Wednesday, March 30, 2005

New management

There's an interesting piece in National Journal about how the Bush administration has tried to change the way the executive branch is managed so that it may be more effectively controlled by the White House. Generally, I think this a good change. The less cushy these government jobs are, the better. Also, it may make the President more powerful relative to Congress, but not through decreasing Congress' power, for Congress still has all the oversight and legislative authority it had before. No, the President's increased power is at the expense of the power of the bureaucracy.

Problem with this argument: isn't concentration of power generally bad? Even if the Bush White House uses its tighter grip on the bureaucracy responsibly, should we trust future presidents to do likewise? Response: then make the government smaller! Counter-response: and when will that happen? Counter-counter-response: point taken. It's a tradeoff between republicanism - we elect the President, not the bureaucrats - and dispersion of government power; I think this shift in the republican direction is still a net good; Congress could pass new civil service laws if they think the President is too powerful.

Some changes I like:
The White House has said it is drafting legislative proposals to create a "sunset" process requiring federal programs to rejustify their existence every 10 years and to set up "reform" commissions giving the president authority to initiate major restructuring of programs.
In another move, which could affect thousands of civil servants, Bush has made "competitive sourcing" one of his primary management goals for federal agencies, requiring government workers to compete for their jobs against private contractors.
While OIRA serves as the central regulatory-review office for the White House, OMB has also positioned itself as the central performance-accountability office, with the establishment of the "President's Management Agenda" and the Program Assessment Rating Tool, or PART, under which the White House grades every agency and program on the basis of its management activities and real-world results. After several years of conducting the assessments without imposing any real consequences for failure, the administration, in the first budget proposal of Bush's second term, used the results assessments to justify eliminating or significantly reducing funding for about 150 federal programs.
A change I dislike:
New restrictions on the public release of government information, including a huge jump in the number of documents labeled "classified"


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