1st Edition

The Fragility of Merit Presidential Power and the Civil Service Under Trump

By J. Edward Kellough Copyright 2025
    144 Pages
    by Routledge

    144 Pages
    by Routledge

    While the operation and structure of the public workforce is not a matter that is on the minds of most, the consequences for the nature and effectiveness of government are substantial.  The Fragility of Merit provides a detailed examination of the importance of a professionally competent and politically neutral public service.

    Illustrating the fundamental fragility of the federal civil service in the United States and the underlying concept of merit in public employment, J. Edward Kellough demonstrates how a particular view of presidential power grounded in unitary executive theory was used during Donald J. Trump’s term in office. Specifically, he reviews various efforts to subordinate the public workforce to presidential authority and explains how those actions threatened to undermine bureaucratic expertise that is desperately needed in government. 

    The Fragility of Merit makes a persuasive case for protecting the civil service and for rebuilding a national consensus in favor of merit in public employment.  It will benefit researchers, academics, students, and others with an interest in public administration, public personnel management, government, and bureaucracy.

    1. The Evolution of the U.S. Public Service and the Concept of Merit  2. Personnel is Power: Controlling Government by Controlling the Civil Service  3. Disabling the Merit Systems Protection Board  4. Trump’s Executive Orders on Federal Labor Relations  5. The Effort to Dismantle OPM  6. The Creation of Schedule F  7. Changing Course at the FLRA  8. Concluding Thoughts: The Risk to Expertise


    J. Edward Kellough is Professor of Public Administration and Policy at the University of Georgia where he serves as Head of the Department of Public Administration and Policy.  Dr. Kellough specializes primarily in the field of public sector human resources management.  He is an elected Fellow of the National Academy of Public Administration, has served as President of the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration (NASPAA), and has served as Chair of the Section on Public Administration of the American Political Science Association and as Chair of the American Society for Public Administration, Section of Personnel and Labor Relations and the Section on Public Administration Education. 

    This book is very timely given the deep division in how Americans view our political system and how much or how little they value people who work in political environments. Civil service systems have long protected government many employees, who at times, work in highly charged political environments. Dr. Kellough explores the evolution of the federal civil service system and reforms over the past few decades as he traces the partisan efforts to dismantle the federal workforce.   

    Doug Goodman, Professor of Public Administration, University of Central Florida