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National Partnership for Reinventing Government



Well it Seemed Like a Good Idea - at the Time

Dialing for Dollars - Navy's Waterproof Phone

A submersible phone: A great gift idea for the water enthusiast on your holiday gift list!

Submersible PhoneA few years back, the Navy bought submersible phones for their carriers because, unlike regular phones, these phones would still work after they'd been dunked in water. Sounds smart, right? Think again! Each submersible phone costs about $500 compared to about $30 for a regular phone. At that rate, the Navy would have to lose 17 aircraft carriers to cover the cost difference of just one phone (And, if that happens, the Navy has a lot more to worry about than the cost of a few telephones!). So, the Navy smartened up and switched to common desk models costing about $30 each.

Less is More - The Federal Specifications for French Fries

If you think the influence of a document is proportional to its length, think again. A comparison of these influential and not-so-influential documents suggests otherwise:

The Pledge of Allegiance

31 Words

Preamble to the U.S. Constitution

38 Words

The Gettysburg Address

266 Words

Declaration of Independence

300 Words

Federal Specifications for Making French Fried Potatoes

2,700 Words

French FriesAs part of its effort to cut red tape, the Federal government purged thousands of pages of lengthy, and often ludicrous, product specifications. These pages: described how to make French fries; defined acceptable ashtrays (or, in government-speak, "ash receivers, tobacco [desk type]"); provided instructions on how to determine fish freshness; and so on. Does anyone miss these tomes? Just late-night talk-show hosts who used them for comic relief.

Cash Cows - The Navy Dairy

A sprawling dairy farm at the U. S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland long outlived its original purpose. Why? Apparently because Congress was overly-attached to its own creation.

Congress created and stocked the dairy with cows during the early 1900s. The idea was that the facility would provide the Academy with its own milk supply after contaminated milk from a commercial producer caused a typhoid outbreak there. But, by the mid-1960s, improved processing techniques virtually eliminated the threat of disease from commercial milk. Moreover, the antiquated facility became increasingly expensive to run.

The Navy repeatedly sought Congressional approval to stop operating the dairy, but it wasn’t until 1997, when the price of the dairy’s milk exceeded supermarket prices by 30 cents per gallon, that Congress finally agreed. The Navy milked its last cow on August 8, 1998.

Purchasing Power - Government Procurement

Before the reinvention initiative, the typical Federal worker was not authorized to buy so much as a $4.00 stapler for the office. The government vested this purchasing power solely in a group of specialists trained to confront (and sometimes create) the mountains of paper-work government purchases involved. This policy wasted time and effort and even prevented Federal employees from taking advantage of cost-saving sales. When it came to buying computers, the process was even worse - so cumbersome, in fact, that by the time the computers arrived, they were obsolete.

Since 1993, however, thanks to recommendations from Vice President Gore’s National Partnership for Reinventing Government (NPR), Congress passed a series of laws to streamline Federal purchasing procedures. Now individual employees can buy things (up to $2,500) they need for their jobs, using bank credit cards. Federal workers can now shop around and buy quickly, saving the government time and money. (For more information on credit card acquisition, Federal employees should contact their agency Procurement Office.)

For more information, visit the NPR Internet site, or contact William Ryan at (202) 694-0075.


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