Why Protecting the Merit System Matters

The president’s proposal for a reorganization of the federal government includes moving federal workplace policy under the White House. This is a step toward politicizing the workforce and moving away from merit principles. Why is this important to you? A fresh look at the merit systems principles explains why.

The merit systems principles are nine tenets that govern the management of the executive branch workforce. In a nutshell, they require that federal personnel decisions to be based on merit. Unlike corrupt practices in some other countries, federal employees cannot be hired, promoted or fired based on who they know, are related to. The principles also protect federal employees from being fired based on private, lawful activities they engage in on their own time. Under the system, federal jobs must be filled through open and fair competition, and personnel actions must be based solely on employee performance.

In general terms, here are the MSPs:

1. Recruit a diverse pool of applicants. Hold fair and open competition. Select the best-qualified applicants.

2. Treat employees and applicants fairly and equitably. Respect employees’ privacy and constitutional rights.

3. Equal pay for equal work. Recognize and reward performance.

4. Hold employees to high standards of integrity. Put the public interest first.

5. Use the workforce efficiently and effectively.

6. Retain employees based on performance. Effectively address poor performance.

7. Provide employees with effective training and development.

8. Protect employees against arbitrary action, favoritism and political coercion and ban using official positions to influence election outcomes.

9. Protect employees against reprisal for whistleblowing.

Get the full MSPs