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Archive for Wednesday, September 8, 1993

INTEREST GROUPS WILL BATTLE FOR TURF, SLOW PROCESS, KU PROFS SAY

September 8, 1993

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The Clinton Administration faces a rocky road in trying to push its plans unveiled Tuesday to "reinvent government," say two Kansas University experts on government.

Entrenched bureaucratic fiefdoms "who guard their turf jealously," will wage war on President Clinton's plan, said Russell Getter, a KU associate professor of political science and government.

"They will be fought with an enormous vengeance by the people who benefit from any one of those entities," says Getter, who spent seven years working in state government.

Jeffrey Cohen, an associate professor of political science, says Clinton's plan to improve public confidence in government by cutting back on federal paper work and red tape could backfire.

"To do that means handing over some trust to the bureaucracy, which is completely antithetical to the public mood," Cohen said. "The public wants to tighten the screws on government."

Clinton unveiled his government reform plan Tuesday. The streamlined government envisioned in the plan would be able to save $108 billion in the next seven years. It would also cut 252,000 jobs from the federal payroll.

It calls for closing hundreds of government offices outside of Washington, D.C. And it would integrate new management practices used by business into government administration.

"The specific proposals may run into a lot of political controversy," Cohen said. "People like the idea of saving money. But I don't know if its possible to streamline government, save money and restore the public confidence. They're contradictory goals."

There is no question that government reform is needed, says Leon Panetta, director of the federal Office of Management and Budget.

Panetta gave the highlights of the President's plan to a group of Kansas journalists during a conference call Tuesday afternoon after Clinton's announcement.

"The fact is, we can't sustain government at these levels anymore," Panetta said. While many reform measures will be implemented by executive order, the major pieces will have to be approved by Congress, he said.

One of the key priorities is to get Congress to approve a two-year budget cycle, Panetta said. That would provide greater stability in the budgeting process and help give Congress more time for oversight, he said.

Other key efforts are to try to give managers more control over personnel decisions; work to buy products and services at the best prices and make government "more user-friendly" in its services, he said. The 800-plus recommendations in the plan would also try to give front-line employees more responsibility and consolidate and eliminate agencies that have lost their validity and eliminate duplication in government, Panetta said.

KU's Getter said this is not the first time efforts have been made to improve the efficiency of the federal government. And the reason many of the bureaucracies have survived is because there are reasons for them to exist, he said.

He said the big problem government faces at all levels is that there is a lack of ability in setting priorities.

"It is very, very difficult to understand what it is we wish to do as the state as a whole, as a city as a whole or as a nation as a whole," Getter said.

Cohen said his one overall criticism of the White House proposal is that it needs to put more emphasis on restoring the public's confidence in government.

"You get the sense of public frustration," he said.

Meanwhile, two efforts are taking place in Kansas at government reform.

Gov. Joan Finney's Reinventing Kansas Government steering committee has been meeting monthly since May to develop a plan, said Bob Kelley, director of the governor's office of efficiency management. A preliminary report is expected to be released soon to the governor and a final report by April 15, Kelley said.

The other effort is being made by the legislature's Tough Management Blue Highway Committee. Rep. Rochelle Chronister, R-Iola, who chairs that committee, said the committee will have its first meeting Thursday and Friday in six communities to hear what residents say can be done to improve efficiency and effectiveness.

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