Remarks at a White House Briefing for Administration Officials on Federal Management Reform

August 2, 1983

Thank you all for coming this afternoon. Seeing you here reminds me that we've put together a team of pros, of top-notch professionals. And your talents and energies are getting the business of government back on track.

We haven't been in Washington a long time, but I think we've accomplished a great deal. Nowhere is this more true than here at home. America's economic pulse is getting stronger and steadier every day.

Inflation, which had hit double digits when we took office, is running at the lowest annual rate in more than 15 years -- 2.6 percent for the last 12 months. And that translates into real savings: A medium-income family -- income of $25,000 -- has about $600 more in purchasing power today than it had in 1980. And there's even good news at the supermarket. Food prices not only have stopped rising -- they stopped that last month -- but they actually have declined. You know, for a time there when you went to the market to buy food, it looked as if it might be cheaper to eat money. [Laughter]

The prime interest rate is less than half what it was. The GNP is growing faster than most economists dreamed it would. Personal income is up; production is up; factory orders are up; retail sales are up; and, as we've heard once again today, housing sales are still going up. In the months ahead, I think we'll see more evidence and that even that last dragon -- unemployment -- has started to wilt.

Now, I have a feeling that a lot of you are just as familiar with all these things that I've just said as I am. But the plain truth is, I just like the sound of them so much, that I wanted to say it out loud again. [Laughter]

I have a story about that. I don't know whether Jimmy Stewart would object to my repeating his remarks when we were campaigning together. And he would introduce me at the various banquets out there on the campaign trail, and every time they'd talk about -- the emcee in introducing him, he would talk about his great stardom in pictures and all. And then each time I would get up and think it was only fair -- apologize to the emcee for correcting him, but say in addition to that -- his war record and that Jimmy Stewart not only flew the Hamburg run, but he's a major general in the Air Corps Reserve. And one time, after several of these situations, the master of ceremonies did refer to his military record and then said ``Brigadier General Jimmy Stewart.'' So, when I got up I apologized to the emcee again and said, ``It's `Major General Jimmy Stewart.''' And I'm thinking about this when I think about saying these things over again.

That night when we got back to the hotel, Jimmy said, ``Ron,'' he said, ``that fellow tonight was right.'' [Laughter] He said, ``It is brigadier general.'' He said, ``I just never corrected you before because it sounded so good.'' [Laughter]

So, I think the statistics sound good, and we can all talk about them some more. We've done good teamwork, and I think we can all be proud.

With the cornerstones of our economic program in place, it's time to shine the limelight on another mammoth challenge that we also undertook in the early days of the administration. Our attack was on waste and fraud in the Federal Government. We came here vowing to rein in the unwieldy Federal bureaucracy and get this government running as honestly and efficiently as any successful American business. We've been making some pretty good progress on that, and I've invited you here today to enlist your further help in expanding our reach and making our improvements permanent.

I'm proud to report that through the strike force efforts of our departmental I.G. offices, 29.3 billion tax dollars have been saved or put to better use so far. The Government has collected $3\1/2\ billion in debts that otherwise wouldn't have been collected. The paperwork burden has been cut by 20 percent. Our plan to reduce nondefense Federal employment is ahead of schedule. We've cut the cost of Federal publications by a fifth, travel by 16 percent, and audiovisual projects by 15 percent.

Over at the Veterans Administration, as Harry Walters and Everett Alvarez can tell us, we've set up a computer matching system that stopped a phony benefits check scheme and saved some $70,000 in VA benefits just in that.

At the GSA, Jerry Carmen has really turned things around. He's got work-in-progress time down from 30 days to 7 days, while absorbing budget cuts of 20 percent and the attrition of 7,000 employees.

And over at the Pentagon, Cap Weinberger and our service Secretaries along with many others, have identified nearly $16.1 billion in savings or cost avoidances on waste and fraud. And during the next 7 years, multiyear procurement and other acquisition initiatives will save us almost $30 billion.

There's much more that we've done, but there's still much more to do. Another major initiative undertaken by this administration is our Private Sector Survey on Cost Control, which was established a year and a half ago to identify waste and inefficiency in the Federal Government. Under the chairmanship of Peter Grace, the Survey already has issued 37 reports containing over 2,000 recommendations which could result in cost savings and revenue opportunities totaling as much as $300 billion over the next 3 years. The Survey will issue more reports during the next several months, which should point out even more opportunities to cut corners and save. I expect to receive their final, summary report early this fall.

But as important as whistleblowers, investigators, and surveyors are, what our government needs most are good managers on the frontline. And that's why I need you. And that's why I'm calling on you -- on all program managers in every agency of the Government -- to find more efficient ways of carrying out their programs.

Last fall, I asked Joe Wright to head up the Reform 88 program. And he's coordinating our effort to achieve lasting savings by changing financial and information management systems in every department and agency. Our management improvement initiatives will expand the goals of our earlier efforts to streamline and reorganize the processes that control the money, information, personnel, and property of the Federal Government. These new initiatives will bring us closer to fulfilling a promise that we made to the American people: to limit government to its proper role and make it the servant, not the master, of the people.

There's not a lot of glory in our task, but I'm determined that, when this administration leaves the stage, the American people will have a Federal Government that operates in a businesslike manner. Now, that means providing high-quality, essential public services as efficiently as possible. And it means that, by reducing the money lost to boondoggles, more money will be available for legitimate government programs. By cutting waste and abuse and through better targeting of aid, we can ensure that those Americans who need and deserve our help can get it.

I know we share the same goals, and that I can continue to depend on you for your help. We have a chance to leave our permanent stamp on the executive branch. Together, we can do it. And if we succeed, we'll leave behind a better government and a better nation.

I thank you all for what you've done already, and for all you're about to do for the good of our country and the generations who will follow us. And, again, good luck, and God bless you.

Note: The President spoke at 1:34 p.m. in the East Room at the White House.