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Gore Suggests Biennial Budget

By Stephen Barr and Eric Pianin
The Washington Post

WASHINGTON

Vice President Gore's National Performance Review will recommend that the government adopt a budget every two years -- instead of annually -- and ask Congress to loosen its control over how and where money is spent, according to a draft report of the "reinventing government" initiative.

The idea of going to a biennial budget is already gathering steam on Capitol Hill, but efforts to tamper with the right of appropriations committees to "earmark" funds for specific projects are likely to encounter strong resistance.

In addition to revamping the budget process, the draft report outlines major changes in the civil service system and promises to "eliminate thousands of other regulations that hamstring federal employees, cutting the final Lilliputian ropes on the federal giant."

The draft prescribes a series of executive orders for Clinton to issue and provides a list of recommendations that require congressional approval. Many are aimed at saving money or making government more responsive to taxpayers. They include:

* Pledging that tax refunds will be mailed by the Internal Revenue Service within 40 days -- and even faster if taxpayers file by computer.

* Promising that "on most days" the Social Security Administration will answer its 800 number "the first time you try."

* Creating a President's Management Council to conduct a governmentwide review and submit within 18 months a report on closing and consolidating civilian federal facilities. The Agriculture Department alone has more than 11,000 field offices across the country.

* Restructuring the nation's air traffic control system into a government-owned corporation, supported by user fees and governed by a board "that represents the system's customers." Relieved of operational responsibilities, the Federal Aviation Administration would focus on regulating safety.

The 162-page draft recounts Washington's failures -- from the budget deficit to wasteful practices to ineffective regulations.

Government workers "fill out forms that should never have been written, follow rules that should never have been imposed and prepare reports that serve no purpose -- and are often never even read. In the name of controlling waste, we have created paralyzing inefficiency," the report says.

The draft, dated Aug. 23, is one of several circulating inside the executive branch as Gore's team continually updates the report, scheduled for release Sept. 7. The draft report does not provide estimates on how much would be saved by the streamlining proposals.

Marla Romash, the vice president's director of communications, said Monday that "the August 23rd draft is most certainly outdated." It has been rewritten four times since then, she said, adding, "There are things not included, things dropped and things clarified."

Sections of the report, however, seem assured of administration approval, as they mirror what Gore has said to federal workers in his "town hall" meetings over the last six months.

The civil service system -- recruitment, hiring, job classification, promotion, pay and bonuses -- faces a major overhaul, for example.

Clinton would issue an executive order phasing out the Federal Personnel Manual and all agency implementing directives, totaling about 10,000 pages, on Dec. 31, 1994, the draft says.

Agencies, in turn, will be given the authority to recruit and test for all job openings, including the Senior Executive Service, the draft says. Recruitment, hiring and promotions are currently handled by the Office of Personnel Management, and changing the personnel rules would require approval by Congress.