Gingrich: Repeal '130-year-old civil service laws'


Newt Gingrich

Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich tonight repeatedly called for a massive overhaul of the federal personnel system during tonight’s GOP debate in Arizona. Said Gingrich:

I agree generally with the need to reform government. I think that if we were prepared to repeal the 130-year-old civil service laws and go to a modern management system, we could save a minimum of $500 billion a year with a better system.

A few minutes later, Gingrich returned to that theme, and asked, “What would a modern system be like? A modern system would be totally different. … It is possible to modernize the federal government.”

Half a trillion in savings by civil service reform seems unbelievably ambitious, given the fact that the government’s total personnel costs — including military and U.S. Postal Service — totaled $432 billion in fiscal 2011. (page 122)

Not to mention the fact that the 130-year-old civil service law Gingrich appeared to be referring to is the 1883 Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act. That was the law that overturned the spoils system that ensured government jobs went to politicians’ well-connected cronies (and got President Garfield killed) and set the principle that they should instead be awarded based on merit. Most civil service critics — including OPM Director John Berry — usually point to the six-decade-old General Schedule as the system that needs to be overhauled or replaced.


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  1. The half a trillion in savings are not necessarily in personnel costs. Gingrich suggested that he would seek drastic reductions of regulatory constraints and of administrative costs in general; off the cuff I would imagine he envisions 1/3 of the savings to come from personnel costs, 1/3 from external contracting, and 1/3 from time costs (extended periods of rulemaking consultation, litigation, compliance studies, etc.).

    I am not attached to or affiliated with his political campaign in any way – just making a guess about the nature of his otherwise vague proposal.

  2. While reform of current overlapping decentralized recruiting, examining, hiring and workforce reporting systems is warranted saving millions of dollars, hundreds of FTEs and redundant workforce reporting requirements by the EEOC and OPM, repealing civil service laws to “…a more modern system” would be overkill. We only need to make some minor adjustments to the existing processes to realize nation wide HR efficiencies. Unfortunately, the so-called experts of current federal HR programs, OPM and Chief HR Officers who are paid to interpret, apply and administer these programs DO NOT have the technical federal HR skills or knowledges to streamline ANY of the federal HR programs. Instead, they are lobbying to simply and easily dismantle the current HR programs and systems but fail to explain what and how new programs would be more efficient, productive, etc. OPM in collaboration with Chief HR Officers have attempted to upgrade several federal HR programs which have already failed miserably. Tell me, what agency’s Chief HR Officer has developed ANY streamlined HR program that we can use nation wide. There are NONE from among all the many agency Chief HR Officers or OPM officials that have developed any ONE such program!

  3. I guess I’m not as much concerned about what a politician says anymore because they will say any piece of dog doo that runs in their heads. I’m more concerned that we have a newmedia and public that will readily believe that dog doo and vote for them.

  4. I guess elimanating pensions for most government workers would be a good start. It is my understanding that pensions for government workers is around 16%. Why can’t most government worker receive 401ks like most private workers?

  5. With those types of remarks, I don’t think any federal employee will vote for this man. I guess he want to go back to 1883 and put his t-baggers in charge of running the government.

  6. I don’t think any of the law makers understand the burden in both man-hours and paper work the federal managers must endure now. Each evaluation is extremely cumbersome and must be completed three times a year. Poll the managers for suggestions on how to streamline the HR processes!

  7. Good job Newt! Every time you open your pie hole, we (the voters) realize how full of baloney you are. Do us all a favor and go crawl back under the rock and let the real candidates get on with the business of getting elected. You’d think the guy would have some dignity and bow out gracefully.

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