Progress Report-Chapter 2


Workforce Reduction

In order to reinvent government and increase performance, NPR has sought to reduce the command-and-control structures that stifle innovation and evoke fear in workers. Perhaps NPR's most controversial recommendation was to reduce the federal workforce by 252,000 positions by 1999. (The President and Congress later increased that figure to 272,900.) No NPR recommendation has caused more confusion, if not hostility. [14]

By reducing control structures, and the number of individuals at the controls, NPR seeks greater flexibility for workers. Unfortunately, some federal workers have interpreted this recommendation as an assault on all government employees. In fact, front-line workers are not the prime candidates for this 13 percent reduction. Rather, it's the 660,000 in positions of overcontrol and micromanagement.

Workforce reductions were inevitable--with or without NPR and last year's report; the budget deficit continues to squeeze all federal spending. The question, then, was not whether to reduce the federal workforce, but how.

Supporting the reduction--and acknowledging the difficulty of achieving it humanely--Congress overwhelmingly approved the Administration's request for legislation to allow agencies to offer buyouts of up to $25,000 per employee. Generally offered through next March 31, 60,000 to 100,000 employees are expected to sign up. [15]

The President signed the buyout legislation March 30, terming it an important milestone toward bringing meaningful change in the way this government does business and renewing the faith of citizens around this country. [16] Independent observers agreed; as the Washington Post put it, "For the first time, an Administration will have an alternative to hiring freezes and layoffs." [17]


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