Feds Fight Change, Report Says

January 21, 1997

Feds Fight Change, Report Says

Career civil servants have blocked real government reform because they don't want to lose their pay, their benefits, and their jobs, argue two of the authors of a Heritage Foundation report released this month.

The 760-page report, Mandate for Leadership IV: Turning Ideas Into Actions, calls for devolving many federal programs to the states and privatizing and closing many others. The book is a collection of 20 essays explaining how conservatives should try to reform the government.

The "permanent government" is a powerful network of bureaucrats, congressional staff and interest groups who fight tooth and nail to preserve their jobs at the expense of civil service reform, write Donald Devine, the Reagan Administration's director of the Office of Personnel Management, and his former assistant Robert Moffit.

"All too many people who come to Washington with the goal to reform government fail to understand or appreciate the immense power of the federal employee network, its political sophistication, and the intensity of its resistance to serious change," they write.

Devine and Moffit say that the 104th Congress was unable to make any major civil service reforms, noting that while the federal civilian workforce has declined 11 percent since 1993, federal spending has increased 14 percent.

Though the underlying motivation for federal employees to resist change is protecting their jobs, on a higher level they also believe in a theory of government management that justifies a permanent government, the report says. The theory holds that career civil servants understand the scientific and objective practices of the government, guiding political appointees with their wisdom and expertise. Federal managers, they write, view themselves as neutral public officials who prevent politics from interrupting the business of government.

Devine and Moffit say politics should govern the bureaucracy. The president should appoint top-level officials who are committed to his agenda and election promises. Those officials should then "suffuse this program throughout the labyrinth of a bureaucracy often resistant to change," they write.

Other essays in the book call for closing many agencies, including the Department of Energy, devolving federal programs like welfare to the states and reducing federal taxes by the amount used to fund those programs, and privatizing parts of the National Park Service and federal transportation programs.

For more information on the report, visit the Heritage Foundation Web site.

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