July 31, 1985

To the Congress of the United States:

We share a common objective -- to make government more responsive and sensitive to the needs of the people. Over the past several years, significant progress has been made toward:

  • Controlling the growth of government by selectively limiting funding through the budget process and by controlling personnel levels;
  • Identifying and preventing waste and fraud in government spending;
  • Improving individual agency management, to further reduce costs and make better use of its resources;
  • Developing government-wide management systems that can be adapted to the needs of each agency; and
  • Improving agency delivery systems to ensure that services are efficiently delivered to the American people.

Throughout this effort, I have sought the advice and counsel of the private sector. The President's Private Sector Survey on Cost Control conducted systematic studies of agencies to determine more effective and efficient approaches to delivering services to the public. Thousands of recommendations were made and a large number have been and are being implemented.

The Congress has also supported our efforts by giving the Executive branch important tools to improve efficiency, including milestone legislation such as the Paperwork Reduction Act, the Congressional Reports Elimination Acts, the Prompt Payment Act, the Debt Collection Act, and the Deficit Reduction Act.

Today, I am requesting your further assistance to build on this foundation of progress through your continued support of our efforts to improve government performance. I am also asking you to pass a joint resolution establishing productivity improvement as a national goal and to enact management legislation that is critical to further improving the government's operations and reducing its costs. Together we can enhance our government's ability to use business-like procedures, providing the public with higher quality and more timely services at a lower cost -- an objective shared by the Congress and the Executive branch.

The Productivity Improvement Program

The need for and importance of improving the efficiency with which the Federal government delivers goods and services to the American public cannot be overstated. The Federal government now accounts for 24.6% of the GNP. If we pattern our productivity efforts after those which have proven the most productive in the private sector, it is reasonable to expect that we could match or exceed the private sector's gains, which have recently climbed to about 3% per year.

Therefore, I will shortly establish a government-wide program to improve productivity 20% by 1992. Each agency will be called upon to establish specific priorities for improvement of their services, to examine each of their functions, and to achieve agency-wide productivity goals. They will be asked to focus on results, rather than on process. Agencies will be asked to draw upon the creativity and ingenuity of all employees, to properly reward any achievements in productivity improvement, and to minimize any negative impact productivity increases might have on their employees. This management approach is standard in the private sector and we plan to make it standard in the Federal government.

The President's Management Improvement Program: Reform '88 has provided a solid foundation upon which to base this productivity improvement program, as great strides have been made in establishing effective cash and credit management programs, improving agency management systems, lowering administrative costs, and reducing waste and fraud. Some of our Federal agencies have already demonstrated that they can make real improvements in productivity when they commit their time and talent.

The success of this effort will be reinforced by an early expression of Congressional resolve to make productivity improvement a national goal. Each department and agency will report to me through the Office of Management and Budget on their productivity goals, and on both the progress and the problems in accomplishing them. On the basis of that report, our annual management report to the Congress, which is part of the budget, will also describe our efforts to achieve productivity improvements.

The Administration's Management Legislation Initiatives

The Congress has been most helpful in passing legislation that has made management reform possible. To further assure successful implementation of our Management Improvement Program: Reform '88, I have directed the Office of Management and Budget and agencies to transmit legislative proposals which would make it possible to improve substantially the effectiveness of the Executive branch. These management legislative initiatives cover the important areas of fraud prevention, payment integrity and simplification, procurement, reorganization authority, and reduction in regulatory and paperwork burdens. Some of these proposals have already been sent to the Congress, and others will be transmitted in the days ahead. I want to stress that each of these proposals plays an important role in improving government's management, reducing fraud and waste, or improving productivity. I hope that the Congress can enact them promptly.


Now is the time for us to redouble our efforts to improve the operations of government. The budget deficit, the need to make programs more responsive to their beneficiaries, the complexity of the problems we face, and the very size of government itself all require us to apply the best methods and procedures available to improve productivity. Enactment of the various legislative proposals outlined here will enable us to continue and strengthen our joint effort to improve government management.

Federal managers want to do a good job. Given the necessary tools and support, they can do so. Passage of these proposals will demonstrate our commitment to increased productivity and improved management practices in the Federal government. The American people want and deserve a Federal government that is fair, efficient, effective, and, above all, productive.

Ronald Reagan

The White House,

July 31, 1985.