The influence of the government and the bureaucrats on the civil service is major concern for the civil servants, the public, and the reform advocates. Irrespective of the changes that have previously been proposed, none has realized the full initial intent. In fact, undue pressure from politicians has been blamed for this.
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The appointees to the civil service positions are also pointed out as a source of the partial implementation of the projected objectives. The authors remark on the history of civil service restructuring and the hurdles that have been met by reformers.
Themes to be used as framework for comparing and contrasting the articles
The articles that will be compared, contrasted, and analyzed in this study have political approaches integrated in the text. In order to avoid biasness in the analysis, the study will take a professional approach for analyzing the articles irrespective of the intention of the author to the reader. By doing so, this study will articulately analyze the articles with the view of addressing the structure, content, attitude, and approach of the authors towards the issues they address.
Summary of major points
A Return to Spoils? Revisiting Radical Civil Service Reform in the United States by Patricia Wallace Ingraham
Ingraham started the article with a precise abstract. The abstract covered the author’s opinion regarding the federal public service reforms. She indicates that the urge for such reforms is brought about by political necessity. She states that Pendleton Act was devised to re-establish the professional capability within the government service. It also aimed at limiting the political interference. The Act provided that the admission to the federal service must be open and competitive.
However, it prohibited the sacking of employees from service based on any grounds except the cause. The author stipulated that civil servants should be exempted from any political coercion. The development did not completely abolish patronage. Actually, it introduced the merit system. The civil service commission advised the president on the political appointment. Besides, it ensured that the appointees never interfered with the operations of the public service.
The pecking order of the organization system specified by the rule guaranteed that technical processes and functions would be the main attributes of the system as it developed. Every characteristic enclosed the seeds of dysfunction. The players it sought to serve only appreciated the new system briefly before and after its passage. Thereafter, it did not gain much deference.
The fact that the system was only exploiting the discontent and mistrust of the admiration makes Ingraham inquire whether the system instilled the much sought after merit. The authors seek to refute the idea that it was a merit system by quoting Jimmy Carter who stated that the ‘merit system had no merit’ (Ingraham, 2006).
Merit is not limited to the essential expertise and capability to meet the job requirements but a core public service attribute. In essence, it is about values, morals and principles of the right role of the civil service. Merit and commendable services are the goals of the public service structures where individuals desire to act for the expansive good as opposed to the individual interests.
Ingraham states that the key characteristics of the merit include credentials, capability, and lack of political partiality. On the other hand, public service incorporates the management structures governing the procedures and functions of every day government actions. The civil service system gives the president the advantage of directing and controlling the department.
Even though the Congress has influential authority over control, the executive branch continues to expand the centralized and the pecking order of the executive departments. The presidency uses the departments to influence the civil service. The influence over the bureaucracy is apparent in policy deliberations.
The number of executive appointees into the civil service continues to increase. This was evident in the creation of the Civil Service Reform Act. There were provisions authorizing the president to appoint politically ten percent of the civil service. Ronald Reagan tested the Act via bypassing the professional decision-makers. This puts merit to test despite the fact that it hardly crosses the political exploitation line.
Contemporarily, the authority of the presidency must be respected. On the other hand, the professional public service hinged on the capability and proficiency must be receptive to the presidential directives creating a dilemma in the merit of the public service. The civil servants can only question the directives if they are illegal, questionable, or unsound.
In 1978, the civil service reform established the merit pay. This was based on personal performance assessment. It also gave security to the whistleblowers.
Building Bridges over Troubled Waters: Merit as a Guide by Stephen E. Condrey and Paul R. Battaglio
The writers of this article start by referencing a scholar called Fredrick Mosher. They quote Mosher as having observed that it was clear the values of merit and the performance substance were changing. Mosher added that these merits and practices must transform for them to remain viable in the changing society.
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Based on this, the authors introduce the issue of reinventing the human resource structures in the United States. They denote these changes as radical civil service reform (Condery & Battaglio, 2007). The authors state that the most fundamental reforms were the shift towards at-will service across the US jurisdiction from the contemporary objectives.
Condery and Battaglio (2007) indicate that the reform of human resource management (HRM) has been in existence for many years. The transformation in the system of government HRM led to opposition to the absolute alteration of ballots. These were to be altered into the employment attribute of plunder political affairs in the nineteenth century.
In fact, this resulted in the Pendleton bylaw, the progressive transformation movement, and the struggle for equal rights as well as the protection of civil servants. The authors state that the recurrent objective of the civil service restructuring since its inception is the improvement of the effectiveness by fortifying the managerial power.
The authors further stated that HRM systems should be devolved and designated. This would take them into an instant rapport with the central and unrecognized supervisors whom they served.
Condery and Battaglio (2007) however, argue that the linkage between the civil service reconstruction and the individual outcome has been reversed. As opposed to the civil service protection, which is the answer to the improvement of government performance, it is often displayed as challenges that reduce government performance.
Consequently, the drastic public restructuring in the contemporary managerial expressions of the New Public Management (NPM) has been gaining popularity. The NPM gained popularity among government reinventors and felt across as a populist theme in the eyes of the public (Durant & Legge, 2006).
They state that advocates for the radical civil service reconstruction is realized when non-profit organizations and administrations implement private models of productivity and management (Barzelay, 2001).
Fundamental reformists are in tandem with NPM advocates when looking at the public service protection as a hindrance to proper management. Condery and Battaglio view this as the perspective for the elimination of job security in support of the at-will service, and the wearing away of value protections.
Moreover, it includes the correlation of salary to performance, and the eventual devolution of human resource functions to line supervisors in programs. However, these should take place without balances on supervisory excesses. The authors negate states in relation to cronyism, favoritism and lopsided pay for equal job performance in countries namely Georgia, Florida, and Texas.
The article updates readers on the Theory of Practice in a fivefold approach to the issues articulated. The first approach regards the story and history of the civil service reconstruction in the USA in general. In this portion, the authors examine the substance and pace of adapting to the civil reconstruction. The systems seek to convert employees to the ‘at will’ program. This connotation means that workers serve the administration without the security of tenure.
The aforementioned three states took the first initiative towards this end. According to the article, Georgia’s former governor (Zell Miller) assumed the unresponsive state human resource structure. In 1996, his administration backed a bill that eliminated job security for new employees and those who agreed on the promotions to other positions within the government. The article states that by the financial 2006, more than 76% of workers from Georgia became hired willingly.
In the fiscal 2001, the state of Florida under Bush Jeb contracted out the essential human resource services as well as consigned the willing condition to high-rank supervisors through the Service First and People First plan. Texas case is different from other states as it operated under the devolved and at-will structure during the delivery of critical human resources process. It is the only state without a centralized human resource agency.
In the second portion, the article addresses the perils that the pioneers of the civil reconstruction worried about in the initial stages that have been realized as predicted. The ‘at will’ service practices have dominantly spread across states. The civil service reformers in the early years had foreseen this and stated that it was a matter of time before it actually took place. The power of unions regarding the ‘at-will’ employment has not had impact on its diffusion.
There is intense devolution of human resource management. Additionally, the civil reconstructions by advocates imposing the contemporary administrative principles and better performance have not materialized. Research suggests that the perspectives of the advocates vary between plans and human resource management experts.
The third approach on Theory on Practice according to Condery and Battaglio with regard to their research indicates that there is hardly any extensive rush for rewards in the states. Fourth, the authors suggest what practitioners may reflect upon when considering the adoption of the drastic civil service reconstruction.
Fifth, the authors conclude by arguing that a multiplicity of fundamental, communal, managerial and political powers supporting drastic public service reconstruction will persist in the coming years.
The article authored by Condery and Battaglio references many sources. This makes it reliable due to the authenticity of the information in the article. The authors ensured that all the facts stated in the article are properly referenced to ensure validity. The authors carried out research in Georgia where respondents were requested to offer their opinion regarding the ‘at will’ employment. The approach sought to substantiate the literature review that the authors had gathered from different sources.
Ingraham’s article is equally strong in terms of the wide range of information from different sources. The article critically examines merit in the public service with specific examples to illustrate the same. The author does not criticize the civil service but seeks to address the diverse methods used to integrate merit in the civil service by reformists in the advent of the executive efforts.
The idea is to circumvent the ideals of having a completely autonomous civil service ran by the independent career civil servants. The author makes a well-organized argument that successful deliberation of restructuring the civil service fundamentally disconnects. It protects the principle of merit from the government structures that are often referred to as the merit system.
Condery and Battaglio’s article makes diverse proposition towards resolving the issues they articulate. They foresee a situation where the ‘at-will’ employment will not be influenced by the existing administration given that the line between public and private employment gradually fades. The voting system will not influence who is employed in the lower and middle cadre of the civil service.
The article by Condery and Battaglio begins by highlighting the sensitive issues about civil service reform. However, it climaxes after the second page despite being twelve pages long. After stating the states that experienced civil reconstruction, the flow of the article changes when the authors shift to the Theory of Practice based on radical public service in fivefold approach.
The reader is initially lost due to the sudden change in approach and takes considerable time to connect the content. The reader has to go through the article again to grasp the concept of the argument in a way that can summarize the ideas presented.
The articles by Condery and Battaglio, as well as that written by Ingraham are similar in the sense that they reflect on the public service systems of the United States including Texas, Florida, and Georgia. Although the authors take different approaches in articulating issues, they all address the elements that affect the effectiveness of the civil service.
Both articles suggest that the civil service reform is inevitable and agree that it will continue to experience challenges due to the hierarchical structures and bureaucracy. There is concurrence that the previous reforms have not fully realized the projected intent due to the influence by the presidency.
Condery and Battaglio focus on the public service restructuring. Ingraham reflects on the civil service restructuring and the effort to make the service to have merit. She states that although much effort has been put to make the civil service appear to have merit, it is only a perception.
According to her, it is apparent that the executive irrespective of the multiple changes that have been implemented previously have immense power to appoint staff, direct programs, and monitor government activities. Condery and Battaglio examine the changes that have taken place in the civil service including the ‘at-will’ aspect of employment.
Condery and Battaglio are combative in approaching the hiccups that are experienced in the civil service and the responsiveness of successive administrations. They squarely place the blame on bureaucracy exercised by the presidency to influence the civil service. They seem not to appreciate the fact that the presidency must participate in one way or another in appointing the civil servants.
Ingraham appreciates the fact but proposes that merit ought to be part of the civil service. She suggests that despite the presidential appointments, firm structures should be put in place to ensure that such appointees are protected from undue influence by the appointing authority.
Summary of major Lessons with regard to merit and civil service reforms
The struggle to reform the US civil service for the first time in memorial has been necessitated by the desire to separate the civil service from political patronage. Organizational restructuring typifying the system of government requires particular deliberation although from diverse points of view. This is founded on the fact that most of the structures in the civil service have been dysfunctional and expensive. Further, they are applied in some agencies and even then, they are applied selectively.
Other civil service agencies are currently under focus for restructuring by policymakers, civil service representatives and reformers. Apparently, the previous and contemporary restructuring of the civil service do not indicate any intention of abandoning the merit even though administrations are expected to try diverse methods of circumventing the changes like in the past.
The worldwide setting in which the United States civil service operates requires novel highlighting of the elements of merit that conform to the original objective. This includes the assurance of qualified, skilled and receptive civil service that operate well in the fast shifting conditions.
Recent examination of the modern global atmosphere depicts it as ‘permanent whitewater’ and a ‘steadily evolving sequence’ (Sanders, 2005). The previous structures will definitely try to endure change commotion in a typical officialdom fashion. Besides, it is projected that the systems will become extra insular, less approachable, and less efficient. Despite these, restructuring the civil service is fundamental.
An examination of the Ingraham study reveals that the future civil service will be different from the current system. However, the current restructuring proposals do not promote the abolition of the capable and proficient civil service. The ‘at-will’ employment approach used by the government should not be applicable to the entire civil service workforce.
Ingraham predicts a situation where merit will eventually be the driving force for the objectives and principles that will guide restructuring. She acknowledges that the current public service do not meet the positive goals creation of the merit within its structures.
Some of the structures within the civil service are fundamental in carrying the value of merit to a high level. The principle of merit and the perfect way of achieving it are very important aspects of achieving the civil service restructuring. This is necessitated by the fact that the current structures do not provide an encouraging environment for the realization of the merit.
The analysis of the articles reveals that merit as a value in the civil service is constantly under threat from bureaucracy and non-reformers. Although there are provisions that protect civil servants in their operations, there is usually considerable influence from the presidency. This accrues from the powers of the presidency that require the president to be respected. Further, there are presidential appointees in the civil service.
These factors significantly interfere with the merit in the civil service. As a result, the intent of the previous reforms is not fully realized. It is hence imperative for future reforms to ensure that structures are put in place to guarantee the full implementation. Consequently, it will be easy to realize the merit within the civil service. In this respect, it is important for further research to be conducted to reveal the most appropriate means of achieving the objective.
Barzelay, M. (2001). The new public management: Improving research and policy dialogue. Berkely, UK: University of California Press.
Condery, S. & Battaglio, R. (2007). A return to spoils? Revisiting radical civil service reform in the United States. Public Administration Review, 67(3), 425-436.
Durant, R. & Legge, J. (2006). Wicked problems, public policy, and administrative theory: Lessons from the GM food arena. Administration and Society, 38(3), 309-334.
Ingraham, P. (2006). Building bridges over troubled waters: Merit as a guide. Public Administration Review, 66(4), 486-495.
Sanders, R. (2005). Heroes of the revolution: Characteristics and strategies of reinvention leaders. Thousands Oak, CA: Sage Publishers.