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Report Faults Government's 'Reinvention'

August 20, 1994|JEFF LEEDS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

WASHINGTON — The Clinton Administration's "reinventing government" initiative has generated high-profile displays of government waste and numerous meetings with federal employees to promote efficiency but little real change, according to a first-anniversary appraisal of the program by the Brookings Institution, a liberal think tank.

On a more positive note, discussion of the plan, championed by Vice President Al Gore, has forced federal officials to make efficiency a higher priority, the report says. The plan has "launched a broad reform movement in the right direction and it has been asking the right questions."

Clinton and Gore pledged when they launched the program last fall to cut 252,000 jobs, or 12% of the federal work force, and to save $108 billion in the next six years.

But by ignoring the need for congressional cooperation and by focusing on the elimination of jobs to cut red tape, the initiative has alienated many of the bureaucrats who will determine its success or failure, the study says.

The "strategy for public support--shrinking the federal government--risks undercutting its efforts to transform the government's inner workings by alienating public employees," the report says.

The study commended the initiative, however, for forcing federal workers to seriously consider how to improve efficiency. The program, officially called the National Performance Review, "has the potential, together with the New Deal and the Hoover commissions, to be one of the three most important administrative initiatives of the 20th Century," the report says.

Critics and some career bureaucrats had scoffed at the initiative, saying it was akin to governmental reform programs developed during previous administrations. But Donald Kettl, a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the study's author, said: "This is real. It's happening on the front lines."

In its first year, the effort has generated 384 recommendations to cut red tape. The initiative has eliminated the SF-171--a much-loathed federal job application form--updated the government's contracting rules and started to break Washington's bureaucratic "culture," according to the assessment.

The initiative also set up more than 100 reinvention laboratories across the country to test management innovations at a lower level.

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