Civil Service Reform in the United States

The civil service is vital for the activities of the government, and its reforms attract much attention and controversy. In the USA, this problem was especially acute at the turn of the 19-20 centuries. The dispute arose due to various views of politicians on the process of hiring employees. By the time parties developed and strengthened in the nineteenth century, loyalty to a particular political force influenced the service’s appointment. Although many reforms were implemented a long time ago, their long-term impact on civil service is still manifested.

Prerequisites for the emergence of the problem appeared during the presidency of Andrew Jackson. Then, when appointing federal officials, he did not take into consideration candidates’ education and experience, attention was paid only to applicants’ party affiliation and political merits. This approach became popular among other presidents, and after coming to power, each fired almost all the officials appointed by his predecessor and put his associates in the vacant places.

This method of substitution was called the “spoils system” and was a form of patronage. It was also used by other persons with power, such as city mayors, state governors, and others. As a result of this appointment method, there was chaos due to the periodic change of staff. This state of affairs has created the degradation and decline of the entire system of public administration.

Due to such unrest, the country needed a useful public service. Rutherford Hayes started the reformation – becoming the president in 1876, he began to change the public service, appointing employees, not because of their political affiliation, but according to the results of exams (“Civil Service Reform,” n.d.). His activities were met with resistance but laid the foundation of severe changes. Thus, in 1883, the president Chester Arthur, who had previously been an opponent of reform, signed the Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act and legitimized the appointment through merit and exams, and not political commitment (“Civil Service Reform,” n.d.). Public opinion on this issue was significantly influenced by the murder of President James Garfield by one of the candidates who did not receive an official position.

Another act reorganizing the civil service was adopted in the second half of the twentieth century. In 1978, President Carter’s administration adopted the Civil Service Reform Act (CSRA). This reform changed the personnel regulation of federal employees. Its long-term impact is disputed, as critics believe that it has not changed anything. However, proponents of reform argue that it has reduced bureaucracy, abolished some discriminatory hiring practices, and affected global public administration systems.

Thus, it can be stated that the need for Civil Service Reform in the United States arose in response to the inadequate appointment of employees for civil service. When choosing a candidate for a responsible position, people with power – presidents, mayors, and others, selected in the first place, not the experienced and knowledgeable, but the faithful to a particular political force. The change of civil servants each time after the new president’s election became widespread for an extended period.

As a result, a constant shift in activity directions led to chaos in society. In the end, the government changed its approach and, with the help of the Pendleton Act 1883, legitimized people’s admission in accordance with their knowledge. The next law reforming the public service was the 1978 act, which affected the procedures for accepting people into the service, reducing bureaucracy and some discriminatory practices.


Civil Service Reform. (n.d.). Web.

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