Bush creates faith-based agency centers

President Bush created a new White House office Monday to give religious groups a role in the delivery of government social services, and ordered agencies to figure out ways to work with such groups. In two executive orders, Bush established a White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives and created five agency centers to integrate faith-based programs into department activities. Bush appointed University of Pennsylvania Professor John J. DiIulio Jr. to head the new office and named former Indianapolis Mayor Stephen Goldsmith his advisor on faith-based issues. Bush also appointed Goldsmith to the board that controls the Corporation for National Service, the agency that oversees the AmeriCorps program. "Government will never be replaced by charities and community groups," said Bush. "Yet, when we see social needs in America, my administration will look first at faith-based programs and community groups, which have proven their power to save and change lives." Under the second executive order, faith-based centers will be created at the Departments of Justice, Education, Labor, Health and Human Services and Housing and Urban Development. These centers will conduct department-wide audits of all regulatory and administrative obstacles that limit the ability of faith-based programs to provide social services within 180 days. Center directors will report both to DiIlulio and to the secretary of their department. Bush also directed faith-based centers at Labor and HHS to conduct a review of department policies that would affect so-called "Charitable Choice" legislation, which will be introduced by the administration Tuesday. This legislation will allow taxpayers to claim a deduction for charitable donations without filing itemized tax returns and modify the 1996 Welfare Reform Act to enable faith-based programs to operate welfare-to-work programs. The executive order also directs all agencies to designate a liaison with the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives. In his new position with the Corporation for National Service, Goldsmith will help integrate corporation programs with the faith-based initiative. Goldsmith's position is not paid, and he will receive no other administration duties in the near future, according to White House spokesperson Anne Womack. Goldsmith had reached out to members of Congress to lobby the White House to give him a broader role that included governmentwide management reform responsibilities, according to sources familiar with the situation. Experts were unsure what Goldsmith's new position could mean for government reform initiatives in the Bush administration. "I've been trying to figure out if there is a message in the tea leaves here or not," said Donald Kettl, a public administration scholar at the University of Wisconsin. "The question is less about Goldsmith and more about what happens to the larger management reform effort, which has to continue in some form." Others argued that the faith-based initiative is related to government reform projects. "This is the next chapter in government reform," said Carl DeMaio, director of government redesign at the Reason Public Policy Institute. "It creates a bigger incentive for government to benchmark its activities against non-profit and faith-based groups. [Currently] we don't have a process to examine the performance of government on social issues." But the direction of management reform in the Bush administration is still not clear. "The critical position will be the deputy director for management [at the Office of Management and Budget]," said Kettl. Bush is expected to use the OMB slot to create a new position: a governmentwide chief information officer who would coordinate information technology issues throughout government.
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