ONE DAY IN 1977, a personnel specialist at the United States Navy's Naval Ocean Systems Center (NOSC) in San Diego visited an electronics engineer working on torpedo designs. "I'm here to classify your job," the engineer was told. "What do you do?" The engineer, irked by this unwelcome intrusion, muttered that he "invented things." The personnel specialist wrote down this fact and returned to her office. She took from a shelf the volume entitled Position Classification Standard for Electronics Engineering, Series GS-855, published in 1971 by the United States Civil Service Commission, which described the skills that engineers at various levels are supposed to have. At the time, the engineer was in grade GS-15 (the U.S. civil service system classifies all employees in eighteen grades, from GS-1 at the bottom to GS-18 at the top).* She decided that "inventing things" was not part of the job description of a GS-15 engineer but that it might be part of the assignment of a GS-13. She advised the engineer's supervisor that the job should be downgraded to the lower level.
The supervisor erupted in anger. The engineer as it turned out was the world's leading expert on the logic systems of torpedo guidance devices. Without him the torpedo development program at NOSC would be crippled. If his job were downgraded he probably would quit.
The incident was one of many that had generated what one manager called "extreme animosity" between government personnel officers and government managers at NOSC and elsewhere. Line managers regarded personnel specialists as ignorant busybodies who couldn't tell the difference between an engineer and an elevator operator. The specialists regarded line managers as loose cannons who did not understand that jobs____________________