Scholar derides Bush for forgetting about feds

While President Bush talked about fighting terrorism, increasing defense spending and expanding the federal government's role in homeland security during Tuesday's State of the Union address, he failed to pay enough attention to federal employees, according to one observer. Paul Light, director of the Governmental Studies Program at the Brookings Institution, was outraged that Bush praised the military but left out the civil service. "Last night he talked about another military pay raise and he didn't mention civil service at all," Light said incredulously, following a Brookings forum Wednesday afternoon. "He didn't tip his hat to federal employees and the role they play in homeland security." Light was joined Wednesday by seven of the think tank's scholars to critique Bush's first year as president and his agenda for the future. Brookings scholars praised Bush for cutting taxes, passing an Education bill, forming an effective Cabinet and waging war in Afghanistan. "I would say George W. Bush has produced the most functional White House since Dwight Eisenhower," said senior fellow Stephen Hess. "That surprised me and I'm sure it surprised others. George W. Bush is a skilled executive." However, the president has not excelled at managing the government, according to Light, who pointed to the fight over the federal pay raise as evidence that the civil service is not a major concern of the Bush administration. Another senior fellow, Ivo Daalder, criticized Bush's proposal to increase spending on homeland security because the proposal lacks specifics. "He didn't lay out a strategy, nor is there a strategy for how we are going to spend this money," Daalder said. Light also said he has doubts that government agencies and departments are equipped to take on the extra burden of homeland security. "We saw a lot of agencies that had not been doing their jobs well fall apart on Sept. 11. I think there are a lot of damaged agencies that need significant reconstruction," he said. According to one union leader, the administration's 2003 budget request, scheduled for release Feb. 4, will illustrate Bush's priorities. "This is where and when we will learn how serious the administration is about addressing vital national issues, including homeland security," said National Treasury Employees Union President Colleen M. Kelley in a statement on the president's address. "In its proposed budget, we will see if federal agencies will be provided the resources they need to deliver the programs and services the American people want, need and deserve."
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