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Ralph Nader on Civil Service

Monday, November 3, 2008 at 12:00:00 AM

Press Release
Contact: Ryan Mehta, 202-471-5833, rmehta@votenader.org


Both John McCain and Barack Obama, like their Republican and Democratic predecessors, speak about bringing change in Washington and curbing the influence of lobbyists who prey on Executive Branch departments and agencies. However, singularly missing during their nearly two years of incessant campaigning are references and concentration on the state of the federal civil service and millions of government personnel.

As a full time citizen in Washington for over forty years, I and my associates have contacted, worked with, benefited from, studied, sued, and encouraged civil servants as the determinants of government service to the people, assuming their appointed superiors provide them with the leadership and policies to do so. I have produced consequential studies of civil service and championed the ethical whistle-blowing by the civil servants with protections for both their courage and their upholding the Code of Ethics for Government Service. Our groups have worked with excellent citizen organizations like GAP, POGO, and PEER (see attachment summary of the activities of these groups).

Too often candidates and incumbents running for election to Congress and the Presidency run against what they contemptuously call the "bureaucrats in Washington." Yet they strive to lead these federal workers once elected— the very ones they have stereotyped and possibly demoralized. We must spread the realization far and wide that few Americans are in such critical positions to safeguard and enhance the health, safety and public facilities as are these civil servants. They are also the people who learn of the perils and problems and know what to do about them before just about anyone else.

They deserve both a production and creative environment where they can assert their talents and commitments to superior government performance as well as being held to high standards of responsibility and accountability.

On the 30th anniversary of the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978, there is a cause for consternation—political interference of the worse kind in the non-partisan duties of federal employees, a breakdown in morale and motivation, a growing retirement rate and the insufficient interest in the federal civil service by the younger generation of talented Americans. Though the growing recession, unemployment and distress in the private sector may lead more young people to join the civil service, the wonderful challenges, horizons and importance of such work should be the pre-eminent attraction.

Attached is a summary of some of the work on the federal civil service which I and my groups have done over the years. Also attached is a statement by American Federation of Government Employees on the corrosive effects of the privatization (corporatization) of Federal Services under President George W. Bush. Outsourcing of essential public functions, especially by the Pentagon, the regulatory agencies, and the natural resources and energy departments has reached crisis proportions that cost the taxpayer much more and dissipate if not destroy the framework of open and accountable performances more associated with public government than with proprietary, secret profit-driven corporations.

It is unfortunate that, given the extensive mass media stage, which John McCain and Barack Obama were given day after day that the many-faceted subject and importance of the beleaguered civil service received little mention.

*www.votenader.org/files/issues/civil_service.pdf (summary and statement by American Federation of Government Employees)