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Letter on Extending the Merit System.

September 17, 1935

My dear Mr. Kaplan:

I have your letter of August 30, 1935, referring to the exemption from civil service requirements of positions in the emergency agencies of the Federal Government.

The 73d Congress, as a part of its efforts to meet the emergency with which the Nation was confronted, exempted from the civil service requirements positions in the newly created emergency agencies. The 74th Congress made some additional exemptions.

At the beginning of my Administration many of the eligible registers of the Civil Service Commission were several years old. Old registers had been extended in lieu of announcing new examinations. Hundreds of thousands of well-qualified persons who had lost their positions during the depression had been given no opportunity to qualify through open competitive examinations for Government employment. The appropriation of the Civil Service Commission had been greatly reduced and because of this fact and the widespread unemployment which resulted in excessive competition in civil service examinations the Commission was not in a position to supply immediately the personnel required by the recovery agencies. It was obvious that these agencies, if they were to be effective, would have to begin operations at once.

One of the early acts of my Administration was to secure for the Civil Service Commission a deficiency appropriation for the purpose of replenishing its registers to provide qualified personnel for the regular Government agencies. The Civil Service Commission's regular appropriation has been increased, and recently I recommended to the 74th Congress a deficiency appropriation of $548,000 to enable the Commission to hold examinations to supply the additional personnel required by the Post Office Department as a result of the Forty-Hour-Week Work Bill for postal employees.

The merit system has been and will continue to be extended during my Administration. Civil Service requirements have been applied either by Act of Congress or by Executive Order, to the majority of positions in the following Government agencies:

The Securities and Exchange Commission

The Federal Communications Commission

The Railroad Retirement Board

The Farm Credit Administration

The Guffey Coal Regulation Act, the Motor Carrier Act, the Social Security Act, the Labor Relations Act, and the Public Utilities Act contain provision for the employment of personnel in accordance with the Civil Service Law and Rules. The Soil Conservation Act provided for the classification, effective December 27th, of the great majority of positions in the Soil Conservation Service of the Department of Agriculture.

With respect to the exemption from civil service requirements of attorney positions in the newly created agencies, I wish to point out that for many years such positions in practically all the regular Government agencies have been excepted from examination requirements under Schedule A of the Civil Service Rules.

The abuses that existed for many years in connection with the employment of experts have for the most part been eliminated by the Comptroller General's decision of July 25, 1934, defining the term "experts" as used in Section 4(b) of the Securities and Exchange Act of 1934. It was held that where a statute authorizes the employment of both "experts" and other "officers and employees" it must be regarded that the term "experts" is intended to include only those exceptionally qualified by education and experience in a particular line to perform a special service essential to accomplishment of the legislative purpose—and who are not generally obtainable under operation of the Civil Service Laws and Regulations.

The Civil Service Commission advises me that progress is being made in replenishing its registers and I hope that within the near future the Civil Service Law and Rules may be applied to agencies that are now excepted from civil service requirements-at least to the extent .that it is determined that such agencies are to become established branches of the Government.

Very sincerely yours,

H. Eliot Kaplan, Esq.,

National Civil Service Reform League,

New York, N. Y.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, Letter on Extending the Merit System. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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