cover of book

A Presidential Civil Service: FDR's Liaison Office for Personnel Management
by Mordecai Lee
University of Alabama Press, 2016
Cloth: 978-0-8173-1899-4 | eISBN: 978-0-8173-8945-1 | Paper: 978-0-8173-6023-8
Library of Congress Classification JK691.L445 2016
Dewey Decimal Classification 352.63097309043

A Presidential Civil Service offers a comprehensive and definitive study of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Liaison Office for Personnel Management (LOPM). Established in 1939 following the release of Roosevelt’s Brownlow Committee report, LOPM became a key milestone in the evolution of the contemporary executive-focused civil service.
The Progressive Movement of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries comprised groups across the political spectrum with quite different. All, however, agreed on the need for a politically autonomous and independent federal Civil Service Commission (CSC) to eliminate patronage and political favoritism. In A Presidential Civil Service, public administration scholar Mordecai Lee explores two models open to later reformers: continuing a merit-based system isolated from politics or a management-based system subordinated to the executive and grounded in the growing field of managerial science.
Roosevelt’s 1937 Brownlow Committee, formally known as the President’s Committee on Administrative Management, has been widely studied including its recommendation to disband the CSC and replace it with a presidential personnel director. What has never been documented in detail was Roosevelt’s effort to implement that recommendation over the objections of Congress by establishing the LOPM as a nonstatutory agency.
The role and existence of LOPM from 1939 to 1945 has been largely dismissed in the history of public administration. Lee’s meticulously researched A Presidential Civil Service, however, persuasively shows that LOPM played a critical role in overseeing personnel policy. It was involved in every major HR initiative before and during World War II. Though small, the agency’s deft leadership almost always succeeded at impelling the CSC to follow its lead.
Roosevelt’s actions were in fact an artful and creative victory, a move finally vindicated when, in 1978, Congress abolished the CSC and replaced it with an Office of Personnel Management headed by a presidential appointee. A Presidential Civil Service offers a fascinating account and vital reassessment of the enduring legacy of Roosevelt’s LOPM.
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