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News Release

National Commission on the Public Service: “Now Is the Time For Federal Public Service Reform”

The National Commission on the Public Service convened its opening session of public hearings today, with panels featuring Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist and Associate Justice Stephen G. Breyer of the United States Supreme Court, Kay Coles James, director of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and David Walker, comptroller general of the General Accounting Office (GAO).

In their statements, James and Walker, who comprised the second panel, discussed the challenges that the federal government faces in attracting, retaining, and successfully managing human capital in a manner sufficient to meet the challenges the federal government faces in the 21st century.

In her testimony, James stated “this is an issue of good government. We can and we must develop systems that respond better to twenty-first century organizational demands and employee concerns, systems that motivate rather than demoralize our best workers. And we must act now to position the federal government to capitalize on the resurgence of interest in public service that we currently see, especially among young people.”

Walker’s testimony emphasized the increasing importance of strategic human capital management in the federal government. “An organization’s people define its culture, drive its performance, embody its knowledge base, and are the key to successful merger and transformation efforts,” stated Walker. “Modernizing our human capital strategies will be essential if we want to maximize the performance of the federal government and succeed in our overall transformation efforts.”

“The involvement of OPM and GAO in this issue is critically important,” said Paul Light, senior adviser to the National Commission on the Public Service. “Without a motivated, highly trained, well-compensated, and well-managed workforce, the federal government will be unable to fulfill its ever-expanding mission in the twenty-first century.”

The National Commission on the Public Service seeks to focus attention on the need for comprehensive reform in the federal public service. Chaired by Paul Volcker, the Commission’s public hearings on July 15, 17, and 18 provide a forum in which all three branches of government will present testimony on the current crisis in the public service and opportunities for reform.

The National Commission on the Public Service is a project of the Center for Public Service at the Brookings Institution. The Commission is composed of Chairman Volcker and ten members drawn from both political parties and a variety of backgrounds. Commissioners include: former Comptroller General of the U.S. Charles Bowsher; former U.S. Senator Bill Bradley; former Secretary of Defense Frank Carlucci; former White House Chief of Staff Kenneth M. Duberstein; former Office of Personnel Management Director Connie Horner; former Office of Management and Budget Director Franklin D. Raines; former head of the New York Metropolitan Transit Authority Richard Ravitch; former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin; former Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna Shalala; and former Congressman Vin Weber. Bruce Laingen, executive director of the first Volcker Commission, serves as an ex-officio member. Commission efforts are led by Executive Director Hannah Sistare.

For additional information about the second National Commission on the Public Service, please contact Gina Russo at (202) 797-6405 or via email at grusso@brookings.edu.

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