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public service evolved with the other institutions of government in the United States,
Critical decisions about design were made. Many of those decisions reflected
major political movements and trends.
Widespread patronage was linked to mass democracy and to populism, As
was the strong reliance on simple common sense as the basic qualification for
more generally provided the justification for the incremental way in which merit
and neutral competence replaced patronage. The passage of the first civil
service legislation? The Pendleton Act? Was not a rejection of the overt
politicization of the federal service. It was a
classic political solution to the problems that patronage posed: merit would be introduced, But slowly, And through executive orders of the
president, rather then trough legislative action. Politics and merit became
legally, and inextricably entwined.
As it has
developed, the civil service system designed to cover 10 per cent of the
existing workforce in 1883, expanded to cover most federal employees. Because
it expanded incrementally and generally at the will of the president, however ,
the civil service system or the merit system, as it is often called could grow
only in competition with, and at the expense of, the political patronage system
it was intended to correct.
From the beginning the relationship between
the civil service on the one hand and elected officials and their appointees on
the other was not a partnership. But an association filed with wary antagonism.
It is not surprising then that the merit system was intended to create and
protect has become a frequent target of political criticism. At the same time,
the role of the civil service and its power in government have grown larger.
The role of the civil service and the characteristics and skills of its
personnel had to change to meet new demands.
Service Reform Act of 1978 was intended to make the service, particularly ar
the top level of management, more flexible, more responsive, and more
productive. The civil Servic Commission was abolished and new agencies were
created to help with that task. The civil sevice system remained burdened by
thousands of pages of rules and regulations and did not work. Additional
reforms were undertaken;
training and development were reemphasized and compensation was made less