Bush reform plan rests on e-government, management cuts

While President Bush did not mention government reform in his inaugural speech, he articulated a broad series of initiatives to change the way government does business on the campaign trail. As the new President settles into the Oval Office, here's a look at some of the federal management reforms he promised during the campaign.

Bush eschewed the anti-government rhetoric used by some conservatives early in Campaign 2000, pledging to create "a limited government, respected for doing a few things and doing them well." The former Texas governor removed anti-government planks from the GOP platform at the Republican convention.

Bush spelled out his core proposals for government reform in a few speeches delivered early last summer. He called for a fundamental redesign of the way government delivers services, eliminating layers of middle management and using public-private partnerships to create a results-focused government. Bush also promised to make e-government a priority in his administration, proposing to establish a federal CIO with responsibility for coordinating information technology issues throughout government. Specific government reform initiatives proposed by Bush include:
  • Eliminate 40,000 middle management jobs over the next five years.
  • Open at least 90,000 jobs not identified as inherently governmental under the Federal Activities Inventory Reform Act to competition from the private sector.
  • Establish a federal "Sunset Review Board" to recommend eliminating programs deemed unnecessary or duplicative.
  • Move all significant government procurement to the Internet within three years.
  • Convert at least half of all federal service contracts to performance-based contracts.
  • Enforce the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA) by recommending higher levels of funding for programs that work. Agency inspector generals will enforce the accuracy of GPRA reports and the Office of Management and Budget will factor the results into budget decisions.
  • Create a biennial federal budgeting process.
  • Conduct a complete review of military needs.

Designed under the guidance of former Indianapolis mayor and campaign advisor Stephen Goldsmith, Bush's proposals received high marks from good government experts for their attention to the issue of government structure. "If you don't talk about structure, you're going nowhere," said Brookings Institution scholar Paul Light in June.

But federal unions expressed concern over Bush's intention to eliminate 40,000 managerial positions. "I think it's very premature to set a number of managers that he's going to eliminate," said American Federation of Government Employees Bobby Harnage in December. "If [Bush] intends to make government smaller, I hope he'll rightsize it rather than downsize it."

Bush assembled a Cabinet team with considerable management experience in the private sector. New Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill ran Alcoa and International Paper, while OMB Director-designate Mitch Daniels has a background as a pharmaceutical executive. Bush also named Texas budget expert Albert Hawkins as his liaison to the Cabinet to assist on management issues. Widely rumored to be the head of a proposed White House office of "faith-based programs," Goldsmith has yet to receive a position in the Bush administration.

Shortly after his inauguration on Saturday, Bush issued an order requiring that all agencies' hiring decisions be reviewed by Bush administration officials before employees are hired.

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