New White House Civil Service Rules Will Protect Federal Employees and the Public

Statement by Dr. Jennifer Jones, Union of Concerned Scientists

Published Apr 4, 2024

WASHINGTON (April 4, 2024)—Today, the White House Office of Personnel Management (OPM) issued a final package of rules designed to protect federal employees from political interference in their work. These rules will protect the independence of these employees by preventing politically-motivated firings or the loss of civil-service protections—a vital component of effective and responsive governance, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).

Below is a statement by Dr. Jennifer Jones, director of the Center for Science and Democracy at UCS.

“For nearly 150 years, the fundamental principle of civil service has been that federal employees work for the country and its people—not for politicians, parties, or powerful interest groups. This new set of rules will protect government employees from attempts to undermine their jobs and their vital role serving the public.

“These rules would help prevent a repeat of the previous administration’s ‘Schedule F’ attempt to convert tens of thousands of federal employees to political appointees—a change that would politicize the policymaking process and undermine the effectiveness of federal agencies.

“People across the country count on federal employees for everything from weather forecasting to food safety inspection to air-quality monitoring. They deserve to know that they’re getting the best work from expert staff who are devoted to the public interest. Putting these jobs at the whim of political leadership could erode public trust, enable corruption, and drive dedicated expert staff out of their jobs. Undermining civil service protections can result in decisions being made based on ideology or the self-interest of politically favored industries, instead of the best available evidence. These new rules don’t just protect staff at federal agencies—they make sure that government works better for all of us.

“As important as these rules are, Congress has a role to play as well—legislation to codify these rules would offer more durable protections for federal employees and the work they do.”

In November, UCS submitted comments in support of the OPM rule and issued the report “Strengthening and Diversifying the Federal STEM Workforce,” highlighting the need for better efforts to attract and retain experts in federal agencies.