Management cuts require planning

Any efforts to reduce the government's managerial ranks — possibly by as much as 40,000 people — should be done with considerable forethought, officials said last week.

A Jan. 20 memo from the Bush administration set the stage for a reduction in management. The memo, sent by chief of staff Andrew Card Jr., prohibited agencies from making new hires until the department or agency head appointed by the president is in place.

Furthermore, every agency head will be instructed to develop a plan to "permit the agency to meet the president's goal of reducing management ranks," Card wrote.

According to observers, the as-yet-unnamed deputy director for management at the Office of Management and Budget will be responsible for issuing guidance to agencies on how to implement such cuts, which are estimated to amount to about 40,000 people across government.

But setting an across-the-board goal without any forethought can be dangerous, said David Walker, the General Accounting Office's comptroller general. Agencies must conduct a comprehensive review of their own situation to determine where critical needs are, he said.

"We have to be careful with arbitrary numbers and prolonged hiring freezes," Walker said. "The administration recognizes there is a need for comprehensive assessment."

Sen. George Voinovich (R-Ohio) agreed. "[We] have to get a sense of where agencies are," he said. "Privatization works in some agencies, and in others doesn't. Each agency must be reviewed and looked at" and take its own approach.

Voinovich is chairman of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee's Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management, Restructuring and the District of Columbia.

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