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U.S. Office of Personnel Management - Ensuring the Federal Government has an effective civilian workforce

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Modernizing Merit

Principles for Civil Service Modernization

Preserving the Ideal

Modernization must preserve the enduring legacy of Theodore Roosevelt, the foundational values set forth in the merit principles. Those principles ground our nation’s civil service laws, regulations, procedures, and practices…literally every aspect of the relationship between our Federal Government and its employees. Codified in statute and regulated by OPM, these principles represent the core of our system, and they guarantee a civil service that is free from any partisan political activity or influence – without diminishing the responsiveness and accountability of our civil servants to the public interest. These must not be compromised.

Maximizing Flexibility

Change will be a constant in the 21st Century civil service; to meet this challenge, we must develop and deploy a civil service system that is flexible, agile and responsive enough to adapt to any circumstance. This is our second principle of modernization: provide agencies (and those who lead them) with maximum flexibility…but within the bounds set by the core values that define our civil service system.

Leveraging Scale

Agency flexibility must also be balanced and bounded by yet another imperative: our responsibility to capitalize on the tremendous efficiencies and economies that can only be achieved by leveraging the Federal Government’s immense “buying power” as a single employer. This serves as our third guiding principle: leveraging scale.

Ensuring Collaboration and Coordination

Our fourth and final guiding principle: the modernization process must be collaborative, and the implementation and operation of the agency-specific systems that emerge from it must be managed by OPM, carefully coordinated so as to avoid adverse externalities. No institution can transform itself successfully without the “buy-in” of its most critical stakeholders. In the case of the Federal civil service, that means everybody from senior agency executives and managers to front-line employees and the organizations that represent them. It also means OPM.

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