Analysis: NRC nomination battle hurts workforce morale

Wednesday - 4/25/2012, 11:28am EDT

Debra Roth, partner, Shaw, Bransford and Roth

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It's a good time for career employees at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to lie low and stay in their cubicles.

A nasty political fight over President Obama's Republican, female commissioner nominee, Kristine Svinicki, has caused Chairman Gregory Jaczko to publicly deny he is abusive towards women.

Debra Roth, partner at the law firm Shaw, Bransford and Roth, told The Federal Drive with Tom Temin and Emily Kopp that the accusations have a political undertone. Jaczko, a former aide to Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.), opposed the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository while Svinicki supports the project.

"Not only do you have partisan politics — politics within the commission, politics within the administration — to round it all out, let's just say, within any federal agency, there's a few layers of political appointments," Roth said. "Among those layers, there are problems between the political appointees. Generally speaking, the lowest-ranking political appointee loses the battle and is asked to leave."

Such rancor can be damaging to the federal workforce in the agency. Take the General Services Administration, for example, Roth said. "At some point, when the controversy gets such negative attention or feels so negative, it affects morale," she said.