Radio Address to the Nation on Fiscal Integrity and Efficiency in the Federal Government

 

August 22, 1987

 

My fellow Americans:

 

Throughout the history of our Republic, many a candidate has promised that if elected he would clean up the mess in Washington. Well, when I got to Washington 6\1/2\ years ago, I found the mess still here. Our Federal Government was weighted down with waste, victimized by fraud, and out of step with modern management techniques. We started on day one to set things right. To begin with, we brought in topnotch inspectors general for Federal departments and agencies, who were instructed not only to be tough on waste, fraud, and abuse but, as my Press Secretary Jim Brady put it, to be as mean as junkyard dogs. In March of 1981, a Council on Integrity and Efficiency composed of these inspectors general was established to ensure that our cleanup operation left no stone unturned. Over the years, you've probably heard snippets on the news about outrageously expensive wrenches purchased by the military and other stories concerning government waste. More often than not, what you've been hearing are success stories -- stories of waste or fraud uncovered and corrected.

 

In the last few years, we've made enormous strides in our efforts to ensure that you get the maximum benefit out of every tax dollar you send to Washington. Already, over $90 billion had been put to better use since we took office. And I fully expect this trend to continue. Just this week, I signed H.R. 1444, which will improve the Government's tools for weeding out fraud and abuse in the Medicare and Medicaid programs. Furthermore, through Reform '88 -- my governmentwide management improvement program -- efficient new business techniques have been put in place. This includes a new comprehensive cash management system that now oversees the Federal Government's $1.8 trillion annual cash flow. By relying on the existing private sector banking structure, the new system has reduced cost from 1983 through 1986 by $2.3 billion. We've also reduced the Federal publication inventory by one-fourth, at a savings of $35 million. And by using private travel companies, the Federal Government has saved $762 million in its annual travel budget. And the list goes on.

 

We've also turned up the heat on those who have the means but refuse to pay their debts to the Federal Government. Over at the Department of Education, for example, we found that many individuals -- some in high-paying jobs -- simply ignored pleas that they repay their long-overdue student loans. Our efforts to crack down have paid off. Collections of loans have almost quadrupled since 1981, from $80 million to over $300 million last year. Last month, Budget Director Jim Miller announced that the entire Federal Government will be accelerating the drive to collect the delinquent $68.3 billion it's owed.

 

But piece-by-piece change is not enough. In 1982 we established a commission headed by Peter Grace -- one of the country's most prominent businessmen -- to set down a long-term strategy for streamlining our government. Mr. Grace put together a team of experts and went through our Federal Government from top to bottom. Their report is now the basis for ongoing reform that should save tens of billions of dollars over the next decade. The recommendations include everything from stepped-up privatization of Federal services to the reform of our budget system. Building on this success, Peter Grace and a group of dedicated business leaders are now forming the United States taxpayers commission to keep the focus on reducing costs rather than raising taxes. I expect they'll bring renewed interest to streamline Federal operations and to ensure that you, the American people, are getting all the government you're paying for.

 

Getting the waste out of government, of course, requires not just a commitment from the executive branch but also from Congress. Unfortunately, expenses, special interest provisions, are often added to needed legislation. We can no longer afford this costly all-or-nothing way of doing business. The President should be able to cut the fat yet keep the meat of spending bills that reach his desk. The tool needed to cut that fat is the line-item veto. Congress has the power to enact this needed reform right now. I hope you agree with me it's time every elected official be part of our effort to protect the take-home pay of the American people by getting waste out of government.

 

Until next week, thanks for listening, and God bless you.

 

Note: The President spoke at 9:06 a.m. from his ranch in Santa Barbara County, CA.