Civil service icon trashed amid cheers

January 28, 1994|By Ellen Gamerman | Ellen Gamerman,States News Service

WASHINGTON — An article in yesterday's Sun should have said that the Office of Personnel Management expects to save $3 million by phasing out the Federal Personnel Manual.

The Sun regrets the error.

WASHINGTON -- It was a strange funeral.

Two fifes and a drum played patriotic ditties. Red, white and blue bunting festooned a nearby podium. Multicolored balloons bobbed in the background. Cheers and laughter punctuated the eulogy.

So went the last day of life for a fat, 50-year-old veteran of Uncle Sam's personnel office known as "FPM" -- short for the Federal Personnel Manual.


The 10,000-page document, 15 feet high and heavy enough to crush a small animal, contains long-winded descriptions on everything from hiring to firing.

Yesterday, as part of the Clinton administration's effort to "reinvent" government, federal workers bid farewell to the monolithic manual, introducing a streamlined personnel tome in its place.

Workers at the Office of Personnel Management's Washington headquarters celebrated the moment by dumping 9,000 pages of the old document into a large, grimy recycling truck.

Federal workers started writing the instruction manual just after World War II. And the text kept growing and growing, expanding to include lengthy instructions on how to label a file folder or fill out a government form.

With thousands of copies weighing down stock room shelves in government personnel offices across the country, the bureaucratic tome became a symbol of red tape. Its dry, technical language left even the most diligent bureaucrats droopy-eyed.

In September, Vice President Al Gore ordered a death sentence for the book -- calling for its abolition by the end of 1994 as part of his drive to eliminate waste and inefficiency. But OPM set 300 people to work and killed large chunks of text a year ahead of schedule.

The streamlined manual -- still 1,000 pages long -- is expected to save $30 million, said an OPM spokeswoman, Mary Ann Maloney.

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