The Office of Personnel Management really pulled out all the stops at today’s event announcing President Obama’s reforms to the federal hiring process. Held in an auditorium at OPM’s E Street offices, it had the feel of a campaign event, with U2’s “Beautiful Day” playing on loudspeakers before the event as media, special guests and OPM employees took their seats.
Marvin Carraway, one of the Pentagon Force Protection Agency officers credited with stopping a gunman at the Pentagon subway station March 4, was on hand as one example of an exemplary federal employee. He got a standing ovation. OPM director John Berry, federal chief performance officer Jeff Zeints and two cabinet members were on hand.
And of course, they had Teddy Roosevelt’s desk. The trustbuster apparently used the handsome mahogany furniture when he was on the U.S. Civil Service Commission, and the desk gets rolled out whenever there’s some major civil-service reform. Berry and the rest of the gang used the desk for a quick signing ceremony, after which Berry proclaimed, “It’s done! Teddy would be proud.”
The fact that Berry has a politician’s charisma also contributed to the festive atmosphere. Some bureaucrats could turn the Super Bowl into an exercise in drudgery, but Berry is the opposite, turning the potentially dull topic of hiring reform into a snappy, audience-friendly spectacle. When he said he was “extremely excited and honored” to be presenting the reform, I really believed it was true, and when he proudly announced “We are switching to resumes!” the crowd burst into seemingly spontaneous applause.
Anyway, having experienced the federal job-application process firsthand (when they talk about applications disappearing into a “black hole,” they ain’t lying), I can understand why there’s so much enthusiasm surrounding these reforms. As always, we should reserve judgment until we see the results, but the hiring system was so needlessly messed up that reform should come fairly easily in this case.
We now return you to your regularly scheduled program of cynicism and snark.