Bush to fight back with e-gov plan
- By William Matthews
- May 01, 2000
When the presidential campaign focuses on the issue of electronic government,
this candidate plans to be prepared. His policy advisers are busy drafting
a vision of a slimmed-down e-government that is able to provide citizens
with exactly the services they want, when and how they want them.
More technology touting from Vice President and e-advocate Al Gore?
Not this time. George W. Bush is preparing for the role of federal technologist
in chief. Bush's campaign staff says the Republican presidential candidate
is not ready to discuss details. His plans for e-government and government
reform are still being fashioned by aides, including Stephen Goldsmith,
a top domestic policy adviser and former mayor of Indianapolis.
Thus far, e-government has been Democrat Al Gore's territory, but it's
not surprising that Bush also wants in on the issue, said cyberlobbyist
"We're in the Digital Age. If you want to run for public office, you
better think through your position on technology. On both sides of the aisle,
candidates want to be able to lay claim to the fact that they have a plan
to make government work better. Clearly, technology is one of the ways help
government work better," she said.
"Government reform is an important issue," said Bush campaign spokesman
Ari Fleischer. "The private sector has led the way in making revolutionary
changes that allow people to accomplish more," but so far, the federal government
lags behind. Bush is expected to unveil his plan in a speech "in several
weeks," Fleischer said.
E-government — Bush-style — is expected to embrace the idea that private
industry has used information technology and the Internet to make substantial
increases in productivity and efficiency while the federal government largely
In a recent address, Goldsmith compared government today to assembly-line
industries of a half-century ago. Government workers tend to perform specific,
narrow tasks that require specialized knowledge, similar to assembly-line
workers of the past, he said.
But broader knowledge and more flexible approaches to work are valued
in industry today. "We have a government that is designed in one era and
that is trying to operate in another," Goldsmith said.
But that can change, he added. Government can be designed to give individual
citizens an unprecedented ability to get the information and services they
"I don't think that any of us can appreciate how we will be able to
customize government" in the future, he said in a lecture to the PricewaterhouseCoopers
Endowment for the Business of Government in March.
E-government "will allow individuals to cut right through the bureaucracy,"
If Bush is serious about promoting e-government, his administration
should include "executives from the private sector who really understand
what information technology can do to transform government," said Olga Grkavac,
executive vice president at the Information Technology Association of America's
Enterprise Solutions Division. "That could result in some dramatic changes.
The American public is looking for seamless government." In the Digital
Age, people do not want to file the same information with multiple agencies,
Creating a more efficient government will require greater involvement
and cooperation from government workers, Goldsmith said in his address.
"All government employees must be part of the reform process and empowered
to make decisions and actions that contribute to the reform effort," he
During his term as mayor from 1991 to 1999, Goldsmith captured national
attention as a government reformer. He cut city spending, trimmed Indianapolis'
bureaucracy and killed burdensome regulations. But he may be best known
for privatizing the city's water and sewer systems and vehicle maintenance
In the process, Goldsmith gave government workers opportunities to keep
their jobs by bidding against private contractors. In one case, vehicle
mechanics chose to accept a wage freeze over unemployment. In another, government
sewer maintenance workers agreed to work for private managers, and city
sewer managers were fired.
An adept politician, Goldsmith blamed the government, not the workers,
"We have a lot of good people trapped in bad systems," he once said.
"We want to emphasize that monopoly and bureaucracy suffocate employees
and reduce public value."
Bush's campaign aides applaud the idea of government reform, but his
advisers are loath to talk about personnel cuts that might result. One adviser
suggested personnel reductions would come through attrition rather than