WASHINGTON – The American Federation of Government Employees rejects a new report that recommends overhauling the personnel system for civilian employees in the Department of Defense, since it largely rehashes failed policies of the past and would undermine the government’s merit-based civil service system.
“The importance of maintaining a nonpartisan, apolitical civil service in an increasingly partisan environment cannot be overstated,” AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. said in a statement to the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Personnel.
“Calls to make it easier to fire a federal employee by decreasing due process rights or speeding up the removal process are ‘dog whistles’ for making the career service subject to the partisan or personal whims of a few supervisors or political appointees.”
A new report by the Bipartisan Policy Center recommends moving DoD civilians from Title 5 to Title 10 of the U.S. Code, which would eliminate most civil service protections and give the Secretary of Defense total discretion to set and adjust pay.
The proposals largely mimic reforms that have been rejected in the past – specifically the National Security Personnel System, a pay-for-performance scheme that was repealed by Congress after just three years because it discriminated against employees who were non-white or worked outside the Pentagon. Undeterred, DoD leaders attempted to resurrect NSPS a few years ago with a plan called Force of the Future, which proposed moving employees to Title 10.
“AFGE strongly opposes any and all efforts to restore NSPS, whether under the guise of Force of the Future or by any other name, including the just released report of Bipartisan Policy Center. The flaws of that system were well-documented and there is certainty that a revival would reproduce all the discriminatory effects of its earlier incarnation,” Cox said.
Cox said these proposals must be rejected because they violate the fundamental principle of having a merit-based civil service system, which ensures personnel decisions are based on an employee’s ability to do the job and not his or her political connections.
“Due process rights, including union rights, for civil servants at DoD or other agencies provides accountability to the public for both managers and political appointees and is a cornerstone of our system of democracy and should not be treated as expendable,” Cox said.