The Administration of Federal Grants to States

By V. O. Key Jr. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER X
STATE PERSONNEL

IN THE CONDUCT of the routine business of federal-state relations the employment of trained personnel on both governmental levels is of peculiar importance. The normal acceptance of federal administrative standards depends on their practical applicability and desirability and not on formal authority. For the development and administration of such standards, it is essential that federal-state relationships be conducted within a framework of mutually accepted technical principles, objectives, and concepts of the public interest. This condition is most likely to result when both sets of administrators are professionally trained; negotiations may then be based on a background of common understanding which makes possible an amicable solution of differences of detail.

When these relationships are conducted on a political level by political or partisan personages, the issues become questions of political prestige rather than technical problems. When the argument is in terms of "the sovereign prerogatives of the Governor of the State of -----or of "our power under the federal act," there can be no satisfactory settlement; the alternatives are only triumph or face-saving. Political frictions are not entirely eliminated when relationships are on a professional plane, but, as professional custodians of the public interest, officials of both levels of government tend to have a community of interest and a common sense of responsibility. The importance of legislation establishing political principles on which there is a consensus is not to be minimized; but under such legislation (and only such legislation is workable) it must be emphasized that current operation is greatly facilitated when all parties concerned are in general agreement on technical methods, principles, and concepts.

Although federal employees administering grants to the states are generally recruited on the basis of technical competence, they are not always so adequately qualified as might be desired. The personnel problem, however, has been more serious within the states where, with few exceptions, the spoils system prevails. Every federal-aid administer-

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