Kerry, Edwards unveil plan to cut managers, trim bureaucracy

In separate appearances Tuesday, John Kerry and John Edwards, the Democratic contenders for president and vice president, unveiled a series of proposals to overhaul the federal bureaucracy, including a pledge to slash the ranks of managers and supervisors at agencies.

In a campaign swing through southern Wisconsin, Kerry spoke about proposals to keep federal spending in check, pledging to cut the budget deficit in half in four years, convince Congress to enact a constitutionally valid form of the line-item veto, cut agencies' budgets across the board if federal spending grows faster than the rate of inflation, and appoint a new "Corporate Welfare Commission" to eliminate unnecessary spending.

In a series of speeches in Louisiana, Edwards focused on government reform initiatives. At an appearance in Alexandria, La., Edwards unveiled a new Kerry proposal to reduce the federal managerial ranks. Referring to a recent study by New York University's Paul Light for the Brookings Institution, Edwards said the Bush administration had "layered on a whole crowd of supervisory people in government," according to a report in The Washington Post.

"We don't need any more supervisors…We got to get rid of these people," said Edwards.

In a plan released on Kerry's Web site, the Democratic nominee pledged to "thin out the top ranks of government by restoring the governmentwide target of no more than one supervisor per 15 subordinates." That target was set under the Clinton administration's "reinventing government" initiative.

Light's study revealed that as of this year, there are 64 different executive support titles in use at agencies. Six years ago, there were 51; in 1992, there were 33. A survey completed in 1960 found just 17.

In his government reform plan, Kerry also pledged to:

  • Reduce the number of contract workers employed at agencies by 100,000. Kerry unveiled the contractor cut proposal in a speech at Georgetown University earlier this year.
  • Freeze the federal travel budget-also a proposal introduced at the Georgetown speech. Kerry's plan notes that federal travel expenses "continue to grow more quickly than inflation."
  • Implement Government Accountability Office recommendations to reduce the government's fleet of 387,000 vehicles, and improve management of the fleet.
  • Eliminate the Office of Thrift Supervision, which was created in the late 1980s to deal with the savings and loan crisis.
  • Consolidate many of the 70 different federal statistical agencies into one new entity called Statistics USA.
  • Merge the Commerce Department's Telecommunications Administration and National Telecommunications and Information Administration into a single agency.
Many of Kerry and Edwards' proposals originate in a February paper by Paul Weinstein Jr., a senior fellow with the Progressive Policy Institute, a left-leaning Washington think tank. Weinstein has been involved in efforts to set up a group of Kerry advisers on government reform initiatives.
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