The National Park Service has started using a political loyalty test
for picking all its top civil service positions, according to an agency directive
released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).
Under the new order, all mid-level managers and above must also be approved
by a Bush administration political appointee.
The October 11, 2005 order issued by NPS Director Fran Mainella requires that
the selection criteria for all civil service management slots (Government Service
grades or GS-13, 14 and 15) include the "ability to lead employees in achieving
the ...Secretary's 4Cs and the President's Management Agenda." In addition,
candidates must be screened by Park Service headquarters and "the Assistant
Secretary [of Interior] for Fish, and Wildlife, and Parks," the number
three political appointee in the agency.
The order represents a complete centralization of Park Service promotion
and hiring in what has traditionally been a decentralized agency. More strikingly,
the order is an unprecedented political intrusion into what are supposed to
be non-partisan, merit system personnel decisions.
The President's Management Agenda includes controversial policies and proposals
such as aggressive use of outsourcing to replace civil servants, reliance on
"faith-based initiatives" and rollbacks of civil service rights. Interior
Secretary Gale Norton's "4Cs" is a slogan she uses to express her
management approach: "4 Cs: communication, consultation, cooperation, all
in the service of conservation."
"It is outrageous that park superintendents must swear political
loyalty to the Bush agenda and parrot hokey mottos in order to earn a promotion,"
stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch. "The merit system is supposed
to be about ability, not apple polishing."
The order applies to all hires for park superintendents, assistant superintendents
and program managers, such as chief ranger or the head of interpretive or cultural
programs. Overall, the policy applies to more than 1,000 mid-level management
and supervisory positions in the Park Service.
"Presidents come and go but the civil service is designed to serve whoever
occupies the swivel chair in the Oval Office," Ruch added. "It is
downright creepy that now every museum curator, supervising scientist and chief
ranger must be okayed by a high-level political appointee."
By: Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility