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Historical Note

In February 1982, Ronald Reagan announced at a press conference that he would form a group of “outstanding experts from the private sector” that would conduct an in-depth review of the entire Executive Branch, and make recommendations for eliminating waste and inefficiency. On June 30 he issued the Executive Order establishing the President’s Private Sector Survey on Cost Control in the Federal Government (PPSSCC). The PPSSCC was popularly called the “Grace Commission” after its Chairman J. Peter Grace, the CEO of W. R. Grace & Company.

Mr. Grace oversaw the PPSSCC Executive Committee, a group of over 150 prominent business leaders who volunteered their time as overseers and members of the PPSSCC Task Forces. Each of the 36 Task Forces reviewed particular Executive Branch agencies or functions. The Foundation for the President’s Private Sector Cost Control Survey, a separate organization led by Mr. Grace, raised private donations to fund the PPSSCC. The PPSSCC Management Office, led by NSC detailees James “Bud” Nance (1982-83) and Nancy Colson, worked with the Department of Commerce to provide support on computer issues, agency liaison, and other related matters. The White House Counsel’s Office supplied legal advice on PPSSCC organization and functioning, and coordinated the personnel clearance process for members of the Executive Committee. 

The PPSSCC was originally given six months to complete its work, but subsequent Executive Orders postponed the deadline to January 1984. The Commission’s final Report to the President contained about 2500 specific recommendations for reform. Each task force issued a final report as well. The White House Office of Cabinet Affairs assumed Administration responsibility for tracking the implementation of the PPSSCC’s recommendations. After about a year, this tracking responsibility was transferred to OMB. Most of the recommendations, especially those requiring legislation from Congress, were never implemented. However, the Commission’s work provided a starting point for many conservative critiques of the federal government. 

Scope and Content

The Reagan Library’s presidential records pertaining to the PPSSCC document the Administration’s drafting of the relevant Executive Orders, discussion of the legal basis for the PPSSCC, the applicability of federal employee ethics laws to members of the PPSSCC Executive Committee and Task Forces, the selection and vetting of Executive Committee members, PPSSCC press kits and publications, White House meetings and events involving Executive Committee members, the recommendations made by the PPSSCC and its task forces, the initial Cabinet Affairs office tracking of these recommendations, Administration efforts to implement the recommendations, internal White House searches for Reagan presidential records pertaining to the PPSSCC, correspondence with members of Congress or the public regarding the PPSSCC, the formation of subsequent private sector organizations to carry on the PPSSCC’s work, the relationship between the PPSSCC’s recommendations and those of the later “Reform 88” program, Freedom of Information Act requests for records pertaining to the PPSSCC, the Reorganization Act of 1977, administrative matters such as PPSSCC telephone and mail procedures, and controversies involving the PPSSCC. This last category includes material on ongoing efforts by Congressional Democrats and the General Accounting Office to exercise oversight over the PPSSCC. It also includes public allegations that the PPSSCC’s staffing and operating methods violated the Federal Advisory Committee Act and Freedom of Information Act. These allegations formed the basis for a lawsuit filed by the National Anti-Hunger Coalition

The Reagan Library’s archival holdings contain several draft and final copies of the PPSSCC’s Report to the President, as well as the Task Force reports. A set of these reports is available in the Reagan Library research room. 

At this point, the Reagan Library staff has not located any working files from the PPSSCC itself in the Library’s holdings. Also, the PPSSCC should not be confused with the “private sector initiatives” groups that operated within the Administration, and shared some of the PPSSCC’s goals and personnel.

Last Updated: 03/29/2021 10:40PM

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