All organizations have rules of some sort. They standardize procedures, give workers a common frame of reference, and serve to prevent abuse and corruption. Over time, however, organizations accumulate rule after rule as they try to prevent this abuse or that. The rules not only clash with one another, they interfere with the goals of putting customers first and empowering employees to get results. At that point, they earn an ugly moniker--red tape.
At the federal level, red tape hangs like a noose around processes and relationships. It has tied the procurement process in knots, preventing federal workers from buying what they need at the corner store. It has poisoned the relationships among executive agencies that, at least in theory, are working for the same President. It also has produced a thicket of regulations through which the federal government relates to state and local governments. In these cases and others, the results have proved disastrous. The rules and regulations have become ends in themselves, diverting attention from the goals that government has set out.
So thick is the red tape, so pervasive is its presence, that the Administration has only begun to cut it back. In the following pages, you will learn that:
President Clinton and 10 agencies have begun to revolutionize the procurement process, already saving at least $50 million and holding out prospects for literally billions more.
The General Services Administration is now providing other federal agencies with the support they need, whether they are seeking office space or looking to rid themselves of furniture.
The Office of Management and Budget is building cooperative relationships with Cabinet departments while it increases its own focus on management across the executive branch.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has streamlined its operations, freeing its inspectors to better protect American workers.
The Small Business Administration has dramatically streamlined the process through which its customers apply for small SBA-backed loans, thus enticing more customers and banks to participate.
The President and Congress are providing state and local governments with new flexibility in how they use federal funds and comply with federal regulations.
Notwithstanding these successes, government's natural tendency is to create more and more red tape as it confronts demanding new challenges. Eliminating it is not a job for the short-winded.