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Norbert Bufka

Author  ·  Historian  ·  Bufka Books

Civil service under siege

in the first century of our country’s existence, the president made many appointments as favors to friends. The assassination of James Garfield in 1881 by a disappointed office seeker, resulted in the creation of civil service under the Pendleton Act of 1883. After a few years of adjusting to the change the country has been operating under this system very well.

The most important reason for the Pendleton Act was to ensure that competent people were appointed to government positions through exams and other requirements. president Trump demands loyalty above everything else. As a result he has been firing and appointing new people so often it is hard to keep track of who is in charge. The high level positions do not fall under the Pendleton Act but do require approval by the Senate. Many positions have acting directors because the Senate has refused to go through the process of pproval of appointments.

Since the impeachment trial, the president has been firing or transferring people from their positions in retaliation for their testimony against him in the trial.

Dale Cabaniss, director of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), was forced to resign. Michael Rigas, formerly of the right-wing Heritage Foundation, took his place. Rigas believes the Pedleton Act is unconstitutional. The OPM is refusing to give briefings to Congress for the first time in its history. This does not bode well for government employees and the civil service system.

Trump has already hired a number of people outside the OPM, but his most egregious example was the transferal of Dr. Rick Bright from  the director of the Department of Health and Human Services’ Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, or BARDA,  to a lesser position. Bright claims this transfer was due to his opposition to Trumps promotion of the antimalaria drug as a drug for covid19. He is a specialist in emerging infectious diseases and has refused to leave his position.

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