Bush government reform guru still jobless

Although President Bush assembled his Cabinet with record speed, one key advisor remained jobless through inauguration weekend: former Indianapolis mayor Stephen Goldsmith, the architect of Bush's government reform proposals during the presidential campaign. As Bush officials continued to debate the scope of Goldsmith's new portfolio, some experts worried that the administration would not designate a single individual to spearhead federal management reform efforts. "If the Bush administration wants to be successful in its run at government reform, they need to make absolutely clear who is in charge, and give them the authority and status to get the job done," said Brookings Institution scholar Paul Light. "If you don't give a clear signal on who is charge, [government reform] will be bled away in a thousand paper cuts." Goldsmith is widely rumored to be in line to head a new White House office of "faith-based initiatives" that would promote religion-backed social programs through tax credits and regulatory reform. What remains unclear is whether Goldsmith will also have responsibility for coordinating the government reform proposals he designed during the campaign. On Jan. 6, The Washington Post reported that Goldsmith hoped to head a governmental reform office that would oversee both faith-based initiatives and federal management reform efforts. But Bush aides opposed giving Goldsmith such broad responsibilities, leaving him in limbo. If Goldsmith is not tapped to direct government reform projects, the deputy director for management at the Office of Management and Budget would be a logical choice to inherit such responsibilities. But 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. Experts were unsure if one person could handle overall reform initiatives and serve as a federal CIO at the same time. "A federal CIO would have a full-time job," said Carl DeMaio, director of government redesign at the Reason Public Policy Center. It's possible one person could be both CIO and reform chief, DeMaio said, but "hopefully that person would have an expanded staff to fill that portfolio." Light said any attempt to overhaul the bureaucracy needs to be run out of the White House. "OMB hasn't been very effective at leading reform efforts... and [the Office of Personnel Management] has never been a source of reinventing energy," said Light. "The only place to put this to be successful is down the hall from the President himself." But Donald Kettl, a public administration scholar at the University of Wisconsin, said government reform projects don't necessarily have to be directed from the West Wing. "It is absolutely true that if you give [government reform] that kind of symbolic importance, it gives a signal of how you want to approach things," Kettl said. "But it's not essential that the management guru sit near the Oval Office. It's more important that management reform be integrated closely with the budget process." DeMaio agreed. "In the [Clinton] administration, [the National Partnership for Reinventing Government] failed to link their innovative approaches to standard processes for management and budgeting at OMB," he said. "That was the fatal flaw that limited NPR's ability to effect change in federal agencies." Experts expressed admiration for Goldsmith's command of federal management issues. As mayor of Indianapolis, Goldsmith encouraged the privatization of municipal services and championed faith-based programs to treat alcoholism and other social ills. Bush spokesman Scott McClellan declined to comment on what Goldsmith's duties might be in the Bush administration. Marvin Olasky, a senior fellow at the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty, who coined the term "compassionate conservatism" and has served as an informal advisor to Bush, said that Goldsmith was the only name he had heard as a potential director of the office of faith-based programs. Goldsmith did not respond to an interview request. If Goldsmith is tapped to lead an office that oversees both government reform and faith-based programs, some experts are anxious to see how these two initiatives would relate to each other. "I can't see what the connection is," said Barry White, director of government performance projects at the Council for Excellence in Government. White, along with Light, hoped federal management reform would have a strong advocate on the White House staff. Light said the news that some in the Bush camp have opposed granting Goldsmith a large reform portfolio "already speaks to problems in the Bush administration on reinventing," said Light. "We've never given an individual authority to run [the government reform] effort, and it wasn't done well under Clinton, Bush, or Reagan."
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