Like all of their recent predecessors, senior officials of the Reagan administration have spoken both frequently and with enthusiasm of their intention to save large amounts of taxpayers' money while making the federal government more responsive and dramatically increasing agency productivity. All of this is to be done by shaping up the federal bureaucracy.
The main activity which has emerged so far has been to implement a hiring freeze, to reduce the size of the federal bureaucracy through firings and furloughs, and to advocate a barely specified form of cabinet governance. While these actions may save money in the short run, they will not improve the actual functioning of the federal bureaucracy.
Indeed, ideas emerging from presidential appointees frequently tend to be irrelevant for one simple reason: most secretaries, assistant secretaries and even deputy assistant secretaries know very little about federal bureaucracy when they come to Washington and subsequently spend a remarkably small portion of their time learning about it—a fact that in itself is one of the major obstacles to improving the management of the federal government.
Few secretaries, assistant secretaries and deputy assistant secretaries in any administration can resist the call of endless meetings with their counterparts from the states, other federal agencies or the big interest groups. Even more compelling for them is the siren call of travel to Paris, Peoria, and sundry places east and west to spread both enlightenment and the gospel of their administration and to revel in the attention automatically granted many visiting federal officials.