Who Manages the Managers? A One-Year Lookback at President Trump’s Civil Service Reforms

May 22, 2019

“Personnel is policy.” It’s a familiar saying, though perhaps not familiar enough in administrative law, where debates over “Chevron deference” and other judicial rules tend to overshadow questions about the proper relationship between the president and the civil service.

On May 25, 2018, President Trump signed three executive orders seeking to reform the federal civil service. One executive order sought to lay government-wide rules for collective bargaining with federal labor unions. Another sought to deal with what it deemed “taxpayer funded union time.” A third sought to provide additional flexibility to managers in disciplining employees.

One year later, how were these three executive orders implemented? What had been some successes, and some failures? How did this attempt to reform the civil service stack up with actions of past administrations? These questions, and the broader questions related to the place of administrative agencies in our democracy, and the ability of a president to make policy for the executive branch, were discussed at a day-long conference at the Historic Decatur House—just a stone’s throw away from the White House.

Keynote remarks were provided by James B. Sherk, Special Assistant to the President for Domestic  Policy, White House Domestic Policy Council. Following the panels there was a public reception.

Also available as part of the conference is a new paper published by the Gray Center from Stuart Eizenstat, longtime public servant and senior Carter advisor, on civil service reform under the Carter administration and lessons for today.

Agenda

9:00 – 9:30 am – Registration and Breakfast

9:30 – 9:35 am – Welcome

Adam White, Assistant Professor of Law and Director, The C. Boyden Gray Center for the Study of the Administrative State, Antonin Scalia Law School, George Mason University

9:35 – 10:50 am – Panel 1: Civil Service in Perspective – Click here to watch the video of the full panel!

Donald J. Devine, Grewcock Senior Scholar, The Fund for American Studies 
Elaine C. Kamarck, Founding Director, Center for Effective Public Management, and Senior Fellow, Governance Studies Program, Brookings Institution
George Nesterczuk, President, Nesterczuk and Associates 

Moderator: Andrew Kloster, Deputy Director, The C. Boyden Gray Center for the Study of the Administrative State           

10:50 – 11:05 am – Break

11:05 am – 12:10 pm – Panel 2: Public Sector Unions – Click here to watch the video of the full panel!

Jed Brinton, Deputy General Counsel for Postsecondary Education, Office of General Counsel, U.S. Department of Education 
Daniel DiSalvo, Senior Fellow, Manhattan Institute, and Associate Professor of Political Science, Colin Powell School, City College of New York—CUNY

Moderator: JoAnn Koob, Director, Liberty & Law Center, and Assistant Professor of Law, Antonin Scalia Law School, George Mason University

12:10 – 12:30 pm – Break

12:30 – 1:15 pm – Lunch & Keynote Address – Click here to watch the video of the keynote address!

James B. Sherk, Special Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy, White House Domestic Policy Council

1:15 – 1:30 pm – Break

1:30 – 2:45 pm – Panel 3: Political Accountability and the Administrative State – Click here to watch the video of the full panel! 

Katie Bailey, Legislative Director, U.S. Senator Mike Braun
Tammy D. McCutchen, Principal, Littler Mendelson P.C.
Bill Valdez, President, Senior Executives Association

Moderator: Adam J. White, Executive Director, The C. Boyden Gray Center for the Study of the Administrative State and Assistant Professor of Law, Antonin Scalia Law School, George Mason University

2:45 – 3:45 pm – Reception

3:45 pm – Adjourn

Discussed Research Paper

Jimmy Carter and Civil Service Reform
Stuart E. Eizenstat, Former President Carter’s Chief Domestic Policy Advisor and Director of the White House Domestic Policy Staff


Photo Credit: Michael Zhang/The Gray Center