Politicians, especially those who know they have no chance of winning their party’s nomination, may say things and make proposals that are unlikely to become real. In today’s news, a former chief executive of Hewlett-Packard, Carly Fiorina, announced a bid for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination.
One proposal was truly notable. The NY Times reports she feels the “federal work force is too large and says she would cut the pay of federal workers and base their compensation on performance.” Really? The statement is remarkable in many ways.
Given the varied nature of federal employment, it is a wonder how she came to this determination. Federal jobs include forecasters with the National Weather Service, federal judges, engineers with the Federal Highway Administration, Nurses and Doctors at Veterans’ Affairs hospitals, criminal prosecutors with the Justice Department, epidemiologists with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, air traffic controllers with the Federal Aviation Administration and park rangers in the National Parks.
In virtually all of these areas, the issue is more frequently a lack of sufficient staffing. From where exactly would all of these cuts she suggests come?
That she also suggests that all pay should be cut and compensation based on performance appears to indicate a lack of understanding of the civil service system and the merit system principles.
One of the statutory merit system principles notes, “Employees should be retained on the basis of adequacy of their performance.” Perhaps as a former CEO she has a different conception of performance than the one found in the dictionary?
The problems faced by the civil service system and managing the federal workforce are the same as any in a large and varied bureaucracy that has tens of thousands of employees and that involves the expenditure of billions of dollars.
Foolish statements that have little basis in reality, such as unilateral pay cuts or ending of due process rights for federal workers will not improve the quality, effectiveness or morale of the federal workforce. It does call her judgment into question.