5.90 Solutions for Government

Some things that would put government back in its place:

  • Whenever a government scandal pops up, the Administration should immediately freeze spending. If they do not, Congress should. This is sort of analogous to hitting the brakes when you see a deer in the road. Once a problem appears, slow down and see what what is going on. If the affected Department responds by cutting very visible programs to ignite public outcries, then the Congress must cut it again. Cutting funding is the only thing that can get the attention of government’s 4th Branch.
  • The 17th Amendment to the Constitution must be repealed so that the States are represented in the Senate by people who are there primarily to vote in the interest of their State, not to insure their popularity with the voters or to align with their Party. The House of Representatives reflects the will of the voters. The Senate was turned into a less accountable version of the House by the 17th Amendment.
  • Federal budgets must be zero-base with no automatic annual increases. None. Nada. Zero.
  • Term limits, while a popular idea, will not solve the underlying problems in Washington, and will create a whole new set of unanticipated problems. A better idea would be to make sure members of the government are treated the same way as normal citizens. Repealing the 17th Amendment will help.
  • Although it seems counter-intuitive, more Federal Officials should be elected and the Hatch Act should be revisited. An entire book could be written on this subject, but the bottom line is that there are many Federal offices with power and little accountability. And there are many Federal employees who understand government, but who cannot speak their minds or run for office. I note that in Texas the office that issues vehicle registrations is lead by a locally elected official and is usually a pretty efficient operation. On the other hand, the driver’s license office, run by the State, is often used as an example of an inept bureaucracy with long lines and overwhelmed employees.
  • Sunset reviews of all elements of all Departments must be periodically conducted.
  • Federal Departments must insure that all employees receive the training necessary to understand our Constitution, our system of government, and their responsibility to adhere to the Constitution and the law. All employees must be aware that they are to defend and protect the Constitution.
  • Each Federal Department, Administration and Agency must be given a clear mission and scope by the Congress. That scope must be communicated to all employees and must be included in all mission statements. This will help prevent non-authorized Federal Department mission creep.
  • Each Federal Department subdivided into geographical areas must be managed and organized by State. The senior leadership of each Federal Department for the State must be located in a State capital if that agency has physical assets or provides major services in that city, or collocated with one of its assets in the State. This will enable citizens to see how much money is spent in each State, and will allow for non-Constitutional federal functions to be taken over seamlessly by the States over time.
  • All Federal Departments, Administrations and Agencies must have one signature and one logo. All organizational subdivisions must include “U.S.” in all uses of their signatures or logos. Currently the vast number of logos and signatures within each Department make it extremely difficult to determine where each office fits in the government.
  • Federal Departments, administrations and agencies must publish their overhead costs and the percentage of their budgets that were spent on overhead. Overhead shall be defined as all costs that are not directly related to the services, benefits or entitlements provided. Congress must provide overall overhead guidelines which will be refined and implemented by OMB under the management of GAO who will conduct or arrange periodic audits. This will help control efficiency, but will require oversight since the Departments will constantly attempt to move employees and costs out of overhead and into direct services. And someone will need to also audit OMB and GAO.
  • Budget authorizations must be worded to allow carryover to future fiscal years. There are pros and cons to this, but there must be a way to insure that funds are wisely spent.
  • Government contracts and services must be procured solely through consideration of cost, quality, and time. Any additional costs associated with other considerations shall be paid for with funds appropriated solely for that purpose. In other words, if the work can be done for $100,000, but the work is going to be awarded for $120,000 to meet a small business goal, then the difference, $20,000 must come from funds appropriated by Congress for meeting small business goals established by law. The public must be notified before such a contract can be awarded. Ideally goals for Small Business, minority owned businesses, women owned businesses etc. should be eliminated from the procurement process. Buying American should be encouraged, but practiced with some flexibility.
  • The Davis-Bacon Act should be repealed.
  • Federal salaries should be made more public.
  • In order to make these kinds of changes work, State panels or boards to provide oversight of all Federal operations in each State should be created.
  • The privatization of federal lands, including National Parks, should be a part of periodic sunset reviews.
  • The mission of VA should be to help Veterans return to civilian life, and to care for those who cannot. VA should consist of a relatively small number of hospitals that would serve as the core for taking care of Service-Connected Veterans and would stand in readiness for the next war. These should be government owned facilities located in areas where discharges to civilian life are made, and near our nations premiere medical facilities so that the medical staff can maintain the proficiencies that will be needed for the next influx of Service-Connected Veterans. The VA should also include long-term care facilities for those Veterans who are unable to return to civilian life due to physical or mental injuries. Non-combat related Veterans’ health care should be privatized and/or perhaps merged with TRICARE.
  • In doing these reforms, the Congress must be very careful about all new laws because laws can have unintended consequences. A law that makes it easier to remove corrupt employees (great!) may also makes it easier to remove whistleblowers (oops!). A law that allows bonuses to be taken back from federal employees may decrease the number of bonus awards thus reducing incentives for employees to step outside of their position descriptions and try to do the right thing. If a proposed law is not carefully worded and thought through, then loopholes may be created. If bonuses are limited, time off, promotions, and within grade increases may increase. These could cost the government more money over time than the bonuses they replace. Once a law is passed, then the changes it makes have to be woven into the vast web of existing laws and regulations in ways that can be consistently applied and defended. Federal Departments did not pass the laws they must follow. Since the Federal government has been in existence there have been periodic scandals. New laws have followed each scandal. Perhaps it is time to recognize that waiting for scandals and passing more laws has not worked. It is time to change the strategy and start eliminating laws that have created case after case of collateral damage.
  • Working for government should be thought of as a calling, not as just another employment option. Government workers should be called Civil Servants as they were a number of years ago. Pay and promotions should be based on character, integrity, and allegiance to our Constitution.
  • The federal government should have a standing Navy (that would include Marines) and Air Force since they are necessary for the defense of our nation. However, to better align with our Constitution, and to bring some control of the military closer to the people and the States, the federal government should not have a standing Army. Instead the peacetime Army should consist of State guards or militias that can be converted to a Federal force under the command of the President. Much more could, and should, be said about this, but the increasing divide between the nation’s military culture and civilian cultures (plural intentionally) could become a dangerous if not recognized and addressed.
  • Whenever feasible government conferences should be held in places that are significant to our nation’s history and system of government. These should include Washington DC, State Capitals, military posts, National Parks, and historic cities and sites such as Boston, Philadelphia, the Gettysburg Battlefield, the Alamo, and Pearl Harbor. Government Civil Servants should be experts on our system of government and our history.

Each government failure is an opportunity to make these structural changes. The changes need to be initiated from outside government with help from within by Civil Servants who see the opportunities for change.

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