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The large extension of the civil-service rules in May, 1896, to include positions previously unclassified, has already brought to light a number of unnecessary positions. Quite a number of these have been abolished since their classification. As there was little or no need for the work done in these positions, and as they could under the extension of the civil-service rules to cover them be filled only through certifications of the Commission, the appointing power decided not to fill the vacancies, but to turn the money into the Treasury. Had they not been classified, political influence would have demanded that they be filled, even though the prospective occupants of the positions would have little work to perform. The Commission believes that like results may be expected as similar vacancies occur in other positions. As an instance, the last report of the supervising special agent of customs says:
During the past six months the cost of maintaining this division has been reduced $55,102.50 per annum without detriment to the efficiency of the force, the services of ten special inspectors of customs and ten Chinese inspectors having been discontinued.
A report of the Commissioner of Immigration shows a decrease of $76,526 by the abolition of useless places. A report of the Supervising Architect also shows a saving in salaries. The late Assistant Secretary of the Treasury, Charles S. Hamlin, who was in direct charge of the collection of customs, makes the following statement in a communication to the Commission:
As to the application of the civil-service rules to tnat branch of the Government servico relating to customs, from the experience I have had in the Treasury Department during the past four years, I am of the opinion that there has resulted a sav. ing to the Government of at least 25 per cent in cost. From the point of view of efficiency, I believe the saving to have been greater.
A similar opinion is expressed by the present Assistant Secretary of the Treasury, William B. Howell, in charge of the same branch of work. The present Commissioner of Labor, Carroll D. Wright, who was in charge of the Eleventh Census at the time of its completion, stated that if the employees of the last census, which cost over $11,000,000, had been selected according to civil-service rules and the methods now prevailing in the Department of Labor had been adopted a saving of over $3,000,000 would have been effected.
Another economical feature of the application of the civil-service rules is the relief that has been given to appointing officers and other officials who, under the former system, were importuned by thousands of applicants for the positions now included within the classified service These officials are now in much larger measure permitted to attend to more important questions, affecting wide domestic and foreign policies, and need not be distracted by the distribution of patronage. This relief to appointing officers and decrease of expenses must be placed to the credit of the merit system.
Reports of department officials for many years show that the application of the civil-service rules to their departments has been of the greatest benefit to the public service. Extracts from such reports
appear in subsequent pages. It would therefore seem that the economy and efficiency of the present system are so manifest as to require no demonstration; and a study of the question proves that the merit system furnishes the only rational plan for the selection of the great bulk of the Government employees, inasmuch as it enables any American citizen of good character, without regard to political or other influence, to compete on equal terms with his fellow-citizens in demonstrating without favor his qualifications for entrance to the public service.
EXAMINATIONS AND APPOINTMENTS. The whole number examined for the five branches of the classified service during the year was 50,571, of whom 29,474 passed and 21,097 failed to pass. Compared with the previous year, this shows an increase of 19,392 in the whole number examined, an increase in the whole number who passed of 8,760, and an increase in the whole number who failed to pass of 10,632.
The whole number appointed from among those examined in the year covered by this report is as follows: Departmental Service, excluding the Railway Mail and Indian Services and the Engineer and Ordnance Departments at large, 666; Railway-Mail Service, 381; Indian Service, 103; Engineer and Ordnance Departments at large, 125; Custom-House Service, 100; Post-Office Service, 1,570; Government Printing Service, 151, and Internal-Revenue Service, 76; total, 3,172. These statistics include only persons appointed upon competitive examination under the civil-service rules.
SCOPE OF THE EXAMINATIONS. Open competitive examinations were required by law, intending, as the committee reporting the bill declared, that “appointment or promotion shall be given to the man who is best fitted to discharge the duties of the position, and that such fitness shall be ascertained by open, fair, honest, impartial, competitive examination. The impartiality of these examinations is to be secured by every possible safeguard; they are to be open to all who choose to present themselves; they will be the test of the applicant for the particular place to which he aspires." It was the intention of Congress to place all citizens of the United States upon an equal footing and give all an equal opportunity to demonstrate their fitness to serve the Government. This was brought out as a prominent feature in the debate upon the civil-service law. On this point Senator Sherman said:
I therefore will vote for any law which will enable any man, rich or poor, wnatever may be his condition, wherever he may live, to go at the proper time before proper officers and be examined.
This view is in harmony with the essential spirit of republican institations, as intended by the wise founders of our Government, and from which the patronage system was a radical departure.
The Commission has been steadily making its examinations more practical as tests of fitpess for the positions to be filled. The original
classification, as well as the earlier extensions of the classified service, included positions which were mainly clerical and for which suitable scholastic tests were provided without much difficulty, but the extensions during the last few years, especially the large extension of May 6, 1896, brought into the classified service a variety of special and technical as well as trades and other positions, which necessitated a departure from the scholastic plan of examinations. Many of the newly classified positions require high special or technical qualifications or scientific attainments, while many belong to the trades and other occupations for which mere scholastic tests would be wholly unsuitable. In order, therefore, to fill vacancies in these positions the Commission has been called upon to adopt new methods of examinations in determining the relative fitness of applicants. Accordingly it has been deemed advisable during the past year to include in several of the principal examinations requiring technical, professional, or scientific knowledge or ability an investigation into the business experience as well as the capacity of competitors. The results have been so satisfactory that several important examinations recently held by the Commission have been based largely upon this idea. It is proposed that experience shall be included in the future as a part of each examination where it may be of practical value in determining the relative fitness of applicants. The means used by the Commission in testing applicants for such positions as law clerk in the Public Lands Bureau, Chief of the Anthropological Division of the Smithsonian Institution, Supervising Architect of the Treasury, and Superintendent of the Division of Post-Office Supplies, will be found in full in the report of the chief examiner, printed in the appendix. As a result of these examinations, certifications were issned and selections made, and the departments concerned have signified to the Commission that the persons selected have been found to be well qualified for the work upon which they are employed.
In other examinations, for certain trades and other positions for which no scholastic tests have been deemed advisable, the Commission determines relative fitness by the consideration of the elements of experience and physical ability. Previous experience being necessary before appointment to many of the positions where technical knowledge or ability or mechanical skill is required, applicants for such positions are required to furnish evidence of their experience in any line of work, in or outside of the public service, tending to show their qualifications. In several of the examinations they are required to undergo physical examinations by competent physicians. As to physical ability, it may be stated that there is a growing tendency in the departments to insist that only applicants who are physically sound shall be appointed to the service. This is in accord with the policy of the most successful business institutions, where it is recognized that a maximum amount of work, either mental or physical, can be obtained only from applicants who are sound in mind and body.
Under the law the Commission is required to supervise all examinations and to pass upon the scope suggested by the departments; but the Commission does not undertake to fix the subjects or weights or to prepare the questions of any examination until after consultation with the proper officials of the branch of the service for which the examinations are required. In October, 1895, the Commission addressed a general letter to each of the heads of departments, requesting suggestions relative to modifications of its examinations which would tend to render them more practical tests of fitness. In response some suggestions were received, and such of these as were finally agreed upon, after consultation between officials of the departments and the Commission, were adopted. A similar general letter was recently sent out to the departments for suggestions in regard to the examinations.
The Commission is pleased to state that during the year there has been, almost without exception, a cordial cooperation by department officials with the Commission in its efforts to make the examinations for the newly classified positions practical tests of relative capacity and fitness, as required by the civil-service act.
The report of the chief examiner, printed in the appendix, shows in detail the scope of the several examinations held during the past year for the higher technical and scientific positions where the previous record, as well as business capacity and experience, was considered in determining the relative standing of competitors. The report also shows the method of rating experience and physical ability in the trades and other examinations, as well as other details and statistics relative to the work of the chief examiner's division during the year
In its last annual report the commission called attention to section 7 of the civil-service act, which provides that no person shall be em. ployed to enter or be promoted in the classified service until he has passed an examination or is shown to be specially exempt from such examination, in accordance with the act. The need of some satisfactory promotion regulations based upon this provision in the civil-service act has long been felt by the Commission, as much of the criticism that has been made against the merit system has been on account of alleged unjust promotions, reductions, or removals. Very little progress was made toward carrying out the provision of the act with regard to basing promotions upon merit until the revision of the civil.service rules in May, 1896, when the Commission recommended to the President that a rule governing promotions be incorporated in the revised rules. Rule XI was accordingly included, which provides that competitive tests or examinations shall be applied as far as practicable and useful, and that regulations to govern promotions be formulated by the Commission, after consultation with the heads of the several departments, bureaus, and offices. Under the authority of the rules the Commission has, after
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consultation with the heads of several of the Executive Departments, formulated promotion regulations and plans for keeping efficiency records, which have been put into operation in the Navy and Post-Office Departments and the Civil Service Commission. The Commission has also approved promotion regulations for the Department of Agriculture, the Fish Commission, and the Government Printing Office.
The regulations in force in the Navy and Post-Office Departments provide that in determining actual efficiency it shall be necessary to consider the character, quality, and the quantity of work performed by employees, as well as their office habits and attendance. This plan is intended to do away as far as practicable with the scholastic test in determining fitness for promotion, as it is the opinion of the Commission that an accurate record of the relative efficiency of employees and the work upon which they are actually engaged should constitute the basis for promotion in all cases except where it is necessary to test additional special or technical qualifications. The Navy Department, where the plan for keeping an efficiency record is in successful operation, has, since its adoption, made a number of reductions, promotions, and dismissals based entirely upon such records of employees, who are informed in regard to the Department's action and shown the efficiency record upon which the action is based. This plan removes all just cause for suspicion or complaint, and is an encouragement to faithful and efficient employees. The Navy Department is the only department in which the promotion scheme of the Commission has been fully applied. The results there are such as to confirm the Commission in its belief that the promotion system, based upon the efficiency records as proposed by the Commission, is an absolutely practicable method of carrying out the mandate of the law and the rules. In the appendix will be found the reports of the officers at the New York Navy-Yard relative to the effect of the application of promotion regulations and efficiency records to that branch of the service. These reports are unanimous that the reg. ulations and efficiency records have had an excellent effect upon the service. It should also be stated that the Library of Congress, although not within the classified service, has adopted the promotion regulations and the plan for keeping efficiency records suggested to the various departments by the Commission. When satisfactory promotion regulations are in operation, appointing and promoting officers will be relieved from pressure for promotion, as they have already been relieved in a very large measure from pressure for appointment.
AGE AND EDUCATION OF APPOINTEES.
During the past year there were 666 persons appointed through examinations to the departmental service. The average age of these persons was less than 284 years, while the minimum age was 15 and the maximum 68. Three persons at the minimum age and three at the maximum age received appointments. About one-eighth of the persons appointed were less than 20 years of age; more than one-third