Johnson pushes bureaucratic change

A Bush administration official reaffirmed a White House pledge today to extend civil service reform governmentwide.

"Our argument to Congress is let’s commit to do it now, let’s pick some time frame like five years to do it in," said Clay Johnson, an Office of Management and Budget deputy director.

A definitive time frame would "motivate agencies to begin to do what they need to begin to prepare to convert over to pay for performance," Johnson said during a March 22 Washington, D.C., luncheon sponsored by the IBM Center for the Business of Government.

Administration officials announced earlier this year that they will draft legislation affecting all federal agencies, mirroring the civil service reforms Congress already approved for the Homeland Security and Defense departments. The new rules, which are not yet fully implemented, make it easier for officials to link pay to performance and fire or transfer workers.

Several congressional leaders, including Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Rep Tom Davis (R-Va.), greeted the initial Bush administration announcement with statements urging caution until the results of the DHS and DOD reforms can be determined.

"There is some line of thought that believes that we should wait for DOD and DHS for a couple years to see how successful they are," Johnson said.

The problem with that view, he argued, is that "how well Defense does has no bearing on how well Interior does."

A Collins spokeswoman said the Senator maintains her belief that expanding the still untested personnel reforms "should be informed by the experience" government gains in DOD and DHS.

Likewise, a Davis spokesman repeated the lawmaker’s position that Congress should "see how well [the reforms] work before extending them governmentwide." However, "we still plan to keep an open dialogue with the administration," the spokesman added.

Johnson also said having a Republican majority in Congress helps administration officials enact the President’s Management Agenda, "but it's no cakewalk."

Congress continues to slow administration efforts to link funding to program performance, Johnson said. Only "a little less disdain for the focus on performance" in the budget process exists now than in the past, he added.

Johnson also said administration officials still intend to offer legislation requiring all government programs to pass decennial reviews by Congress or lose funding. Under a proposed "Sunset Commission" law, if Congress did not vote to continue a program, it would no longer be funded.

Such a commission would be unlikely to yank funding from many programs, Johnson said. "The fact that you know you are accountable before the sunset panel every 10 years -- you get your act together way before," he said.

Officials are still drafting the sunset legislation, Johnson said.

Also on the Bush administration 2005 legislative agenda is "Results Commission" legislation that would allow executive branch officials to call ad hoc commissions to examine outcomes of multiagency programs, Johnson said.


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About the Author

David Perera is a special contributor to Defense Systems.

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