25 September 2023

UNITED STATES: PS reforms make things worse

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Attempts by US lawmakers to fix an outdated Public Service system have complicated it as much as improved it, a group of public sector human resources professionals claim.

During a Washington panel discussion on the problem, the officials said Congress had repeatedly taken a piecemeal approach to reforming laws governing the Federal workforce that date back to the nineteenth century and were last updated on a wholesale basis in 1978.

Chief of Human Capital at the Department of Agriculture, Mary Pletcher (pictured) said that over the year “we’ve seen special authorities, special regulations solve specific problems, but what it’s also done is create a very complicated system”.

Chief of the Army’s Functional Management Division, Integrated Personnel and Pay System, Colonel Gregory Johnson said the military maintained 300 different pay systems.

“Those have piled up over the course of several decades and are now posing problems for the Defence Department,” Colonel Johnson said.

“How do you understand soldiers’ talent in the military, how do you manage 1.1 million people when you have that many systems that are disparate, where the data is fractured? How do you do that?”

Ms Pletcher said the laws and regulations applying to civilian employees had become so complicated that very few people in Government actually understand all of them.

“Lengthy hiring times and career ladder climbing have remained rigid,” Ms Pletcher said.

She said that has all added up to Agencies losing out on top talent.

“All of the special legislative authorities, the pilot authorities … the intent is to solve specific problems, but they create even more complexity because we still haven’t changed the underlying system,” Ms Pletcher said.

Washington, DC, 12 October 2018

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