According to the government watchdog group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), National Park Service Director Fran Mainella is applying a “loyalty oath” to the hiring procedure for civil service management jobs within the agency.
“It injects a political litmus test into the promotion and hiring procedure for civil servants,” says Jeff Ruch, PEER’s executive director. The organization revealed details of the order in its winter newsletter sent out earlier this month.
In the Oct. 11 order to regional NPS managers, Mainella outlined the revised procedures for hiring government service grades GS-13, 14 and 15. The order directs regional NPS directors to identify candidates and submit a hiring package that includes a statement on the candidate’s “ability to lead employees in achieving the NPS Legacy Goals, the Secretary’s 4Cs [communication, consultation, cooperation, all in the service of conservation] and the President’s Management Agenda.”
Bill Wade, coordinator of the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees (CNPSR), calls the attempt to make loyalty to the Bush administration’s agenda a prerequisite of employment “despicable.”
“This is the first time any of us [retirees] have heard of such a blatant specification that someone had to be loyal to the administration’s initiative,” says Wade, a former superintendent at Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park. “In the past, selections have been made with that in mind anyway, but this is the first time it’s been in writing and spelled out so clearly.”
In addition to the loyalty oath, candidates must also be screened by the Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Fish Wildlife & Parks, the No. 3 political appointee in the agency. That position is currently held by acting Assistant Director Matt Hogan, 38, a former lobbyist for Safari Club International.
Ruch says the loyalty oath and screening process is the latest attack by the Bush administration on the nation’s most respected federal agency.
“The thrust of all these changes is to make the parks more commercially accessible and less protective of resources,” says Ruch. “The stated rationale for these changes is to increase flexibility in the agency. I think, in our view, that means the ability to bend over.”