Saturday, February 09, 2008

Fuzzier Red Tape

Stephen Barr writes:

A regulatory relic may finally fade away.

The Office of Personnel Management has called for the elimination of the time-in-grade restriction, which dates to 1952. It requires that federal employees in General Schedule grades 5 and above serve 52 weeks in a grade before becoming eligible for promotion to the next grade.

The restriction was put in place by the late Mississippi congressman Jamie L. Whitten to prevent a big buildup of the civil service and excessive rapid promotions during the Korean War. Cutting red tape is never easy, however. The Clinton administration tried to get rid of the Whitten requirement in 1995 and 1996, and Bush administration officials targeted the restriction in 2003.

In a Federal Register notice Wednesday, the OPM said the time-in-grade restriction is no longer necessary because the government has developed standards for experience and education that employees must meet to get promoted. Employees also will be able to use experience from jobs other than their current position when competing for promotions.


"Elimination of the 52-week time-in-grade waiting period reinforces the principle that promotions are based on an individual's ability to perform the requirements of the position," the OPM said. Dropping the requirement also "will help dispel the myth" that federal employees benefit from automatic promotions because they spent a set amount of time in a grade.

The problem is that OPM is trying to dispel a myth that is actually true. No doubt most "standards for experience" (or other hidden requirements) will simply duplicate the time-in-grade requirements.

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