syracuse university maxwell school lockup

Executive Order 13957 Puts the Integrity of Public Service at Stake

On October 21, 2020, Executive Order 13957 was issued by the President to establish a greater degree of flexibility in appointing and removing federal civil servants in “policy-determining, policy-making or policy-advocating positions” than afforded by “the existing competitive service process.” The stated intent of the order is to enhance accountability, management oversight, and selection of career civil service professionals to achieve higher performance standards and prompt removal authority if found to be deficient. The actual effect of the order is to undermine the commitment, enshrined in the Pendleton Act of 1883, to a nonpartisan, professional civil service, selected based on merit and independent from partisan influence and control. Simply stated, this order weakens a bulwark against authoritarian impulses and ultimately compromises the integrity of public service.

Nearly a century ago the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs was founded at Syracuse University on the dual proposition that the success of democracy in the modern world depends on informed citizens educated in public affairs and on nonpartisan, professional civil servants. Since its founding, the Maxwell School has taken up the charge of preparing students for public service with the knowledge and skills required to implement duly adopted policies equitably and effectively and with an ethos of commitment and accountability to citizens and the public good.

The principle of a nonpolitical, career civil service was strengthened when Maxwell Dean Alan K. “Scotty” Campbell championed what became the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978, which won broad bipartisan acclaim. As the chair of the Civil Service Commission and first director of the Office of Personnel Management, Campbell helped to establish a cadre of career federal government leaders committed to efficient, fair, and effective public management. Career civil servants continue to carry out indispensable functions that protect Americans from grave risks and help to ensure principles of fairness and accountability in governmental actions and activities.

The President’s Executive Order poses several threats to the integrity of the public service, not the least of which is that a large portion of the civil service will be evaluated and selected on the basis of fealty to the President’s personal and partisan interests. Lessons of the past have taught us that selecting civil servants by such political tests denies governments – and their publics—of the expertise and ethos crucial for effective governance and democratic accountability. Recent years have reminded us of what has always been true—partisan politicians are subject to strong incentives to suppress information, to shape facts to advance their own ends, and to use federal agencies to secure power. The importance of nonpartisan experts speaking truth to power has been demonstrated time and time again, and the President’s Executive Order, if implemented, will make this crucial function of the civil service less common. Although appointed leadership of federal agencies is crucial to ensuring a government that is responsive to duly elected officials, an excessively politicized public service provides for a dangerous expansion of presidential power that undermines principles of accountability and democracy.

Meeting the challenge of ensuring an effective civil service that is responsive to elected officials and committed to the interests of citizens is crucial for the success of the American democracy. Much has changed in the decades since the reforms led by Scotty Campbell, and additional reforms to the federal service may be needed to reinforce accountability, motivate performance improvements, and ensure responsiveness to citizens and elected representatives. As it has since its founding, the Maxwell School remains committed to supporting efforts to improve the civil service. We do this in many ways, for example, through our education of current and future public servants, our research on myriad related issues, and our work with the National Academy of Public Administration, which has offered proposals for reforms of the civil service that deserve consideration by the Congress and the President.

The Maxwell School is dedicated to invigorating the imperative rights and responsibilities of citizenship and to preparing a cadre of citizens to assume the noble duty of public service. Therefore, we oppose the President's Executive Order, which is antithetical to the essential values of a professional civil service and must be reversed. We will continue to champion the development and protection of a professional, apolitical, well-trained civil service. To do otherwise violates our values and our charge and risks undermining the integrity of our democracy.

  • David M. Van Slyke, Dean and Louis A. Bantle Chair in Business-Government Policy
  • Robert Bifulco, Associate Dean and Chair, Department of Public Administration and International Affairs
  • Tina Nabatchi, Joseph A. Strasser Endowed Professor in Public Administration and Director, Program for the Advancement of Research on Conflict and Collaboration
  • Sean O’Keefe, University Professor and Howard & Louise Phanstiel Chair in Strategic Management and Leadership
  • John L. Palmer, University Professor and Maxwell Dean Emeritus

Other Signatories
  • Sherburne B. Abbott, University Professor of Sustainability, Science, and Policy; Director of Environment, Sustainability, and Policy; Department of Geography and the Environment
  • Douglas V. Armstrong, Professor and Chair, Department of Anthropology
  • Kellen Backer, Instructor, Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs
  • Jacob Bendix, Professor, Department of Geography and the Environment
  • Catherine Bertini, Emeritus Professor of Practice, Department of Public Administration and International Affairs
  • Leonard Burman, Professor, Department of Public Administration and International Affairs; Paul Volcker Chair in Behavioral Economics; Institute Fellow, Urban Institute
  • Kristy Buzard, Associate Professor, Department of Economics; Melvin A. Eggers Economics Faculty Scholar
  • Julia L. Carboni, Associate Professor, Department of Public Administration and International Affairs
  • A. Peter Castro, Professor, Department of Anthropology; Robert D. McClure Professor of Teaching Excellence
  • Andrew W. Cohen, Professor, Department of History; Montgomery-Gruber Professor of History Elizabeth F. Cohen, Professor, Department of Political Science
  • Christopher R. DeCorse, Professor, Department of Anthropology
  • Renee de Nevers, Associate Professor, Department of Public Administration and International Affairs; Chair, Social Science PhD Program
  • Todd Dickey, Assistant Professor, Department of Public Administration and International Affairs
  • Albrecht Diem, Associate Professor, Department of History
  • Carol Faulkner, Professor, Department of History; Associate Dean of Academic Affairs
  • Shana Gadarian, Associate Professor and Chair, Department of Political Science
  • Catherine Gerard, Professor of Practice, Department of Public Administration and International Affairs
  • Jeffrey D. Gonda, Associate Professor, Department of History
  • Ryan D. Griffiths, Associate Professor, Department of Political Science
  • Dimitar D. Gueorguiev, Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science
  • Sarah Ellen Hamersma, Associate Professor, Department of Public Administration and International Affairs
  • Colleen M. Heflin, Professor, Department of Public Administration and International Affairs
  • Margaret G. Hermann, Professor, Department of Political Science; Director, Moynihan Institute of Global Affairs
  • Azra Hromadžić, Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology; O'Hanley Faculty Scholar
  • Mark R. Jacobson, Assistant Dean, Washington Programs
  • Seth Jolly, Associate Professor, Department of Political Science
  • Thomas Moylan Keck, Professor, Department of Political Science; Michael O. Sawyer Chair of Constitutional Law & Politics
  • Osamah F. Khalil, Associate Professor, Department of History
  • W. Henry (Harry) Lambright, Professor, Departments of Public Administration and International Affairs and Political Science
  • Minchin G. Lewis, Adjunct Professor, Department of Public Administration and International Affairs
  • Jun Li, Assistant Professor, Department of Public Administration and International Affairs
  • Andrew S. London, Professor, Department of Sociology; Associate Dean for Finance and Administration
  • Steven J. Lux, Director, Executive Education
  • Mary E. Lovely, Professor of Economics, Syracuse University; Senior Fellow, Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Allan Mazur, Professor, Policy Studies Program
  • Gladys McCormick, Associate Professor, Department of History; Jay and Debe Moskowitz Chair in Mexico-US Relations; Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion for the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs
  • Daniel McDowell, Associate Professor, Department of Political Science
  • Madonna Harrington Meyer, University Professor, Department of Sociology; Meredith Professor of Teaching Excellence
  • Devashish Mitra, Professor, Department of Economics
  • Shannon M. Monnat, Associate Professor, Department of Sociology; Lerner Chair for Public Health Promotion; Director, Lerner Center for Public Health Promotion; Co-Director of the Policy, Place, and Population Health Lab
  • Anne E. Mosher, Associate Professor, Department of Geography and the Environment; Provost Faculty Fellow; Chair, Maxwell Program in Citizenship and Civic Engagement
  • Robert B. Murrett, VADM USN (ret.), Professor of Practice, Department of Public Administration and International Affairs; Deputy Director, Syracuse University Institute for Security Policy and Law
  • Terrell Anne Northrup, Associate Teaching Professor, Department of International Relations
  • Shannon Novak, Professor, Department of Anthropology
  • Jackie Orr, Associate Professor, Department of Sociology; Laura J. and L. Douglas Meredith Professor for Teaching Excellence
  • Arnisson Andre C. Ortega, Assistant Professor, Department of Geography and the Environment
  • Arthur Paris, Associate Professor, Department of Sociology
  • Thomas A. Perreault, Professor and Chair, Department of Geography and the Environment; DellPlain Professor of Latin American Geography; Laura J. and L. Douglas Meredith Professor of Teaching Excellence
  • David C. Popp, Professor, Department of Public Administration and International Affairs; Caroline Rapking Faculty Scholar in Public Administration and Policy
  • Sarah B. Pralle, Associate Professor, Department of Political Science
  • Grant Davis Reeher, Professor of Political Science; Director of the Campbell Public Affairs Institute
  • Lars T. Rodseth, Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology
  • Michah Weitzman Rothbart, Assistant Professor, Department of Public Administration and International Affairs
  • Robert A. Rubinstein, Distinguished Professor of Anthropology; Professor of International Relations
  • Rebecca Schewe, Associate Professor, Department of Sociology
  • Carlo Elia Sica, Instructor, Department of Geography and the Environment
  • James B. Steinberg, University Professor, Social Science, International Affairs, and Law
  • Farhana Sultana, Associate Professor, Department of Geography and the Environment
  • Brian D. Taylor, Professor, Department of Political Science
  • Margaret Susan Thompson, Associate Professor, Departments of History and Political Science Marsha R. Weissman, Instructor, Department of Sociology
  • Emily E. Wiemers, Associate Professor, Department of Public Administration and International Affairs
  • Peter Wilcoxen, Professor, Department of Public Administration and International Affairs; Director, Center for Environmental Policy and Administration; Ajello Professor in Energy and Environmental Policy; Laura J. and L. Douglas Meredith Professor for Teaching Excellence
  • Janet M. Wilmoth, Professor and Chair, Department of Sociology; Director, Aging Studies Institute
  • Jamie L. Winders, Professor, Department of Geography and the Environment; Director, Autonomous Systems Policy Institute (ASPI)
  • Douglas A. Wolf, Professor, Department of Public Administration and International Affairs
  • Erol Yayboke, Instructor, Washington Programs
  • John Yinger, Trustee Professor of Economics and Public Administration and International Affairs
  • Matthew M. Young, Assistant Professor, Department of Public Administration and International Affairs
  • Yael Zeira, Associate Professor, Department of Political Science
  • Austin L. Zwick, Assistant Teaching Professor, Policy Studies Program