Letters to the Editor

Diversity of Opinion

I wish to vigorously disagree with your editorial [FCW, July 31], in which you called for federal programs and money to improve "access" to science, engineering and technical education for women.

What you are calling for is social re- engineering. In a sense, your editorial was sexist because it presumed that women have not been making the best career decisions; therefore, the big and all-knowing federal government will re- educate them to make proper decisions. The next step, of course, is for the federal government to assign training, education and careers.

Richard C. Phillips

Dayton, Ohio

Defending GPRA

Milt Zall's column about the worthlessness of government reform efforts, including the Government Performance and Results Act, makes me think: Pity the cynic [FCW, Aug.14]. The cynic can't see change happening, can't embrace the promise of a new day and has no hope.

The Results Act is changing the way Washington works, not at record speed but in the slow, incremental way that Washington changes — in appropriation and budget cycles, in fiscal years.

GPRA was a bipartisan act designed and implemented in partisan times. That alone deserves some credit. It was the cornerstone of a set of laws to address long- standing weaknesses in federal operations, improve federal management practices and provide greater accountability for achieving program results. GPRA establishes a system for managing government that focuses on outcomes and accountability to taxpayers. Annual reporting mechanisms are accessible (admittedly not always easily yet) by most anyone who pays taxes.

It's not perfect; no law is. I wish it had teeth in it. I wish it had some component of verification with external auditors for key federal programs. I wish the political spin would stop and that credible, objective reporting would begin. But I wish every August in Washington was mild, too.

This law provides a mechanism for sound debate on policies put in place to benefit Americans. Isn't debating federal performance more important to you and me as taxpayers than other debates we see occurring in Washington? Why give up on a law before it reaches its zenith? Why not work to make it work?

Congress needs to improve oversight by asking the right questions; the administration needs to be more honest in telling the rest of us which programs are not working and which are succeeding.

I, too, grow weary when I meet government reformers walking with canes and graying at the temples, but even I have not surrendered to the doubting Thomas role yet. Join those who hope we can achieve a government worthy of our taxes.

Virginia (Ginni) Thomas

Senior Fellow Government Studies

The Heritage Foundation

GPO's Portal Principles

Regarding Patrice McDermott's insightful comments on the FirstGov initiative [FCW, Aug. 14], we'd like to point out that the primary objective of FirstGov — "identifying and organizing information, as the president said, "in a way that makes it easier for the public to find the information it seeks'" — is the principle on which the Government Printing Office's Federal Depository Library Program has been operating for more than a century.

The GPO has put this principle into practice electronically with GPO Access (www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs) and its Federal Depository Library Program Electronic Collection (www.access.gpo.gov/su_ docs/fdlp/ec), as well as by providing extensive bibliographic information online in the Catalog of U.S. Government Publications (www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs/locators/cgp).

For the millions of people who use GPO Access every month, these resources offer a comprehensive suite of tools that seek out, point to and provide in-depth access to online publications from virtually every agency in all three branches of the federal government.

McDermott's column raises the question of how users can be assured that their searches on a given topic will reveal everything the government has to offer in the absence of a comprehensive, mandated and universally accepted system for providing locator information.

The GPO, as well as the national libraries, have been engaged in this work for many years. Indeed, their resulting systems draw on a vast, well-established pool of information that includes information from the entire federal government.

We hope that any new portal to government information products and services avails itself of the efforts these other systems have made at providing effective public access to government information.

Andrew M. Sherman


Office of Congressional, Legislative and Public Affairs, Government Printing Office


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August 28, 2000

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