Radio Address to the Nation on Federal Civilian Employment

August 20, 1983

My fellow Americans:

Before getting into the main subject of today's broadcast, I have what I think is a newsworthy item.

Just about a year ago the Security and Loan Association of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, made a sizable sum -- millions of dollars -- available for home mortgage loans at an 11.9-percent interest rate. The going rate at the time was about 16 percent. I'm happy to say a number of banks throughout the country followed suit. I'm even happier to say that Milwaukee Security Savings and Loan has done it again. One hundred million dollars has been made available for home mortgages at a 9.9-percent interest rate. The president of the savings and loan says it's their way of trying to help the economic recovery that is now under way. Well, they deserve a big ``thank you'' from all of us.

Last month, on one of these talks, I told you about a few of the things we've been doing to cut down on waste and fraud, unnecessary paperwork, redtape, and on abuses of Federal loan programs, all adding up to current and future savings to you, the taxpayer, of billions of dollars. Well, I didn't have any illusions about making the front page with that information, and we didn't. But I thought you had a right to know we've been making progress in restoring government to its rightful role as the servant of the people.

Today, I'd like to share with you some of the other things we're doing to protect your tax dollars and make government more efficient and responsive to your needs.

One important area in which we've made real progress is the employment figure for nondefense Federal agencies. There are a number of vital functions that the Federal Government has to perform, as we all know. But the Federal Government should perform those functions in an efficient, economical manner. It shouldn't cost you, the taxpayer, a penny more than is needed to get the job done.

With that in mind, we made a department-by-department, agency-by-agency review of government operations, looking for needless fat. As a result, by last January, there were 112,000 fewer people working in nondefense Federal agencies. Fifteen departments, agencies, and commissions have been able to reduce their payroll numbers by 20 percent or more. And we've accomplished 90 percent of these savings not by layoffs, but by just not replacing those who retired or left government service. And guess what? The Government is actually doing things more efficiently than it was before.

We're still providing the needed services, and we're doing it with fewer people. The savings to the taxpayer is nearly a billion and a half dollars a year in salaries alone. As you know, most civilian government jobs are not particularly hazardous. Yet we found that one out of every four retirements from government service was a disability retirement. The government didn't require much evidence of disability and this led to considerable abuse of the system.

Today, just by requiring adequate evidence before allowing that kind of retirement, the figure is down nearly 40 percent since 1979 with a savings to the taxpayer of more than a billion dollars by 1985. And to help prevent accidents and disabilities, we have initiated a new health and safety program for Federal employees to reduce the number of injury claims by 3 percent per year over the next 5 years.

The civil service retirement system is one of the most generous in the world. And of course, we all want dedicated government employees to be rewarded for their efforts, just as the overwhelming majority of Americans who work in the private sector deserve to be. But sometimes civil servants have received preferred treatment.

When we came to office, the civil service retirement system was indexing benefits to inflation twice a year, an advantage enjoyed by virtually no one in the private sector. By going to a once-a-year cost-of-living adjustment for Federal retirees and by making other fair adjustments, we have continued to protect them from inflation while saving the taxpayer some 2\1/2\ billion by 1985.

In recent weeks, there's been a lot of talk about my call for merit pay to reward outstanding teachers in America's schools. Well, I think the same principle should apply to the Federal Government itself. Earlier this year, we announced a proposal to require Federal employees to earn, not just automatically inherit, their pay raises. We're still working with Members of the Congress to refine this merit plan to reward good work and good workers so that you, the people, are better served by your government.

Finally, there's something I'd like to get off my chest. It deals with all those headlines about the Pentagon paying $100 for a 4-cent diode or $900 for a plastic cap. What is missing or buried in all those stories about waste is who provided those figures for all the horror stories. This administration exposed those abuses -- abuses that had been going on for years. It was Defense Secretary Cap Weinberger's people, his auditors and inspectors, who ordered the audits in the first place, conducted the investigations, and formed a special unit to prosecute defense-related fraud. In just an 18-month period, the Defense Department has obtained 650 convictions, and we're going to keep on exposing these abuses where we find them. I thought you deserved to know that.

Well, till next week, thanks for listening. God bless you.

Note: The President spoke at 9:06 a.m. from Rancho del Cielo, his ranch near Santa Barbara, Calif.