Is it possible to get rid of the Spoils system?

Elected individuals turfing out the previous administrations hire-ees and replacing them with people from their own party - regardless of whether the individuals are competent for the job - is nothing new. It’s probably been going on since Washington’s time.

But that practice has definitely harmed the US rather than helped it.

Latest case in point, "White House uses foreign aid agency to give jobs to Trump loyalists.

The White House has assumed control over hiring at a small federal agency that promotes economic growth in poor countries, installing political allies and loyalists in appointed jobs intended for development experts, according to documents and interviews.

Until the Trump administration, only the chief executive and several other top officials of the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) were selected by the White House, former agency officials said. The chief executive, in turn, used authority granted to the agency by Congress to appoint about two dozen other staffers, primarily for their technical ­expertise. But starting last year, the White House began naming political appointees to the lower-level positions, according to internal rosters obtained by The Washington Post and interviews with former employees and other knowledgeable people. The employees were warned by an agency leader they could lose their jobs to make way for the new political appointees, the former employees said.

Should political party trump (pun not intended) capabilities and experience?

You need to reward your campaign funders with easy government jobs

I’m quite sure that all governments do this. And even “micro-governments” like governors of states and mayors of towns.

I just wonder if there’s a way to ensure that only qualified people get appointed to posts that need qualified people - like FEMA, etc…

Congress would have to change the the statute to place the agency under the Civil Service system, something they could do easily enough. Until they do, spoils system will be the order of the day.

An administration has policies that are consistent with long and short term goals.
You need people who understand and agree to advance those goals using the policies of the administration that hires them.

For example… take the IRS. One of the goals of Obama’s administration was to limit opposition. His policy included eliminating opposing speech… such as what he tried to do by intimidating Fox news. Or even what he tried to do when he had his AG say that they would prosecute speech. So Lois Lerner was a perfect fit because she was faithful to both the goal and policy by limiting the number of groups that could express opposition to Obama’s administration with the financial benefit of tax exempt status.

So Obama had it right… don’t just give the jobs to friends and cronies. Give them to people who will act as extensions of the top leadership.

Also, for the most part, the spoils system does not exist, with the obvious major exception of the Foreign Service and these numerous small little entities such as the Millennium Challenge Corporation mentioned in the OP.

My cousin has spent his career in the Indian Health Service, which is part of the Department of Health and Human Services.

If you look in the appropriate place in the Plum Book, linked to above, you would see that the Indian Health Service is lead by a a Director who is appointed by the President of the United States with the advice and consent of the Senate. That person than appoints three non-careerists as Deputy Directors. Everybody else in the Indian Health Service, appointed by merit selection and fully protected by the civil service system. That goes all the way up to the top executives, who serve under the Senior Executive Service, which is a merit career system.

This is true for most of the large departments, agencies and services. Spoils system antics such as described in the OP are fairly isolated.

More bureaucrats? No thanks.

More spoils employees is not exactly the answer either.

In this case, I believe that the United States Agency for International Development should be reformed on the model of the Millennium Challenge Corporation, after which the MCC should be merged into the USAID, which would actually cut most of the positions in question.

At least with the spoils they get fired every 8 years

Yes. Politics cannot function without patronage.