Rudy’s management plans

It occurs like clockwork. Every four years, presidential candidates bemoan the ills of the “inside-the-Beltway” mentality. The 2008 race promises to be no exception.

The latest example occurred last month when Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani, former New York mayor, visited Northern Virginia to provide what we hope is only an early glimpse into his plans for managing the federal government. Unfortunately, Giuliani’s words borrowed heavily from the often-repeated mantra: Do more with less.

“One of the things that I promote is to reduce the size of the federal workforce,” he said. “The civilian workforce is just too big. Forty-two percent are coming up for retirement. I wouldn’t rehire half of them.”

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We understand how things work on the campaign trail. Candidates are usually penalized when they offer detailed plans. But we also need a reality check. Giuliani said he wanted to shrink the size of the federal workforce, but he offered no plan for doing so and, furthermore, he failed to say how a Giuliani administration would perform the government’s many tasks. Does he plan to reduce to scope of government? If so, how? Or does he plan to contract out those jobs? If so, the government desperately needs more procurement and acquisition employees to ensure that it gets the best value. The government also needs qualified program managers, who are critically important to keeping programs on track.

In his speech to the Northern Virginia Technology Council, Giuliani said the government can do more by using technology. Nevertheless, he stressed that the federal government must transform itself from a slow-moving, Industrial Age bureaucracy into a more efficient, streamlined, agile organization.

We generally agree that agencies need to be more agile. Most feds would probably agree with that, too.

But like most issues, there is no simple answer, and workforce issues are important enough to deserve something more than a silver-bullet remedy that everybody knows won’t work. Size is only one factor that makes the government bureaucracy bureaucratic. There are many other factors, such as the government’s cumbersome budget process, congressional earmarks, pay issues and a hyperactive system of oversight, to name only a few.

We believe that feds are ready to change government for the better if they have leaders who recognize real problems and propose real solutions. — Christopher J. Dorobek, cdorobek@1105govinfo.com

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