A Presidential Call For Washington Reform
Senator Fred Thompson (R-TN)
August 31, 2001
Public criticism of the way government operates is not a new phenomenon, nor is it entirely unhealthy. Our democracy benefits from the voices of critics and champions alike who drive the constant battle for improved efficiency and transparency in Washington. But the watchful eye of the public cannot itself bring about change in Washington. What is needed and has been sorely missed in recent years is real leadership from the executive branch in enacting management reform.
Too often, seemingly urgent national problems shine the limelight of hope on the newest, fix-all government program. Soon, such hope fades into indifference and the program is doomed to join the long list of government programs that meant well, but just didn't achieve their goals. The President needs to work with Congress to put an end to the Washington way of constantly creating and expanding federal programs before looking strategically at what would actually produce improved government performance. I am pleased that President Bush is making good on his pledge to do just that.
This spring, Director Mitch Daniels of the President's Office of Management and Budget (OMB) joined me as I released a comprehensive report, titled "Government at the Brink," documenting the daunting management problems the Bush Administration inherited. It included an analysis of management challenges involving the federal workforce, government finance, information technology, and overlap and duplication, as well as recommendations for addressing those problems. OMB Director Daniels welcomed the report and promised to work with Congress to curb pervasive mismanagement.
Recently, President Bush took the next important step in reforming the federal government by outlining an impressive management agenda, integrating government-wide and program-specific initiatives that will improve the government's performance. His Administration not only identified fourteen long-neglected management problems in the federal government, but set forth logical and realistic goals for fixing them. By targeting specific deficiencies and setting achievable goals for improvement, we have the opportunity to see real results.
A number of the reforms the President outlined complement the work of the Governmental Affairs Committee. For instance, the agenda calls for improved financial management to curb the loss of billions and billions of taxpayer dollars each year, something the Committee has been addressing for many years. It encourages a strategic approach to hiring, training, motivating, and retaining the right employees for federal jobs. It proposes increased competition throughout government to improve efficiency and encourage innovation. It advocates tying the federal budget process to performance measures so that federal dollars will produce maximum results. And it promotes efforts to use the power of the Internet to make interacting with government easier, cheaper, faster, and more comprehensible.
President Bush's substantive initiatives for reforming the federal government illustrate that his administration refuses to succumb to the contagious indifference that has afflicted so many in Washington for so long. By tackling mismanagement early and head on, the President is walking the walk of positive change he and I both hope will spread from the highest office in Washington to the local post office in rural Tennessee. Genuine, results-oriented leadership from those working in government is necessary for real change in the federal government. I am encouraged by President Bush's management initiatives and look forward to working with him to make sure that the American people are provided with the efficient and effective service they deserve.
For more information on this column and other issues, visit my web site at http://web.archive.org/web/20020527154108/http://thompson.senate.gov/.
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