The last two decades have marked a period of near-constant change for the United States. As new challenges have arisen and demands on government have increased, however, the public sector has often been in a reactive mode. Government has been stuck in 20th century structures and processes while struggling to adapt to the international, economic, social, technological and cultural changes of the 21st century.
Conflict over the government workforce has never been greater. From fighting to protect federal jobs to making it easier to fire poorly performing employees, political battles over the government workforce have grown increasingly fierce.
Our government is beset by problems. Not all of them are “people problems,” but none can be fixed without reforming the government’s network of human capital—the federal civil service system.
In recent weeks, Government Executive has published a sampling of chapters from the book Building a 21st Century Senior Executive Service, published by the National Academy of Public Administration. We hope that in so doing, policymakers and legislators may realize there is a crisis at hand.
I didn’t start adulthood envisioning a life of public service. I accepted an appointment to West Point as a way to pay for college and make sure I had a job when I graduated. This, I thought, was a very practical, but not particularly altruistic, logic. My plan to serve out my five-year commitment and then move on to a civilian career went awry somewhere along the line, and I found myself, after 20 years of exciting, rewarding and challenging assignments, retiring from the Army.