The Not So Civil Service

At one time, it was considered a great honor to work for the Federal government, and people fought for the jobs and to take the civil service exam. 


The Civil Service was not only a term, but also a reality filled with honor, dedication, and devotion to one’s country. 


Working for the Federal government meant interesting and exciting work opportunities not only defending our great nation, but in making it just and prosperous, and literally a beacon of freedom for the world. 


While no one became rich working for the government, you could make a stable living, build tenure over your service, and finally receive a pension upon retirement. 


Over the course of almost 20-years of my federal career, I have had the opportunity to serve in positions that I only could have dreamed about as a child, and to feel such pride in serving. 


But it seems like times have taken a turn for the worse either willfully or through neglect:


– From Capitol Hill to the Executive Department, we see the extremus of polarization and endless obstacles to getting anything done.  


– With each change in administration, aside from a change of leadership and direction at the top of each Department, the workforce is seemingly accused of subversion for the other side and turned on itself. 


– Just recently, we’ve seen the longest federal government shutdown lasting 35 days and with hundreds of thousands of Federal workers required to work without pay at the time. 


– We have also seen many years of pay freezes–with not even a meager cost of living adjustment (COLA), while the overall economy is booming!


– The pay for grades at the upper levels are hitting up against the Congressional limits with multiple pay steps being the same pay and no increase for career advancement or growth of responsibilities. 


– Employees have been forced to endure the A-76 outsourcings, threats of disbanding entire agencies, demands to reduce the size of government, and hiring freezes even while serving a larger population requiring ever more services. 


– There have been limitations on the power of employee unions, and an ongoing series of tightening of benefits from CERS to FERS and continuing thereafter requiring greater employee contributions and what feels like ever less benefit payouts. 


– Staff are threatened with firing in a short(er) period of time for making a small number of mistakes to a host of “conduct” issues that may or may not be true, and may at times be the outcome of poor leadership rather than problematic employees.


– The system for employment grievances and judging these has gone without a quorum for the longest period on the books and the backlog of cases continues to build. 


While no system is perfect, and there are bad apples on every side, there clearly seems to be a devolution of the federal service, and what this means for governing and for our defense and prosperity is yet to be fully felt. 


For me, serving the Federal government has been one of the greatest honors and has been many of the best years of my life. My wish is for others going forward to have a positive and productive experience as well. 


Perhaps with an appreciation and true respect for the millions of good men and women that serve our country–from the front lines to the back offices–we can once again create a system that is equitable, fair, and just and that inspires the world-class results we needs for our nation and our people. 


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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