Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Erasing Bureaucratic Records Much Easier Said Than Done / 3,000 Reports Cost $240 Million

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Erasing Bureaucratic Records Much Easier Said Than Done / 3,000 Reports Cost $240 Million

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON - If there is any job likely to be more frustrating than shepherding a bill into law - hearings, subcommittee and committee approval, floor action by House and Senate, conference committee reconciliation and presidential signature - it can only be that of getting rid of silly or outdated proposals that have made it to the statute books.

Take, for example, the more than 3,000 reports that federal artments and agencies are required by law to submit to Congress at a cost of perhaps $240 million a year. The survival of many is a testament not just to the capital's penchant for analytical overkill but to the politician's inability to oppose bad ideas that have been framed to sound good.

The Energy Department, under a 1978 law, must make a report every year on the nation's coal reserves, which are so vast that by conservative estimate they will last for at least three centuries. The Education Department is obliged to make a report every two years on the findings and recommendations of the Office of Education Professional Development, which was abolished in 1981.

As part of a broad effort to raise productivity and reduce waste, the Office of Management and Budget has proposed eliminating 186 of these reports and modifying the requirements for 50 more, mostly by reducing their frequency.

But don't bet that it will have huge success with its plan, officially the Congressional Reports Elimination Act of 1985, even allowing for the fact that the budget office doesn't bother to proposeabolishing reports it knows will be fiercely defended by one or another department, congressional committee or individual member.

Arlene A. Triplett, the office's associate director for management, in a rare piece of Washington understatement, observed: ""You can appreciate that some of these reports are somebody's pet idea. Basically, everybody has a "blackball' over his "thing.' ''

According to Johnny R. Bowen, an evaluator for the General Accounting Office, the most expensive report among those proposed for elimination is a Veterans Administration production, ""Utilization of All Fee and Contract Programs,'' the 1983 issue of which cost $1.3 million. The least costly, at $45, is one done by the budget office itself called ""Deficiency Apportionments.''

This latest effort to trim back the number of reports that are written - nobody knows how many are ever read before being thrown away or left to gather dust - is the third in recent years. Similar bills enacted in 1980 and 1982 killed or modified a total of about 150 reports at a savings of about $12 million a year, the budget office says.

Roughly half this year's target list has already been objected to, according to Susan M. …

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