The Politics of Reform

tshoop@govexec.com

Both Democrats in the Clinton Administration and Republicans on Capitol Hill like the idea of a government that works better and costs less. But when it comes to the particulars of reinventing government, there is still a fairly wide gulf between the two parties, a freewheeling "reinvention crossfire" session at the Reinvention Revolution Conference in Bethesda, Md., on Wednesday showed.

At the session, Elaine Kamarck, senior policy adviser to Vice President Gore, argued that the Clinton Administration was the first to make administrative reforms a key part of its agenda. "Finally there's a presidency that cares about the management of government," she said.

But Ned Lynch, a staffer on the House Government Reform and Oversight subcommittee on the civil service, contended that Republican presidents laid the groundwork for current reforms by starting total quality management efforts in various agencies. "The idea that all this happened in the last four years is as close to hogwash as possible," he said.

Other participants in the session included Donald Kettl, director of the LaFollette Institute of Public Affairs at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and James P. Pinkerton, a former Bush Administration official who is now a columnist for Newsday.

Kamarck said that the biggest obstacle the Clinton administration has encountered in its reinvention effort so far is a lack of enthusiasm on the part of its own political appointees. Lynch countered that in his experience, political appointees are among the most committed reformers, while career federal managers often fight to protect their bureaucratic turf.

Differences in legislative strategy also emerged in the session. Kamarck indicated the administration would like to see not only a broad-based civil service reform bill passed this year (similar to one that passed the House last year but was never taken up in the Senate), but separate pieces of legislation authorizing the creation of a series of performance-based organizations (PBOs).

Lynch said that while it might be possible to get the civil service bill through the House and over to the Senate again, "I doubt we would be able to get nine or 10 or 16 PBO bills through the Senate." Besides, he argued, the PBO bills "are too timid in a lot of regards."

Such partisanship aside, Kamarck said the White House and Republican leaders have so far managed to bridge their differences on key reinvention issues. When the administration has pushed reforms on Capitol Hill, Republicans have supported them, Kamarck said. "We've got as many problems coming from other Democrats as from the Republicans."

Besides, Kamarck said, "There are so many problems in government that we in the executive branch have created all by ourselves. Congress can go to sleep for three years and we could still make big progress in improving government."

All of the participants in the discussion agreed on the importance of properly implementing the Government Performance and Results Act of 1993. Congressional leaders, said Lynch, are "eager to get some kind of effective oversight" through GPRA.

The participants also agreed that government must step up the pace of reform to avoid the perception that it is forever lagging behind the private sector. "Government has to stop adopting private sector reforms at the very point they have proved not workable there," said Kettl.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

    Download
  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

    Download
  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

    Download
  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

    Download
  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.