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Letter to Philip Young, the President's Adviser on Personnel Management, in Response to Report on Hoover Commission Recommendations.

January 26, 1956

Dear Mr. Young:

The reports of the Commission on Organization of the Executive Branch of the Government headed by former President Herbert Hoover have been the subject of extensive study in the Executive Branch of the Government. Everyone associated with Mr. Hoover in this great enterprise has a right to take pride in the most comprehensive evaluation ever undertaken of the organization and functioning of the Executive Branch of our Government.

One of the most important reports submitted by the Commission deals with Personnel and Civil Service. The Commission recommendations are based on an excellent Task Force study led by President Harold W. Dodds of Princeton. I have read with great interest your memorandum which sets forth the actions taken to date to carry out the recommendations contained in this report. I am encouraged by what has been accomplished thus far and am eager to see to it that we make further progress as rapidly as possible.

The Commission points out very effectively the degree to which better direction of the affairs of Government and improvement in the general level of its services to our people depend upon improved Federal personnel management. To be well-governed, a democratic nation must attract to public life citizens who possess high qualities of leadership. Yet, experience shows that many able men are reluctant to enter the public Service except in times of national emergency. This problem has been recognized by many of my predecessors. The Commission emphasizes the vital need of strengthening our political executive group and offers many valuable suggestions for meeting this problem. I request that you develop for early consideration a program of action which takes these suggestions into account.

The Commission also emphasizes the need to strengthen the career service. Because politically appointed executives tend to serve for limited periods, continuity in the administration of Government functions depends on a strong career service. It is increasingly essential to our democratic system that our career personnel be competent, well trained and nonpartisan. The Commission points to the dangers of permitting career servants in the course of their work to become identified with partisan policies, and thus subject to personal attack.

The Commission addressed itself to this difficult and longstanding problem and developed criteria for designating the tasks which are appropriate for political appointees as distinguished from those which should be assigned to career employees. The Commission points out very properly that its suggested criteria must be applied with some degree of flexibility. I believe that these criteria are basically sound and that they provide a useful guide for a practical division of responsibility between these two groups of public servants. I note that you will work with the Civil Service Commission and the Bureau of the Budget to develop plans for applying the recommended criteria.

In evaluating the career service, the Commission finds that the Government has need for a systematic program for selecting, developing and making more effective use of its top level civilian career employees. Our present Civil Service System was not designed to meet this need. One of the most far-reaching and imaginative proposals made by the Commission calls for the establishment of a senior civil service from which persons would be drawn to fill the highest career posts in Government. This group would be composed of civilian career employees selected by a bi-partisan board on the basis of superior ability and competence. In the conduct of their jobs, they would be nonpartisan. They would be expected to serve whatever Administration is in power with energy and loyalty. I am fully in accord with the principles upon which this highly constructive proposal is based. In preparing a plan to implement this proposal, great care must be taken to provide safeguards that will assure the impartial selection of personnel for this service and the performance of their tasks on a nonpartisan basis. I suggest that the Civil Service Commission submit promptly its analysis and recommendations.

In dealing with personnel procedures, such as performance ratings, appeals and reductions-in-force, the recommendations of the Hoover Commission contemplate certain modifications of rights granted to veterans in public employment. In making recommendations to the Congress, the Executive Branch should consider these proposals carefully so as to make certain that proposed changes are equitable and just both to veterans and nonveterans in the public service. The relatively minor changes in veterans rights that are recommended should be weighed against the very large opportunities for improved administration inherent in the recommendations of the Commission. I request that you complete your analysis of these proposals as promptly as possible so that they can receive early attention.

We have accumulated over many years a mass of laws and orders affecting our personnel systems and procedures. The report recommends codification of these laws as a means of simplifying Federal personnel administration. I note that provision has been made in the current budget request for funds necessary to carry out this much needed project.

You are aware of my great interest in the continued improvement of the operations and management of the Federal Government. The Commission report on Personnel and Civil Service makes an important contribution to this objective. I am asking all of the departments and agencies of the Executive Branch to cooperate with you in the development of a program designed to derive the maximum benefit from these recommendations.



Note: Mr. Young's report, entitled "Memorandum for the President, January 25, 1956," was released with the President's letter.

The report outlines briefly the specific actions taken on the Hoover Commission recommendations on personnel and civil service (H. Doc. 89, 84th Cong., 1st sess.).

Dwight D. Eisenhower, Letter to Philip Young, the President's Adviser on Personnel Management, in Response to Report on Hoover Commission Recommendations. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/233248

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