"To understand why some things don't work as anticipated," writes Patricia Ingraham about the US civil service, "it is important to understand that they were created for a different time, to solve a different problem. Now they are creating new problems or they are themselves the problem." At a time when "reinventing government" is on many agendas, Ingraham argues that most reform scenarios fail to take into account the history and nature of the civil service and the complex role it plays in democratic government. This systematic examination of the federal civil service analyzes the historical development of the civil service in the context of the political and democratic environment that is central to its effectiveness and legitimacy. It describes the incremental and disjointed growth of the federal civil service and explains how and why it came to be a system with control in the wrong places, with discretion in the wrong places, and why, in its current form, it has little hope of meeting the enormous challenges of the next century.
The book concludes with an examination of the need for reform, the challenges that have shaped that need, and the lessons from the past that should guide the reforms of the future. If civil service reform is to be effective and the management of government is to improve, it argues, reform must proceed from a foundation of understanding what the civil service is and why it is that way.
Patricia W. Ingraham is Founding Dean at the College of Community and Public Affairs, Binghamton University. She is the author of The Foundation of Merit: Public Service in American Democracy and coauthor of Government Performance: Why Management Matters, both published by Johns Hopkins.