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THIRTY-FOURTH ANNUAL REPORT
UNITED STATES CIVIL SERVICE COMMISSION.
WASHINGTON, D. C., November 13, 1917.
SIR: The year ended June 30, 1917, imposed upon the commission by far the largest volume of work in its history. The fact that notwithstanding the sudden and tremendous expansion of the activities of the Government incident to military preparedness and the conservation of resources every safeguard essential to the merit system has been maintained is a convincing proof of the vitality of its underlying principles. Without the active support of public opinion and the unwavering cooperation of the President and heads of departments, the maintenance of the civil-service rules in their entirety would not have been possible. The effective coordination of the civil and military branches of the Government was possible only by the enforcement of the merit system.
There was great need of enlarging the force of the commission to meet the increased demands of the service, and on June 15, 1917, Congress made an addition of $20,000, an increase of 6 per cent, to its peace-time appropriation. On September 21, 1917, the commission received an allotment of $250,000 from the fund at the disposal of the President for the national security and defense, and this will be sufficient until the regular annual appropriation is made by Congress for the year beginning July 1, 1918.
The calling out of the National Guard on June 18, 1916, because of unsettled conditions in Mexico, made necessary an increased number of examinations for new appointments in the field forces of the War Department and for filling positions in other parts of the service vacated by the resignation of members of the Guard. The preparations incident to the War with Germany, which were begun April 6, 1917, greatly added to the burdens of the commission. The activities of the war fell more heavily upon it than upon any other civil establishment. It was necessary to meet not only a great demand for workers in the peace-time positions, owing to a larger proportion of resignations through the withdrawal of permanent employees to enter the military services as officers and enlisted men, but it has also been necessary to supply to date, under extreme pressure, a hundred thousand additional workers embracing unprecedented military undertakings. Eligibles had to be provided to take the place of the
trained and capable employees who had been transferred to the military forces.
Additional embarrassment was experienced in the rapid organization of new establishments by persons largely unfamiliar with Government methods. New procedure had to be adapted to old processes of administration, and this was not an easy matter with so large an infusion of new employees. Only by the loyalty, splendid spirit, and self-sacrificing effort of the remaining trained employees has it been possible in many branches to preserve a fair degree of administrative routine, to conduct efficiently the public business and to guard against serious abuses.
In normal times the classified service may be recruited through the mere public announcement of examinations, but after the war began it became necessary, owing to the scarcity of labor, actively to canvass the country. For many technical positions and for the trades there was a scarcity of well-qualified applicants. The commission was obliged not only to hold more frequent examinations, but an enormous number of new examinations on a variety of subjects; and the examinations were taken by far greater number of persons. All this taxed the commission's energies and resources to the utmost. It was vital in the early stages of military preparation that the Government should appoint the best qualified persons to its service, and this could be done only through the medium of the commission. Weakness in the commission's work would mean weakness in the military offensive. If that is to be effective, the civil service must be effective.
That the needs of the Government for well-qualified workers have been fairly met is generously attested by letters to the commission from Cabinet officers, heads of bureaus and independent establishments. These communications show not only cordial cooperation between appointing officers and the commission, but they also show that any fears which may have been entertained at the outbreak of the war that its methods could not be adopted under the stress of war conditions have given way to a conviction that those methods are essential to military success.
EXTENT OF THE EXECUTIVE CIVIL SERVICE.
On June 30, 1917, there were 517,805 officers and employees in the executive civil service. Of these, 326,899 held positions subject to competitive examination under the civil-service rules, an increase of 29,973. Of the 190,906 persons whose positions are not subject to competitive examination under the civil-service rules, 12,134 are presidential appointees, 10,334 being postmasters of the first, second, and third classes; 5,600 are clerks in charge of contract stations; 71,000 are clerks in third and fourth class post offices; 8,150 are mail messengers; 12,035 are star-route, steamboat, and screen-wagon
contractors; 4,502 are pension-examining surgeons; 19,938 are engaged in the Panama Canal work, chiefly as laborers and minor employees; and 33,094 are unclassified laborers not elsewhere herein enumerated, of whom 6,500 are subject to tests of physical fitness under labor regulations. The remaining 24,453 are excepted from examination under Schedule A or are subject to noncompetitive examination under Schedule B of the civil-service rules, of whom 1,490 are employed in Washington, and the others in branches of the field service.
EXAMINATIONS AND APPOINTMENTS.
During the year 1916-17 there was an increase of 37 per cent in the number of persons examined for entrance to the classified service and an increase of 105 per cent in the number appointed. The entrance of the United States into the European war did not find the commission wholly unprepared. It had nearly 100,000 eligibles on its various registers, and from these registers a large part of the increased number of appointments were made. The commission began at once holding additional examinations to replenish registers and to establish registers of eligibles with qualifications needed for war work. Many of these registers were established during the fiscal year covered by this report, but the next annual report will indicate more definitely the extent to which the commission promptly met the needs of the service. Appointments have continued to be made in perhaps greater numbers during the first months of the present fiscal year than during the latter months of the fiscal year covered by this report.
Number of competitors examined for the classified and unclassified services and the number appointed, transferred, promoted, and reinstated on certificate of the Commission during the fiscal years 1916 and 1917.
Under civil-service rules, original entrance:
Departmental at Washington, D. C..
Promotions, transfers, and reinstatements through examination.
Total under rules..
Not under Federal civil-service act and rules:
Under labor regulations.
Without further examination:
86, 312 49 14,804 101, 165
165,695 1 233, 083
1 Includes number certified under navy-yard regulations (43,154 for classified positions and 10,788 for unclassified positions) in lieu of number examined which has not been reported.
EXCEPTIONS FROM EXAMINATION.
It has not been possible to prepare a definite statement in detail of all exceptions from examination. They were, however, comparatively few. The sudden increase in governmental activities due to war preparations naturally made some elasticity in procedure necessary. An Executive order was issued on March 26, 1917, permitting the commission, when it decides that because of a public exigency there is need of the immediate filling of a position for which there is no suitable eligible, to authorize the filling of such position by the appointment of a person shown to be qualified by such noncompetitive tests of fitness as the commission may prescribe. Up to October 1, 1917, 263 appointments had been authorized under this order, the appointee in each case being first required to file evidence of qualifications. By an Executive order of May 11, 1917, the commission was authorized in its discretion to approve appointments without examination of civilian employees attached to military organizations sent to Europe. Under this order 213 appointments were approved up to October 1, 1917. The commission is authorized under section 10 of Civil Service Rule II to permit appointment on noncompetitive tests of fitness to a vacancy in a position the compensation or duties of which are such that in its judgment qualified persons are so rare that it can not in the interest of good civil-service` administration be filled at that time through open competitive examination. The number of appointments under this order during the fiscal year was 48. Many of these appointments were of persons with special experience or training who were willing for patriotic motives to serve the Government at a merely nominal compensation.
In previous reports the commission has dwelt on the importance of filling the higher administrative offices in the unclassified service by the promotion of classified employees or upon open competition, and has pointed out that as long as so large a proportion of these positions remained unclassified to be filled from the outside, the classified service would not offer a career in competition with such outside fields of employment as are organized and conducted upon the merit basis, with systems of retirement upon disability or super
The Postmaster General, in his report for the year ended June 30, 1914, recommended to Congress legislation to permit the extension of the classified service to include postmasters at offices of the third class. The following year he not only renewed this recommendation, but recommended that postmasters of the second class be included as well, and in his report for the year ended June 30,