Wanted: Public Servants

Thirty-six weeks into the Bush administration, just 288 out of 501 top federal positions have been filled. Given that gap alone, an organization devoted to helping recruit individuals for high-level government jobs makes sense.

Thanks to a $25 million grant from a Connecticut businessman, "The Partnership for Public Service" will launch later this month to do just that. Part of its stated purpose: to "recruit a new generation" of federal executives.

The partnership has an impressive board of political, academic, and cultural leaders, who will lobby Congress to get a chief human resources officer at key government agencies and departments, make government work more attractive, and work to eliminate mind-numbing bureaucratic rules.

The federal government has gone through downsizing in recent years, and a large crop of government workers are heading for retirement. At the same time, the Sept. 11 attacks have refocused efforts toward increasing government's role. And that means more employees all around. The recent Hart/Rudman security report, for instance, made human capital a centerpiece of its recommendations.

Moreover, through the economically booming '90s, the federal workforce was depleted as the private sector aggressively recruited talent. "Now what's needed is more aggressive recruiting from the private sector," says the Brookings Institution's Paul Light, one of the partners. "What motivates talented Americans today is the chance to do meaningful work."

The partnership should do much to bring highly motivated people to top-level government positions. It comes at a time when the government needs all the qualified help it can get, and when Americans have been awakened to serving their nation.

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