President Clinton on Wednesday commended a government streamlining effort headed by Vice President Al Gore, who said $47 billion was saved in the program's first year, mainly by eliminating 71,000 jobs.
"We are changing the way the federal government works," Clinton said.Gore's "reinventing government" program has languished in near-obscurity after a big sendoff in 1993 and a lighthearted appearance by Gore on David Letterman's late-night talk show. With polls showing few voters believe Clinton is keeping his campaign promise to trim the government, the White House hopes Wednesday's South Lawn ceremony will capitalize on Americans distaste for big bureaucracy.
"We must find ways to make these dollars go further," said Clinton, who cut a huge strip of red tape on his way to the stage.
Gore said his effort, which he predicted eventually will save $108 billion, is the reason for "money saved, personnel cuts . . . bills passed by Congress. This is a record of great success." He presented Clinton a status report on the operation.
In the document, "Culture Change: Reinventing the Federal Government," the administration pats itself on the back for what it said were achievements during the last year in slimming down the federal bureaucracy, simplifying purchasing and saving money.
A year ago, the National Performance Review, headed by Gore, made 384 recommendations it said would save the government $108 billion over five years.
But a recent appraisal by the Brookings Institution, a Washington-based think tank, said the reorganization made little progress in its first year.
The research group said the National Performance Review set in motion a reform movement and asked the right questions. But it said the endeavor focused so closely on short-terms savings that government bureaucrats - the people most needed to make the plan succeed - were alienated.
As of Sept. 1, Congress had enacted $47 billion of the projected savings, the report says, and an additional $16 billion in estimated savings were pending in conference committees.
Much of the savings was realized through a reduction in the federal payroll. The report says 71,000 jobs have been eliminated, primarily through worker buyouts.