The Truth-O-Meter Says:

"The failings in our civil service are encouraged by a system that makes it very difficult to fire someone even for gross misconduct."

John McCain on Wednesday, March 21st, 2007 in Oklahoma City.

You can fire federal workers, but it's tough

Sen. John McCain, the Arizona Republican, overstates the problem of removing federal employees for poor performance, but not by much, according experts who examine federal work rules.

It is perhaps not a surprise that a union offical disputes McCain's use of the incompetent federal worker cliche. Procedures do exist to remove workers from their jobs, and many people do get fired.

But it takes a long time, according to the outside experts who follow such issues closely. McCain wisely faults not an individual but a "system." That puts him on pretty solid ground, where even a study by the federal government had difficulty finding supervisors who had attempted to take action against poorly performing employees.

About this statement:

Published: Saturday, September 1st, 2007 at 12:00 a.m.

Subjects: Federal Budget


National Treasury Employees Union, email interview with Colleen M. Kelley.

Interviews with Paul Light, a professor of public service at New York University, Don Kettl at the University of Pennsylvania and John Palguta of the Partnership for Public Service.

Poor Performers in Government: A Quest for the True Story U.S. Office of Personnel Management Office of Merit Systems Oversight and Effectiveness, January 1999.

Written by: Angie Drobnic Holan
Researched by: Angie Drobnic Holan
Edited by: Scott Montgomery

How to contact us:

We want to hear your suggestions and comments.

For tips or comments on our Obameter and our GOP-Pledge-O-Meter promise databases, please e-mail the Obameter. If you are commenting on a specific promise, please include the wording of the promise.

For comments about our Truth-O-Meter or Flip-O-Meter items, please e-mail the Truth-O-Meter. We’re especially interested in seeing any chain e-mails you receive that you would like us to check out. If you send us a comment, we'll assume you don't mind us publishing it unless you tell us otherwise.

Browse The Truth-O-MeterTM: