Rep. Davis ponders workforce reforms

Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), chairman of the House Government Reform Committee, plans to introduce legislation designed to reform the civil service.

One of the first bills out the door, according to Davis' spokesman, David Marin, will likely be legislation that would grant the administration expedited authority to recommend changes to the structure of government agencies and departments, also called fast track authority.

Other legislation will be forthcoming, Marin said, however it's too early to say what reform proposals Davis will move forward with and what the legislative package will look like. Davis has not decided for example, if it makes sense to introduce one all-encompassing bill or individual bills that address specific reform proposals.

"We need to have discussions with stakeholders. We need to see how things are unfolding at" the Homeland Security Department, Marin said.

At a committee hearing March 6 to discuss workforce reform recommendations laid out in a January report, Davis said he "wants to make sure" there are supporters in both parties for civil service reform before moving ahead with legislation.

The subject of the hearing was the report from the National Commission on the Public Service, which among its 14 recommendations suggested dividing the Senior Executive Service into a corps of executive managers and a corps of professional technical experts.

In his testimony, Davis said he is "very interested in pursuing all of these recommendations."

Responding to a question from Rep. Christopher Shays (R-Conn.), Paul Volcker, chairman of the commission, said the most important recommendation would be "getting some legislation to facilitate the reorganization" of the government on a fast-track basis. Volcker envisions the executive branch developing proposals in cooperation with Congress and other nongovernmental interests. "Once a proposal is sent to Congress, we recommend that it be given an up or down vote within a limited period of time."

Other important interim steps toward a complete overhaul that the government should include are improving the presidential appointments process and increasing judicial, executive and legislative salaries, Volcker said in testimony.

Rep. Jo Ann Davis (R-Va.), chairwoman of the Subcommittee on Civil Service, Census and Agency Organization, said she views the commission report as a "guidepost for Congress as we begin our journey of reforming the federal government."

The timing is right, said Donna Shalala, a commission member. "The recommendations we made have everything to do with who we can attract" to government service, she said. "Our ability to recruit and retain a new generation of Americans to government has everything to do with these kinds of reform."

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