- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 6, 2001

The Clinton administrations staff cuts are to blame for much of the waste, fraud and abuse in the federal government, according to a report released yesterday by Sen. Fred Thompson, Tennessee Republican.

The report, filed by Mr. Thompson on his last day as chairman of the Senate Government Affairs Committee, found that staff reductions under Mr. Clinton "actually detracted from the capacity of agencies to carry out essential functions and made them more vulnerable to fraud, waste and mismanagement."

The report said the layoffs caused a "brain drain that cost the government many of its most experienced and valuable employees."

More importantly, the administration did not provide a commensurate reduction in federal responsibilities, meaning "the federal government wound up doing the same old things in the same old way, but with fewer experienced employees."

At a press conference yesterday, Mr. Thompson downplayed the report´s criticism of the Clinton administration, saying it would take leadership and bipartisanship to fix the problem.

The findings are part of two-volume, 200-page report cataloging reports of mismanagement filed over the last two years by the General Accounting Office, departmental inspectors general and others.

That report found problems not only with the federal work force, but with financial management, information technology and with overlap and duplication of government efforts.

"This is something the president takes very seriously," said Office of Management and Budget Director Mitch Daniels, who accepted the report from Mr. Thompson at the press conference.

"[Mr. Thompson] has provided us a road map to attack a problem that has been festering for a long time," he said.

Mr. Thompson said many of the problems, including Boston´s $13.6 billion "Big Dig" highway project, which is more than five times more expensive than projected, mammoth financial mismanagement at the Department of Defense, and $12 billion in annual mispayments from Medicare, "were not created by the Clinton administration. But the Clinton administration did not give them the attention they deserved, either."

Also on a top-10 list of the worst examples of mismanagement is the Internal Revenue Service for its financial shortcomings.

But Mr. Daniels said he and the White House will reject the funding increases recommended by the IRS Oversight Board, an independent board created by Congress. The board says the Bush administration´s request for a 4.7 percent funding increase for the agency is inadequate.

Mr. Daniels dismissed the recommendation as having come from a "single-issue" group.

The report took aim at duplication of government effort, such as the nine agencies operating 27 teen-pregnancy programs, and raw mismanagement, such as $1.3 billion in mispayments made by the Department of Agriculture through the food stamp program.

But the report also found fault with Congress.

"We, as senators, presume already that the Pentagon needs more money," the report quotes Sen. Charles E. Grassley, Iowa Republican, as saying during a speech from the Senate floor this winter. But, Mr. Grassley continued, "the Pentagon does not know how much it spends, [and] if the Pentagon does not know what it owns and spends, then how does the Pentagon know it needs more money?"

Mr. Thompson said the report shows that the government must also make some new investments in human capital and technology.

"We need to get the federal government into the 21st century, even if we have to drag it in kicking and screaming," the report concluded.

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