Deregulating the Public Service: Can Government Be Improved?

By John J. Diiulio Jr. | Go to book overview

5
Deregulating the Federal
Service: Is the Time Right?

Constance Homer

CALLS TO UNBURDEN federal managers of gratuitous and obstructive regulations governing decisions on personnel, budgets, and procurement go back at least a decade. But although they are a staple of the expert's and insider's critique of government, they remain insufficiently answered by action. Recent changes in the political and economic environment, however, simultaneously raise the stakes for continued failure to loosen these constraints and present a rare opportunity for reform.

The stakes are raised because it has become important to the economy that America receive efficient and innovative performances from its federal managers. Not only has the Clinton presidency increased federal intervention in the domestic economy--the list of regulatory initiatives in its first three months runs to five single-spaced pages--but American business confronts intensified global competition. Now more than ever, economic growth is either assisted or impeded by the quality and character of government action.1

At the same time, if long-standing barriers can be overcome, opportunity for reform of federal management practices, an opportunity created by a confluence of political catalysts, is greater than at any time in the past decade and a half. As the 1992 Ross Perot presidential campaign showed, public demand for better government, however defined, is strong and the public newly attentive to the processes of government. Public attentiveness is a sine qua non of congressional willingness to act. President Clinton, with only 43 percent of the vote in 1992, not only must make a record of reform to respond to Perot supporters' demands, he also needs to defend his reputation as a New Democrat before the "reinventing government" element within the Democratic Leadership Council.

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