If President Donald Trump wins a second term, one of his top priorities should be reforming the federal civil service. It could be tougher than brokering peace in the Middle East. Many presidents have tried and failed to root out lazy, incompetent, and even corrupt federal bureaucrats.
A typical federal worker has a less than a 0.5 percent chance of being fired for cause. Some of these entrenched bureaucrats have long been an embarrassment to hard-working Americans whose tax dollars pay their salaries. But now, in the age of the deep state, bad actors in our civil service threaten the very foundation of our democracy and President Trump would be wise to finally clean house.
Who can forget the case of the Environmental Protection Agency employee caught with 7,000 pornographic files on his computer? He had been viewing pornography while at work for years, and even received performance awards for his time at the agency. Incredibly, he was watching porn when inspector general agents visited his office. The employee, who earned a six-figure salary, was never fired, only placed on administrative leave.
Then there was the case of the EPA employee selling jewelry and weight loss pills out of her office. This same woman also hired 17 of her family members and friends as paid interns. She was also paying her daughter — who also works at the EPA — from her agency’s budget account. But instead of being punished, you guessed it, she received a prestigious Presidential Rank Award in 2010, for which she got $35,000 in cash.
More recently, entrenched deep state federal workers have tried to take down a president. Former FBI agents Peter Strzok and Lisa Page — and the entire Russiagate fiasco — are exhibit A for why Congress and President Trump must work together to reform the civil service.
“You can’t drain the swamp unless you can fire the swamp,” said Rick Manning, president of Americans for Limited Government. Manning supports the MERIT Act, legislation introduced by Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.) and U.S. Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-Ga.) that creates a faster pathway for firing incompetent, lazy or recalcitrant federal employees. “It is a necessary first step toward ending the politicization of the federal civil service workforce,” added Manning.
Sen. Perdue says the MERIT Act would bring more accountability to federal employment. According to a 2019 press release on his website, this bill would revise provisions related to federal employment, including the furlough and removal of federal employees, the calculation of federal employee retirement benefits, and the length of the probationary employment period. It would apply the same standards for expedited removal for the Department of Veterans Affairs in 2018 via legislation to the rest of the federal government.
“With a $22 trillion debt crisis, we cannot afford to hold onto bureaucrats who aren’t doing their jobs,” said Perdue. “Government employees should be held to the same standards as private sector employees, yet it is nearly impossible to fire bureaucrats for failing to do their jobs,” added Perdue. “Right now, it can take more than a year to fire or replace a civil service employee, even for poor performance or misconduct.”
U.S. Rep. Loudermilk has also introduced his companion bill in the House. In reintroducing the bill in the current session of congress, Loudermilk stated in a press release, “Unfortunately, some federal employees have learned they can take advantage of this antiquated system and are using their positions for personal gain, or are consistently derelict in their duties. The current federal employment system unfairly protects these bad actors from dismissal, which allows them to game the system without fear of losing their jobs.”
According to Sen. Perdue, since President Trump took office, more than 4,300 bad actors have been fired, demoted, or suspended at the Department of Veterans Affairs.
It’s time to expand those efforts and address problems across the entire federal government. “We must hold federal workers to the same standards as everyone else,” concluded Manning. “If they can’t or won’t do their jobs, they need to go. If any president can succeed in this difficult reform, it is President Trump. He has our full support in this effort.”
Catherine Mortensen is the Vice President of Communications at Americans for Limited Government.