely, including typos and other errors.]

Jimmy Carter, Federal Civil Service Reform and Reorganization Remarks and a Question-and-Answer Session at a Roundtable Discussion. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/248228

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