Click for next page ( 76


The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement



Below are the first 10 and last 10 pages of uncorrected machine-read text (when available) of this chapter, followed by the top 30 algorithmically extracted key phrases from the chapter as a whole.
Intended to provide our own search engines and external engines with highly rich, chapter-representative searchable text on the opening pages of each chapter. Because it is UNCORRECTED material, please consider the following text as a useful but insufficient proxy for the authoritative book pages.

Do not use for reproduction, copying, pasting, or reading; exclusively for search engines.

OCR for page 75
APPENDIX B COMMISSIONED PAPERS Recruitment, Retention, and Utilization of Scientists and Engineers in the Federal Govemment: Results of a Literature Review by Linda S. DO 77 . . . Quantitative Inputs to Federal Technical Personnel Management by Charles E. Falk 95 Meeting Federal Work Force Needs with Regard to Scientists and Engineers: The Role of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management by John M. Paiguta 111 Differences in Recruitment, Retention, and Utilization Processes: A Companson of Traditionally Operated Federal Laboratones, M&O Facilities, and Demonstration Projects by Sheldon B. Clark 121 The Political Appointments Process and the Recruitment of Scientists and Engineers by James P. Pfiffner 75 133

OCR for page 75

OCR for page 75
RECRUITMENT, RETENTION, AND UTILIZATION OF SCIENTISTS AND ENGINEERS IN DIE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT: Results of a Literature Review Linda 5. DO Staff Officer Office of Scientific and Engineering Personnel Introduction One activity to be undertaken under the aegis of the Committee on Scientists and Engineers in the Federal Government was a literature review to determine what earlier research had revealed about the ability of the federal government to recruit, retain, and utilize scientific and engineering talent effectively. The following summarizes information compiled from sources listed in the bibliography. The most recent studies of this issue, focusing on specific agencies, are the 1988 examination of the intramural program at the National Institutes of Health (Institute of Medicine, Committee to Study Strategies, 1988) and a three-year effort conducted by the Institute for Defense Analysis (IDA), studying 25,000 scientists and engineers in 66 Department of Defense (DoD) laboratories. Although the DoD data are still being analyzed, preliminary findings are included here (see also IDA, 1989a and 1989b; Millburn, 1989a and 1989b). Furthermore, the usefulness of data collected in that study has led the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to design a survey questionnaire to be mailed to a representative sample of scientists and engineers in all other federal agencies. In spite of efforts of the past two decades to encourage U.S. scientists and engineers to consider federal employment, some federal agencies have been unable to employ the numbers considered essential for completion of their missions, leading some within the science policy community to conclude: The federal system plods along for the most part, fostering mediocrity and lacking the means to attract or encourage the genius needed for technical inspiration and organizational leadership. (Packard, 1986) A recent General Accounting Office (GAO, 1989a) study found that federal operations are so affected bv serious human re.c.Ollrce nrohlP.mc that the onvPrnmpnt rennet mart r ~--- ad,-AIL ~~A=L 1416_~ . ~ ~ ~ ~ the needs ot its citizens. Prom surveys of installation heads, personnel directors, personnel officers, and OPM in 1989, GAO found that 40-71 percent had greater difficulty in hiring good employees than in 1984 and 40-77 percent said that retention had worsened. (In contrast, only 2-20 percent of those interviewed felt recruitment and retention had improved between 1984 and 1989.) This is particularly true in technical fields and seems to occur at all civil service levels. But of particular concern is the fact that many experienced and competent senior executives are leaving federal service for employment in the private sector. In fact, 77

OCR for page 75
Among the very best those who have won presidential merit awards- the average quit rate in 1986 and 1987 ran at 24% annually, with 75% of the departees going to industry. (Norton, 1989) A similar assessment was made by federal lab directors. Less than 10 percent "think that salaries or bonuses are good enough. One half of the directors say that pay is too low and is not competitive with industry, and one half say that bonuses are too small" (IDA, 1989a). As a result, GAO has delineated specific areas that federal agencies should examine closely to encourage more scientists and engineers to engage in federal employment: (~) recruitment and staffing practices, (2) salary and benefits, and (3) planning for the types and numbers of people needed. Perhaps the major problem facing those who pursue federal employment, at least in Washington, D.C., is that they must put their lives and finances "on public display in the fishbowI-on-the-Potomac" (Norton, 1989~. Recruitment of Scientists and Engineers Both the number of vacancies and the level of recruitment difficulty vary within . . and between federal agencies, (e.g., see Frascinelia, 1989~. For instance, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has "experienced problems hiring and retaining sufficient numbers of technical personnel to implement the Superfund program" (GAO, 1989a) because of high employee turnover, inadequate pay, and insufficient training of staff. Recruitment difficulties have also been experienced at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which has been "unable to hire a single senior biomedical research scientist from industry or academe in the past ten years" (Norton, 1989~. Similar problems have been reported by the following agencies (GAO, 1987 and 1989b): Social Security Administration Internal Revenue Service National Science Foundation, particularly in scientific and engineering occupations, since 1985 Department of the Army (electronics engineers, general engineers, physicists, computer scientists, and research psychologists) Bureau of Oceans and International Environment and Scientific Affairs, Department of State National Institute of Standards and Technology Office of Energy Research, Department of Energy National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Department of Health and Human Services National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) However, other federal agencies fill vacancies in scientific and engineering disciplines quite easily or encounter problems sporadically. When directed by an executive order of the President (December 1985) to provide information about problems that they have encountered in recruiting and retaining scientists and engineers, three agencies (the U.S. Geological Survey, the National Science Foundation, and the Department of 78

OCR for page 75
Transportation) noted no significant problems. In addition, within a federal organization, the significance of the difficulty of recruiting qualified scientists and engineers sometimes varies; the Department of the Army was cited to illustrate this point. In its 1982 study, the Laboratory Management Task Force noted that [DoD] departure rates seem to be reasonable. Because of the substantial populations of GS-12 and -13, the majority of attrition occurs at these levels. As a result, there are significant losses at these critical levels which are hard to replace. That study further showed that in 1981 the 7.4 percent increase in the number of DoD scientists and engineers at GS-5-15 almost balanced the 6.4 percentage who left. However, a more recent study shows serious shortages in five fields at DoD labs-artificial intelligence, computer engineering, computer networking, signal processing, and systems engineering- with recruitment difficulties also experienced in acoustics, biomechanics, ceramics, control system engineering, digital communications, fiber optics, human factors, robotics, and weapons design (IDA, 1989a). Thus, GAO (1987) has concluded that "some agencies are experiencing difficulty in recruiting and retaining scientists and engineers while others are not." Nonetheless, it has been shown that "weaknesses in the government's recruitment and hiring processes have been major impediments to obtaining quality people" (GAO, 1989a) and often result in agencies having "to choose between accepting a less qualified candidate or leaving a position vacant" (Packard, 1986~. Retention of Scientists and Engineers Attrition of scientists and engineers from the federal government has been a major issue of the 19SOs. For instance, between 1981 and 1984 the Air Force TABLE 1: Quit Rates for DoD Engineers (in percent) Fiscal Year Quit Rate Fiscal Year Quit Rate 1975 1.8 1981 2.3 1976 1.5 1982 2.2 1977 2.0 1983 3.2 1978 2.4 1984 3.3 1979 2.5 1985 3.6 1980 2.4 SOURCE: General Accounting Office, Federal Work Force: Pay, Recruitment, and Retention of Federal Employees (GAO/GGD-87-37), Washington, D.C.: GAO, 1987. 79

OCR for page 75
experienced a 164 percent increase in the number of resignations of civilian scientists and engineers, with resignations occurring at all grade levels (Packard, 1986~. This is compounded by the fact that in a recent year only 1,792 of 2,445 vacant engineering positions in the Air Force were filled, after 2,737 job offers were made for them (recruitment success rate of 73.3 percent) (GAO, 1987~. The overall quit rate for engineers in DoD averaged 2.47 percent for the period 1975-1985 (see Table 1~. Although the average annual DoD quit rate was 2.1 percent for the 1975-1982 period, it has remained around 3.4 percent since then, but staff have found no reason for this Jump. Factors Affecting Recruitment and Retention of Scientists and Engineers Several organizational, personal, and economic factors influence one's decision not to work for a federal agency or to leave federal employment: noncompetitive federal salaries, advancement opportunities, the nature of the work, geographic location of work, etc. In addition, exogenous factors affect attrition: "the state of the labor market, the particular occupation, and the age, sex, and education of employees" (GAO, 1987~. Several of the studies examined revealed that the changing demography of the U.S. work force, together with competition from the private sector for high-quality scientists and engineers, hinders the ability of the federal government to recruit and retain the quality needed to be effective. Several other reasons have been given for the current situation: Restrictions imposed not only by budgetary constraints but also by personnel ~ cell .lngs Salary increases determined more by length of service rather than by quality of one's performance Noncompetitive federal salaries for scientists and engineers. (Packard, 1986) These factors received regular attention in studies that zeroed in on the inflexibility of the civil service system, as shown in the report following a comprehensive examination of the Army laboratories: The personnel policies and procedures of a laboratory and its parent organization are important in attracting and retaining good scientists and engineers and in providing them rewarding careers. Undue bureaucratic complications and delays in recruiting, for example, can put a laboratory at a serious disadvantage in competing for talented science and engineering graduates. Uncompetitive salaries and benefits, of course, also impede recruiting and retaining good personnel. Laboratories must provide opportunities for advancement and increased responsibilities. Similarly, their promotion and termination procedures and practices must be regarded as straightforward and fair. (Committee on Army Manpower, 1983) 80

OCR for page 75
Further, the 1983 White House Science Council, report (Office of Science and Technology Policy, 1983) concurred on the widespread nature of the problem: Almost all of the Federal laboratories . . . suffer serious disadvantages in their abilities to attract, retain, and motivate scientific and technical personnel required to fulfill their niissions. The principal disadvantage is the inability of the Federal laboratories, particularly those under the Civil Service system, to provide scientists and engineers with competitive compensation. . . . Furthermore, cumbersome procedures for hiring new staff make it hard to bring in new talent even when other obstacles have been overcome. The rigidity of the Civil Service promotion and salary system limits rewards for outstanding scientists and engineers. . . . Promotion is linked to management responsibilities, and current rules do not allow for adequate recognition of scientific performance alone. Recent personnel ceilings imposed strictly on a numerical basis without distinguishing among types of staff have adversely affected the laboratories' R&D activities. . . . This personnel situation leaves the Federal laboratories vulnerable to weak scientific leadership if senior qualified personnel cannot be replaced and to declining quality of research because of inadequate infusion of young talent. Thus it was not surprising to read the conclusion of a report assessing the ability of NIH to recruit and retain scientists: The combination of increasingly burdensome and unnecessary constraints along with lower salaries and less flexible administrative policies creates justified concern about NTH's ability to continue its past successes in building the staff necessary to sustain the quality and vitality of the intramural program. (Committee to Study Strategies, 1988) Personnel Ceilings The 1979 GAO study of federal laboratories reports that "the directors were concerned over the adverse effect of personnel ceilings on their operations, [advocating for themselves] more personnel control, including hire and fire authority." Although 51 percent of the managers surveyed had control over the type of people hired and in what disciplines, the other 49 percent said that they must Beget approval or operate within parameters set by higher organizational levels.' Following close on the heels of the GAO study, DoD's Laboratory Management Task Force (1980) focused two of its five major recommendations on the issue of personnel ceilings: stabilize laboratory personnel ceilings and repeal high grade ceilings. Similar recommendations came from both the U.S. Defense Research and Engineering Independent Review of DoD ~ A 1983 panel of distinguished scientists, chaired by David Packard, studied five aspects of federal laboratories admission; personnel; funding; management; and interaction with universities, industry, and users of research results operated by the six agencies receiving the largest portion of federal R&D funding (NASA and the departments of Defense, Agriculture, Commerce, Energy, and Health and Human Services). 81

OCR for page 75
Laboratories (Hermann, 1982) and the Laboratory Management Task Force's 1982 study of scientists and engineers in DoD laboratories, the latter finding that Ceilings by themselves are not an intrinsic barrier to maintenance of an effective S&E [science and engineering] work force beyond a critical mass required to operate a laboratory. What does appear to be important is the maintenance of a stable ceiling consistent with workload to facilitate planning and management within the DoD labs. . . . The majority of Technical Directors did report significant adverse impacts of . . . total ceilings including reduced ability to meet mission requirements, deletion of specific technologies that should be addressed, reduced ability to hire and promote experienced and deserving personnel as well as overall reduced quality of work. Still other adverse effects of personnel ceilings that hinder recruitment of scientists and engineers include inadequate staffing levels, increased contracting out of agency work and subsequent reduction of in-house expertise, inability to respond to requests for work, increased S&E workload, and increased use of temporaries (IDA, 1989a). Noncompetitive Salaries Among the stipulations of Section 5305 of the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations is the requirement that unless the President and Congress agree on alternative pay rates, Federal white-collar employees' salaries under the General Schedule are to be adjusted each year to maintain comparability with private sector salaries for similar levels of work. (GAO, 1987) However, beginning in 1979, such adjustments have not been made. The result is that by 1987, federal employees received salaries averaging 23.S percent less than their counterparts in private industry (GAO, 1987~. In fact, the salaries for federal employees in the upper echelons "have sunk far below the norms of corporate America" (Norton, 1989) during the past decade. Data obtained in 1987 by GAO from OPM as well as from the two federal agencies employing the most scientists and engineers DoD and NASA- show that scientists and engineers, like many other employees in the federal government, are paid lower salaries than their counterparts in the private sector. Of the seven occupations examined by GAO (1987), three are relevant to this study of scientists and engineers in the federal government: chemists, engineers, and computer specialists (Table 2~. However, these data show no relationship between the pay gap and quit rate in these occupations. In a later report, GAO (1989) noted that the differences in salary for federal employees and their private-sector counterparts ranged from 26 percent on the General Schedule of Salaries to 65 percent for senior executives. Salary discrepancies are particularly prevalent for scientists and engineers, but such discrepancies depend on one's place of employment. In general, a federal scientist earns about $3,000 more than his counterpart in business and industry, whereas a federal engineer earns $700 less than 82

OCR for page 75
TABLE 2: 1985 Pay Gaps and Quit Rates (in percent) Occupation Pay Gap Range Quit Rate Chemist 27.9-50.7 2.3 Accountant 27.2-46.0 2.3 Engineer 19.4-46.0 3.3 Buyer 24.7-34.9 3.2 Computer specialist 5.9-29.1 2.8 Clerk-typist 10.1-11.1 13.8 Secretary 4.0-9.3 6.9 All General Schedule workers 19.2 5.2 SOURCE: General Accounting Office, Federal Work Force: Pay, Recruitment, and Retention of Federal Employees (GAO/GGD-87-37), Washington, D.C.: GAO, 1987. his peer in the private sector (IDA, 1989b). However, at EPA salaries for chemists and engineers "trailed private sector pay by $7~800 to $41~300, or 25 to 68 percent' (GAO, 1989a). In addition, a recent comparison of salaries found that a DoD scientist earns an average of $5,000 more than the national average but a DoD engineer earns about $1,000 less than the national average (IDA, 1989b). In 1986, when federal laboratories received $18 billion (or one-third) of the federal R&D budget and employed about one- sixth of all U.S. research scientist and engineers, David Packard, chairman of Hewlett- Packard Company, warned: At the heart of the problem is pay, with rigidity and inertia of the personnel administration system being a less important but contributing factor. . . . The [pay] problem is particularly acute in the scientific and engineering fields, where industrial pay scales have risen faster than the rest. [Because Congress links congressional and civil service pay and hesitates to raise its own pay], the result is not only lower federal salaries but also severe salary compression at the senior levels. (Packard, 1986) From information provided by 13 federal organizations in response to a December 1985 executive order of the President, GAO (1987) reported that 11 of these organizations experienced recruitment and retention problems because of the noncompetitive nature of federal salaries. Such problems tended to be agency-specific: . The U.S. Geological Survey noted its inability to hire about 10 percent of their "prime candidates" in engineering positions (3-4 from a vacancy pool of 40) each year. The Department of Transportation cited recruitment difficulty only for entry- level 83

OCR for page 75
technician positions in the Boston area, where competition with high-technology industry is great. Both the National Bureau of Standards (now the National Institute of Standards and Technology) and NASA cited noncompetitive salaries as a major contributor to the loss of technical, scientific, and engineering candidates. NASA noted that from FYi983 to FYl985, its scientist and engineer losses, other than retirement, increased from 294 to 361 employees. The salaries that B.S. engineers can draw from industry particularly affect NASA's ability to recruit them: Top pay for a beginning engineer at NASA is $25,000-that includes a 30% premium for hard-to-fi~} jobs like those in engineering and medicine. Top graduates . . . can command up to $40,000 in business. (Norton, 1989) Similarly, the effect of the federal pay schedule on the retention of high-level talent was keenly noted in a study of the 118 doctoral scientists and engineers at the U.S. Army's Waterways Experiment Station in Vicksburg, Miss. During the period January 1980 to June 1987, 32 doctorates (or 27 percent) left WES: Those who left did so primarily for a higher salary. The private sector attracted 41 percent, universities 22 percent, and other Federal agencies 16 percent. (Vincent, 1987) GAO's 1989(b) study, which looked at all scientists and engineers (as opposed to the 1987 examination of chemists, engineers, and computer specialists), found that "noncompetitive compensation further exacerbates the problem by creating higher rates of turnover, which, in turn, create the need for more recruiting by federal agencies." Because low salaries were making recruitment and retention of highly capable scientists and engineers difficult for the national labs, the Committee on Army Manpower (1983) recommended higher starting salaries for "new graduates possessing unique and needed skills so that these salaries are competitive," and Packard (1986) urged Congress "to act quickly to halt the erosion of scientific talent before the vitality of the laboratories is seriously undermined." Thus it was with much backing of the scientific community that adjustments were made to the General Schedule of Salaries to enable supervisors to hire engineers in entry and mid-level grades at "rates which exceed normal General Schedule salaries for other employees at the same grades" (GAO, 1987~. Nonetheless, it is felt by many that our Jack ot pay comparan~ty with the private sector means that we are becoming less able to compete for the shrinking pool of citizen S&E graduates" (MilIburn, 1989b). In fact, the Committee to Study Strategies to Strengthen the Scientific Excellence of the National Institutes of Health Intramural Research Program (1988) urged increasing NTH's flexibility in pay . . . so that it may compete more effectively for people critical to the continued success of the various programs and otherwise to adrn~nister more effectively its public responsibilities. 84

OCR for page 75
The committee also noted that although "there is merit in the claim that an unfavorable pay disparity exists and is growing," the magnitude of the problem may be overstated. Inadequate Fringe Benefits Several studies of federal compensation have shown that "the federal government's pay and benefits structure has serious implications for the quality of the federal workforce" (GAO, 1989b). The low level of fringe benefits provided by federal employers contributes to a number of resignations by scientists and engineers, particularly at grades GS-13 and above (Laboratory Management Task Force, 1982~. In fact, Packard (1986) stated, "Federal health and life insurance provisions and annual and sick leave allowances are far less generous than those offered by many private companies and universities." Furthermore, the Office of Science and Technology Policy and the Office of Management and Budget urged "legislative action to permit continuity of pension plans for scientists and engineers who move between Federal laboratories and universities" (OSTP, 1984a). On the other hand, some attribute low attrition among federal employees in general to this very "lack of portability of civil service retirement benefits" (GAO, 1987), implying that the loss of federal scientists and engineers could be compounded by a change in retirement programs. Other Factors Still other factors influencing federal recruitment and retention of scientists and engineers have been noted not only in earlier studies but also recently by the press, including weak leadership within federal agencies, ownership of intellectual property, and ethics laws. Weak Agency Leadership: Several studies have focused on the leadership in national laboratories, but in some instances the assessment of problems encountered by the labs can apply more broadly to other federal agencies. Me Committee on Army Manpower (1983) noted that The quality and stability of its own leadership over the years is a primary factor in determining the laboratory's reputation in its field. It is also a primary factor in maintaining talented and productive scientific and . . engineering personne .. But for one to lead an agency effectively-that is, use employees effectively and efficiently he or she must thoroughly understand the mission of the agency, a task complicated by several factors. First, the missions of agencies frequently change: The great national research centers financed by the government utilize large numbers of scientists and engineers. The missions of some of them, especially of those related to defense, have changed since their establishment. It is important that their present and future missions be clear-cut and of high priority, and that their use of scientists and engineers be unmistakably in the national interest. In maintaining these major 85

OCR for page 75

OCR for page 75
IlIE POLITICAL APPOINTMENTS PROCESS AND THE RECRUITMENT OF SCIENTISTS AND ENGINEERS James P. Profaner Professor of Government and Politics George Mason University This paper examines the major factors that affect the recruitment of scientists and engineers in the political recruitment process and concludes that those factors are similar to the factors that affect PAS (political appointments requiring Senate confirmation) appointments in general. It further argues that the difficulties in attracting the best executives to public service are even greater in recruiting the best scientists and engineers. In addition, the nature of the science and engineering professions presents further impediments to recruiting and retaining the highest quality personnel. These negative factors, however, are often outweighed by opportunities present in the public service: the chance to work at the cutting edge of many areas of research, the challenge of tackling the toughest problems facing our society, and the opportunity to make a contribution to the public good or to serve an admired president. The analysis and conclusions of this paper are based on systematic data from various studies and the considered judgments of experienced people. But it must be emphasized that defining "quality" and estimating the motives of potential government executives are inherently judgmental activities. The Pressures of Transition At the beginning of each new presidential administration, the President is faced with the daunting task of recruiting 3,000 to 4,000 political appointees. The Office of Presidential Personnel has the task of coordinating this effort, but it is directly responsible for the recruitment and selection of about 550 executives to lead the executive branch. Other political appointees include about 650 noncareer Senior Executives and about 1650 Schedule C appointments at the GS-15 level and below. A certain proportion of these political positions are appropriate for those with science and engineering backgrounds. The pressures of the task seem overwhelming because it must be done under the additional burden of other transition pressures involving budget, policy, politics, etc. A flood of applications has inundated recent administrations, often amounting to 1,500 applications per day in the early part of the transition (National Academy of Public Administration, 1983~. By June 1989 the Bush administration had received more than 45,000 applications for political appointments.' One of the main difficulties for the Interview with Chase Untermeyer, the White House, June 6, 1989. 133

OCR for page 75
President's personnel recruiters is to separate the wheat from the chaff, satisfying political obligations or appeasing those who are not appointed, and matching the right people with the right positions. The real challenge is actively to recruit the best and the brightest, rather than merely sifting through the resumes that come in "over the transom." All of this is complicated by the inability of the President's personnel recruiter to do much preparation. Although presidential candidates Carter and Reagan had initiated some planning for political recruitment, because of political sensitivities, preparation can never be very thorough. Candidate George Bush refused to let his personnel recruiter, Chase Untermeyer, do any planning or even to recruit a staff until after the election.2 One of the constant headaches of the President's personnel recruiter is to deflect political pressures for appointments so that those best qualified for the positions can be appointed. A tension that affects every presidential recruitment operation is between political pressures for patronage and the professional qualifications needed to perform the duties of the job. All Presidents legitimately demand loyalty, but the balance with competence is difficult to maintain. Impediments to Recruiting the Best and Brightest Although presidential appointments are prestigious, and many welcome an invitation to join an administration, Presidents do not always convince their first choices to accept presidential appointments. There will always be plenty of people eager to join an administration (as indicated by the 45,000 applications in 1989), but the real problem is finding those who are not looking for a job because they are successful and satisfied with their present position. For the highest positions, cabinet secretaries and executive level IT positions, there is usually not too much problem because of the prestige of the positions and the relatively close relationship to the president. But for the ~rnd-leve} executive positions impediments to accepting a position and the quality of the experience in office have become increasingly important factors during the past several decades. The relatively low level of pay is one of the major factors that keeps the President from recruiting the best and brightest for a period of government service. This reality is so widely recognized that it is not important to recite the results of salary surveys here. The main systematic analyses include the reports of the Quadrennial Commission and the Report of the National Commission on the Public Serv~ce.3 The recent pay raise legislation passed in 1989 will help to ameliorate but not fully solve the problem. Although pay levels may be the most highly visible and easy to document 2 Ibid. 3 The most recent Quad Come report was High Quality Leadership--Our Govemment's Most Precious Asset, report of the U.S. Commission on Executive, Legislative, and Judicial Salaries (December 1988~. The Volcker Commission findings are in Facing the Federal Compensation Crisis, report of the Task Force on Pay and Compensation to the National Commission on the Public Service (Washington, 1989~. See also the Report of the President's Commission on Compensation of Career Federal Executives (February 26, 1988~. 134

OCR for page 75
impediment to presidential recruitment, other factors discourage the best and brightest from joining an administration. Among the most important of those factors are the series of laws and regulations that are meant to prevent appointees from taking advantage of their government positions to enrich themselves unethically. Regulations have been fashioned to require financial disclosure of personal finances when accepting a position, to remedy any potential conflict of interest (including blind trusts and recusals), and to limit emolovment and representation activities after leaving the. government. This is not the place for a close analysis of the specifics of the legal restrictions, but systematic data as well as anecdotal evidence show that these restrictions have a chilling effect on presidential recruitment. In a survey of all presidential appointees between 1964 and 1984, the National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA) found that while less than 5 percent of appointees in the Johnson, Nixon, and Ford administrations had problems with financial disclosure forms, 26 percent of Carter appointees and 34 percent of Reagan appointees had "significant difficulty" filling out financial disclosure forms. Some complained of sizable legal and accounting fees merely to fill out the required forms. There was a corresponding increase in the number of appointees who felt that the financial disclosure requirements have gone too far: from 40 percent in the Carter administration to 64 per cent in the Reagan administration (NAPA, 1985; Mackenzie, 1986a).4 During the 19SOs the restrictions became more burdensome and chilling, particularly the new postemployment restrictions that seemed to cause a number of senior federal executives at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and elsewhere to leave the government.5 Norman Augustine (1989), chairman and CEO of Martin Marietta, argues that complex ethics rules are a significant deterrent to attracting high quality federal executives: __r _ _ A ~r _ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~^ By_ ~^ ~ ^ by_- ~^ it 4_~ ~ ~a ~- ,!~ Exceptional career public servants are leaving government in alarming numbers, and qualified replacements are becoming harder and harder to recruit. The rash of resignations that preceded the effective date of the new "revolving door" ethics rules punctuates this concern. Former Secretary of Defense Frank Carlucci (1989) has similar concerns: In my experience, the best people tend to be the most ethical. Yet, in the name of ethics, we are driving the best out of government. In other words, extreme and often absurd ethical standards are lowering the level of ethics. 4 The NAPA 1985 survey was sent to 936 present and former presidential appointees. The response rate was 57 percent, and respondents were highly representative of the total target population of appointees. 5 The chilling effect of postemployment restrictions was emphasized by several people interviewed for this paper: Stephen Andriole' former director of the Cybernetic Technical Office of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency; Lawrence Korb, former assistant secretary of defense; and Jeffrey Newmeyer, chief scientist of Lockheed Missile Systems. For examples of problems with the new ethics restrictions, see Linda S. Dix, 'recruitment, Retention, and Utilization of Scientists and Engineers in the Federal Government: Results of a Literature Review, earlier in this appendix. 135

OCR for page 75
In every organization, there has to be an element of trust. A certain amount of regulation and even conflict of interest legislation is healthy, but a legislative effort to eliminate every conceivable conflict of interest creates a web of red tape and frustrations and demoralizes managers. While recognizing the legitimate intent behind the ethics requirements and the very real abuses that they were intended to remedy, NAPA (1985) has recommended a reexamination of financial disclosure and conflict of interest legislation.6 Other problems face presidential recruiters. How do you convince a successful manager, scientist, or engineer to leave his or her job, step out of a career path for a short period of time (the average PAS term in position is 2.0 years), move a family to Washington, buy a house in an expensive housing market, and put up with the very real pressures of a political appointment?7 The NAPA survey found that the proportion of presidential appointees who reported that they made a "significant financial sacrifice" to accept their appointment increased from 40 percent in the Johnson administration to 52 percent in the Carter administration to 64 percent in the Reagan administration. In addition, "quality-of-life" factors declined. Those who reported working more than 60 hours a week increased from 64 percent in the Johnson administration to 77 percent in the Reagan administration. Those who reported that their jobs caused "stress in personal life or family relations" increased from 51 percent in the Johnson administration to 73 percent in the Reagan administration (NAPA, 1985~. Although these data are discouraging, most appointees also reported that their periods of public service were among the most rewarding professional experiences of their lives. The point here is not to paint too bleak a picture but to isolate impediments to recruiting people for public service. Another trend that affects the appointment process and the management of the government is the increasing length of time that transpires between when the President nominates a person and when that person takes office. These delays are attributable to internal executive branch clearances (including FB! investigation and financial clearances) and the Senate investigation and confirmation process. The average length of time has increased from 7 weeks during the Johnson administration to 14 weeks in the Reagan administration and probably longer in the Bush administration (NAPA, 1985~. The reasons for this trend include new conflict of interest laws, more thorough White House clearance procedures, delays in Senate confirmation, and more thorough FB! full field investigations. In addition to the delay in the average time that it takes to complete individual appointments, presidential administrations seem to take a longer time to complete their initial set of presidential appointments. Although comparable data have not been kept over the years, it was the consensus among published sources that in 1981 the Reagan administration had been slower than other recent administrations to fill its PAS positions (Pfiffner, 1988~. In 1989 it was generally conceded that the Bush administration was 6 See also Mackenzie (1986b) and National Commission on the Public Service (1989~. 7 In addition to the short average time of PAS appointees in office, former Assistant Secretary of Defense Lawrence Korb emphasized the psychological uncertainty of serving At the pleasure of" the President and one's immediate superior. 136

OCR for page 75
slower than the Reagan administration: on August 10, 156 of 394 of the top executive branch positions had been filled, but there were no nominations for 160 of the positions (Pfiffner, 1990~. By the end of 1989 the administration had not filled 46 of 116 PAS positions in independent agencies (40 percent) and 70 of 320 PAS positions in executive departments (22 percent) (Garcia, 1989~. The effect of these delays in recruiting presidential appointees depends on which positions are not filled. But where the incumbents of positions are, in effect, lame ducks for the first year of an administration, there will most likely be delays in the implementation of policy and management initiatives and possibly the recruitment of scientists and engineers at both the political and career executive levels. Quality and the Number of Political Appointees The creation of this panel was prompted in part by the concern that it is becoming more difficult to attract the best and brightest scientists and engineers to the federal service. The Report by the Carnegie Commission on Science, Technology, and Government (1988) stated, ''It is generally agreed that the quality [of government technical personnel] has eroded." In 1989 Energy Secretary James Watkins said that the Energy Department did not have the officials with the skills necessary to run the country's nuclear weapons complex.8 This concern has been accompanied by a perception that there has been a decline in quality of some political appointees, which in turn has had a negative effect on the quality of political appointees in the government. Elliot Richardson (1987), former secretary of Defense; Health, Education, and Welfare; and Commerce, has noted "the increase in turnover and the decline in quality of second- and third-echelon political appointees"' in the federal government. Richardson7s concern is based on the observation that during the past 20 years there has been an increase in the number of political appointees in the government, a deeper penetration of political appointees into the career ranks, an increase in the turnover of appointees, and an increase in the emphasis on political loyalty in presidential administrations. These factors have had a negative effect on the recruitment and retention of scientists and engineers to the extent that the professional quality of appointees, institutional memory, and organizational stability have decreased. The number of political appointees has increased during the past several decades. Although authoritative and comparable data are hard to find, there is no doubt about the trend. The number of PAS positions has increased from 152 in 1965 to 527 in 1985; noncareer Senior Executive Service (SES) positions increased from 582 in 1980 to 658 in 1986; Schedule C positions increased from 911 in 1976 to 1,665 in 1986. In 1986 there were 946 Schedule C's at the GS-13-15 levels, more than the total number of Schedule C's under President Ford (Ingraham, 1987). Although the absolute numbers of political appointees in relation to the total civilian work force may not seem high, the ratio of political to career positions at the mid-executive levels is increasing (e.g., the deputy 8 Energy Chief Says Top Aides Lack Skills to Run U.S. Bomb Complex, New York Am es, June 28, 1989, p. 1. See also Reversing Course at the Energy Department, Washington Post, January 24, 1990, p. 1. 1 OF

OCR for page 75
assistant secretary level). The increasingly rapid turnover of these political appointees aggravates the situation, with PAS appointees' time in position averaging 2.8 years in 1965 and 2.0 years in 1984 (NAPA, 1985~. From 1979 to 1986, noncareer SES executives stayed in office an average of 20 months (Ban and Ingraham, 1986~. Among the difficulties caused by the increasing number of political appointees is difficulty of recruiting high-quality people for positions that are lower in prestige than executive level ~ or IT positions for relatively low pay. This is exacerbated by the centralization of White House control of political recruiting that reached a peak during the Reagan administration. In the 1950s and 1960s, even presidential appointees at the subcabinet level were often, in effect, chosen by cabinet secretaries in conjunction with the White House (Mann, 1965~. With centralization in the White House Personnel Office has come a greater emphasis on ideological or personal loyalty to the President as the primary criterion for appointment. According to Elliot Richardson (1987), the quality of political appointments has suffered from "the elimination from the pool of eligible prospects of those who cannot meet the ideological litmus test." The argument is that cabinet secretaries are more likely to value competence and merit in selecting their subordinates who will run programs than is the White House, which is likely to be especially sensitive to the political claims of those who have supported the president's campaign. Richardson (1987) noted, A White House personnel assistant sees the position of deputy assistant secretary as a fourth-echelon slot. In his eyes that makes it an ideal reward for a fourth-echelon political type a campaign advance man, or a regional political organizer.9 The Special Case of Scientists and Engineers The impact of the above trends on the recruitment of PAS positions has the effect of narrowing the pool of candidates from which potential nominees are selected. The negative aspects of the job (low pay, financial disclosure, long hours, etc.) when combined with the political criteria often employed (ideological or personal loyalty) have a constraining effect on recruiting the best and the brightest for all presidential appointments except for the highest levels (e.g., cabinet positions). But good scientists and engineers are a special subset of potential appointees, and effectively recruiting them presents several additional problems. Often scientists and engineers get into their professions because they prefer a rational, academic research atmosphere rather than the uncertain world of politics with its necessary compromises. It is less likely that they will become involved in partisan politics than, for instance, lawyers or business people. Thus it is less likely that scientists and engineers will possess the kinds of political credentials that are often demanded in order to get past an initial screening by president's personnel office. As one presidential recruiter put it: "These people did not do a lot to help this 9 For a full analysis of these issues, see National Commission on the Public Service (1989~. 138

OCR for page 75
man get elected; they are just looking for an easy in." When asked for advice for scientists and engineers who might want to work in the public service at the.PAS level, the recruiter replied: "If you are interested in serving, get involved in the political process early, not after the election." This mind-set on the part of presidential recruiters necessarily narrows severely the pool of people who will be considered for presidential positions. Scientists and engineers are not likely to become involved in presidential campaigns and those who do may not be those who are also experienced enough to fill successfully senior PAS positions. President Reagan's first personnel recruiter, Pendleton James, added that, even if offered a job in an administration, some scientists wilt turn it down for fear that their professional reputations might become "tainted" by political service. None of this is meant to imply that politics and political credentials are illegitimate in presidential recruiting, the point is that in looking for the best persons to run major programs for the government, the excessive use of political criteria may prematurely narrow the field and exclude those who might be best for the job but do not happen to have the right political experience. The argument is that an excessively political approach is particularly effective at eliminating scientists and engineers early in the recruitment process, for they are less likely to be involved in politics as a typical part of their professional lives. The above analysis looked at the problem of recruiting scientists and engineers from the perspective of the political recruitment process. But the nature of the science and engineering professions themselves also impede recruiting the best and brightest for government service. The "tribal" values of scientists tend to cherish and give prestige to theoretical rather than applied or practical work. Thus academic or scholarly prestige comes in theoretical advances in the disciplines and publishing those ideas in scholarly journals. Those who do applied work are a bit lower on the pecking order in their disciplines, and those who do administrative work are even lower. Thus good scientists are less likely to get the administrative experience that qualifies them for public service positions running major programs. Finally, those who pursue scientific and engineering careers are often people who have a craftsman type of personality. That is, they focus on a single problem and enjoy the challenge of sticking to it until it is solved. These people are less likely to be good at or enjoy the job of a high-level executive that calls for the ability to move quickly from problem to problem in a very fluid environment. The political atmosphere of presidential positions intensifies these characteristics of high-level executive jobs (Maccoby, 1976). This is one form of the common problem of promoting very good professionals (accountants, doctors, lawyers, scientists, or engineers) from the work of their professions to management or executive positions. Those who are adept at one set of skills may not be adept at the other. 4 Interview with Pendleton James, January 12, 1990. ,, Interview with lames Trefil, Robinson Professor of Physics, George Mason University, January 25, 139

OCR for page 75
The Role of Leadership and Vision All of the above obstacles to recruiting scientists and engineers can be mitigated by visionary leadership. In recruiting for PAS positions, the role of the President is crucial. The President does not have time to be personally involved in recruiting for most PAS positions, but his attitude is decisive. He sets the tone for his recruiters, and by his final choices indicates whether he values professional qualities or prefers political loyalty over professional competence. Another aspect of presidential leadership that affects the willingness of scientists and engineers to leave their professional careers to spend several years in public service is the value that is placed on the work they will be doing. Although it is impossible to measure easily, morale during the early years of NASA and during the Apollo program was high and made it easier to attract the best scientists and engineers to work on a program that was professionally challenging and clearly valued by the President, the government, and U.S. citizens. 2 The mission to Mars might become such a program. Unfortunately, to undertake such ambitious goals is very expensive, and in a time of constrained budgets is unlikely to happen. The role of the President's science adviser is symbolically important insofar as it symbolizes the President's attitude toward scientists and science. The reestablishment of the position in the Executive Office of the President gave a positive boost to perceptions of the value that the President and the government place on science. The relationship of the science adviser to the President is something that is watched in the science and technology community and thus affects those scientists who are likely recruits for presidential positions (Stubbing, 1988). If the science adviser is perceived to have made politically driven compromises of his or her professional values, scientists may see this as evidence that if they come to work for the government, they may be pressured to compromise their own objectivity.'3 Of course most scientists and engineers in the government are not at the PAS level, but the quality of scientists and engineers at lower, operational levels is influenced by the quality of those at the PAS and SES levels. Several scientists who were interviewed for this project emphasized that in order to retain good scientists in the career service, they must respect the technical competence of their superiors.'4 Thus federal executives who want to recruit and retain good scientists and engineers will create the kind of atmosphere that will be attractive to them. They will set up professional recruitment and outreach efforts and will obtain the resources to do it well. 5 They will project a vision of the mission of the agency or program that will inspire and attract those who seek professional challenges. They will be sensitive to the professional values of scientists and engineers. They will ensure that the professional 12 Interview with Richard Stubbing, public policy program, Duke University (former associate director, Office of Management and Budget). 43 Interview with Jeffrey Newmeyer, chief scientist at Lockheed Missile Systems, February lo, 1990. 44 Interviews with Jeffrey Newmeyer and Stephen Andriole. ,5 Interview with Stephen Blush, Office of the Secretary, U.S. Department of Energy. 140

OCR for page 75
products of scientists and engineers are given due consideration; that is, they will ensure that scientific research will have the chance to have an impact on policy, when that input is appropriate. Finally, they will be sure to buffer the professional work of scientists and engineers from the political whims of superiors and insulate them as much as possible from budget swings that are inherent in the political world of the federal government. The importance of "buffering the technical core" of organizations is especially appropriate in this context. This buffering role is one of the main responsibilities of chief executives and managers according to Thompson (1967~. Conclusion One of the conclusions of this paper is that the ability to recruit and retain good scientists and engineers in the federal government is undercut by the combination of two factors. On the one hand is the difficulty of scientists and engineers gaining the type of political experience that provides them with the political credentials to be acceptable to a presidential recruitment operation. In addition, even if offers are made, scientists may be unwilling to serve in policy positions for fear that their professional values or objectivity might be compromised by political considerations. On the other hand is the need for career scientists and engineers to have high levels of respect for the technical credentials of their political superiors. Thus federal recruitment of scientists and engineers at high levels is caught between the demand on the part of presidential recruiters that they have unquestioned political credentials and the demand on the part of career scientists and engineers that their political supervisors have impeccable scientific credentials. These two factors, in addition to the others mentioned above, reduce the ability of the federal government to recruit the best and brightest scientists and engineers. This paper may seem to have painted an excessively negative picture of the prospects for recruiting top quality scientists and engineers for the federal government. The purpose of the project, however, is to examine problems in the process and potential avenues for improvement. Thus in accentuating the negative, the tone of this report should not overshadow the continuing very high quality of most political appointees and the scientists and engineers who have chosen public service. It must also be emphasized that any arguments about the level of quality of federal employees is inherently judgmental. On the other hand, just because the factors involved cannot be quantified is not sufficient reason to make no judgement at all. The problems are real, and they should be addressed. Bibliography Augustine, N. R. 1989. Show our public servants some respect. Washington Post. August 13, p. B7. Ban, C., and P. Ingraham. 1986. Short-Timers: Political Appointee Mobility and Its Impact on PoliticaZ-Career Relations in the Reagan Administration. Paper presented at the National Convention of the American Society for Public Administration, Anaheim, Calif. 141

OCR for page 75
CarIucci, F. 1989. Public service: Are we sacrificing quality? Op-ed article written for the National Commission on the Public Service, November 1989 (unpublished). Carnegie Commission on Science, Technology, and Government. 1988. Science and Technology and the President. New York: The Commission. Garcia, R. 1989. Presidential Nominations to Full-Time Positions in Executive Departments Dunng the 101st Congress and Presidential Nominations to Full-Time Positions in Independent and Other Agencies, Cast Congress. Washington, D.C.: Congressional Research Service. Ingraham, P. 1987. Building bridges or burning them? Public Administration Review September/October 1987. Maccoby, M. 1976. The Gamesman. New York: Simon and Schuster. Mackenzie, G. Calvin. 1981. The Politics of Presidential Appointments. New York: The Free Press. 1986a. The n-and-Outers: Presidential Appointees and Transient Govemment in Washington. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. 1986b. If you want to play, you've got to pay: Ethics regulation and the presidential appointments system, 1964-84. In G. Calvin Mackenzie (ed.), The In- and-Outers, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Pres, 1986. Mann, D. E. 1965. The Assistant Secretaries. Washington: Brookings. National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA). 1983. Amenca's Unelected Govemment. Cambridge, Mass.: Ballinger Publishing Co. -1984. Recruiting Presidential Appointees. Transcript of a group discussion of former White House Personnel Directors, December 13, 1984 (unpublished). 1985. Leadership in Jeopardy: The Fraying of the Presidential Appointments System. Washington, D.C.: NAPA. National Commission on the Public Service. 1989. Politics and Performance: Strengthening the Executive Leadership System. Report of the Task Force on the Relations Between Political Appointees and Career Executives. Washington, D.C.: The Commission. Pfiffner, I. P. 1987. Political appointees and career executives: The democracy- bureaucracy nexus. Public Administration Review January/February:57-65. 1988. The Strategic Presidency: Hitting the Ground Running. Pacific Grove, Calif.: Brooks/Cole. 1990. Establishing the Bush presidency. Public Administration Review January/ February:67-69. , and R. G. Hoxie, eds. 1989. The Presidency in Transition. New York: Center for the Study of the Presidency. Richardson, E. L. 1987. Civil servants: Why not the best? Wad Street loumal, November 20. Stubbing, R. 1988. Agenda Item for the Next President and Congress: Federal Science and Technology (R&D) Policy for the 1990s. Unpublished. Thompson, I. D. 1967. Organizations in Action: Social Science Bases of Administrative Theory. New York: McGraw-Hill. Trattner, I. H. 1988. The Prune BooL Washington: Center for Excellence in Government. 142