Senator: Focus reform efforts on results

Senator: Focus reform efforts on results

Agencies shouldn't expect the

Congress should make sure changes are being implemented before drafting new laws, Thompson says

By Christopher J. Dorobek

GCN Staff

Congress should spend more time checking up on the implementation of federal information technology and other management reforms it has enacted and less time drafting new laws, Sen. Fred Thompson said this month.

The Tennessee Republican and chairman of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee said the acquisition, IT and financial management reforms passed in the early 1990s are beginning to take effect and foster better government decision-making. But those laws need time to sink in, he said.

Step back

'We need to take a breath from all these laws that we're passing and go back and make sure they're being implemented,' Thompson said after giving a speech at the recent Excellence in Government '99 conference in Washington. 'That's going to mean not just new laws. That's going to mean better oversight. That is certainly the case as far as the Government Performance and Results Act is concerned.'

The reform efforts have given agencies the tools to improve performance, he said.

In his speech, Thompson said Congress needs to ask whether the government is getting results from the reform programs.

'Congress has to do a better job of oversight,' he said.

One problem with the Results Act is that there is little quality data to go on, Thompson said. Agency executives and Congress depend on such data to make accurate decisions and to determine whether programs are achieving results, he said, adding that agencies must ensure that decisions are based on correct information.

Thompson said he is frustrated that some of the government's worst management problems seem endemic. Many of the programs that are listed by the General Accounting Office as being high risk have been on the list for years, he pointed out.

He warned agencies not to expect lawmakers to throw money from the budget surplus at the troubled programs. Most of the surplus will go to Social Security, Medicare and Defense Department programs, he said.

Thompson said one area that needs revamping is civil service employment rules.

'We've got to take a better look at what kind of work force is needed,' he said.

He noted that the IRS has been freed from civil service hiring requirements. 'If that's such a great idea for the IRS, what about everyone else?' he said. 'We may need to revisit the one-size-fits-all civil service system.'

Thompson said that Congress should consider a separate salary scale for IT workers.

'I think we should look at all of that. I think the salary compression problem, the pay scale flexibility we're giving the IRS, all of that needs to be examined,' Thompson said. 'I can't endorse any particular proposal right now, but I think we need to look at all that.'

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