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derstand the pros and cons that relate to these different subjects. So I am afraid that this is what can be misleading, that the reading of some of these things, as they have been done in early drafts, raise alarms and concerns when they are far from final, they are far from complete. It is our job—
The CHAIRMAN. Mr. Larkin, if I can, let me see if I can keep us down here where my problem is. The very next paragraph says “Size and Scope of the Opportunity. Level of total cost for the CSRS is indicated below: 1970, $2.7 billion; 1981, $17.7 billion; 1982 estimate, $19.8 billion” and so on. What are you doing, in light of the description you gave us of the purpose of this task force, by going into this issue in the first place. What does the question of who is covered by social security have to do with the administration of Federal employee pensions, as distinguished from the question of whether the Federal employee pension system should be replaced by social security coverage.
You said all through your statement that you are not going to get into substance and policy, but that is clearly a policy question. That has nothing to do with whether they presently write the checks by hand and could be doing it better with a computer; that is what you are supposed to be looking at, business-like efficiencies in carrying out their mission. But you go into great detail here on how much money could be saved by the Government if they were to include Federal employees in social security and combine social security with the Federal pension system. What does that have to do with the efficient administration of the existing Federal pension process?
Mr. LARKIN. I do not know that we know yet, but I think we feel we should look. The line of demarcation between a policy and an established practice and the program with which it is implemented sometimes is very narrow. While recommendations for greater efficiency may impact two different agencies doing the same thing, I think it is worth taking a look at it. How we are going to conclude, I do not know. But as I say, there is some difficulty in making a fine line of distinction when you are trying to find out how they are spending the money.
As I say, this is so preliminary, Mr. Chairman, that I urge you not to infer from them that they are final conclusions in any way. We have not received any final conclusions.
The CHAIRMAN. That is not the problem. The question is, in light of your description-and now I am looking at a release from the Office of the Press Secretary, the White House, dated July 15, and this is a factsheet on the President's "Private Sector Survey on Cost Control in the Federal Government.” It is an explanation that was given to all the media and came to us of what you were about and what you were to do. It says here:
The survey will concentrate on eliminating duplication and inefficiency. Policy, programs, and organizational structure will not be specifically addressed unless spe
cial circumstances so dictate.
Do you understand that as I understand it, and do you agree with that?
Mr. LARKIN. Yes, I do; and I say that special circumstances may indicate that two programs in different areas are overlapping and duplicating, and we should look at it.
The CHAIRMAN. I do not want to put you on the spot. You have all these task forces, and I am only addressing myself to one. Would you ask someone to write to us in the next couple of days and tell us what the rationale is that indicates there are special circumstances dictating that you ought to be into the question of social security coverage for Federal employees?
Mr. LARKIN. I would be very glad to do so.
The CHAIRMAN. The problem is heightened when you go over to the next page of the work plan, and you find that literally what you have put out here are some very tough policy decisions that we have just been through in the reconciliation process. You are talking about limiting COLA's on pensions. You are talking about placing a 50-percent cap on future COLA's, for people who retire after a certain date. Each one of these opportunities, as you refer to them, for saving money is indeed a very serious policy decision that has just very recently been considered in the conference between me and Senator Stevens, between the House and the Senate, on reconciliation covering Federal employee pensions. Indeed, they are very difficult political and policy decisions that have led to some tinkering and changing but have absolutely nothing to do with the administration of the programs. They have to do with the level of benefits paid by the programs.
I would like to have from somebody connected with this task force their justification, in spite of the language of the White House-or, if it is consistent with the language of the White House-outlining for us the “special circumstances” to dictate that you ought to be addressing yourself to the policy questions at the level of benefits paid, the adjustment of benefits paid, other than the way in which the levels of benefits are determined and the way in which the adjustment is facilitated mechanically through the use of computers and otherwise.
It is one thing when you talk about looking for inefficiency in administration and quite another, when you have now launched in this area of Federal employee retirement benefits and Federal employee health benefits into the basic policy questions of what the levels of those benefits should be. Whether they are too generous or not generous enough is a question for the Congress and for the President, but not a question the President has asked you, in appointing this group, to address yourself to. The White House specifically said that you will concentrate on eliminating duplication and inefficiency, and you will not address yourself to policy, program, and organizational structure.
Now, I have looked at the work product from California of a similar group that President Reagan-then Governor Reagan-appointed in California in the late sixties. I noted with some interest that the last time that report was checked out of the California library, it was checked out by a member of your staff, in August of this year. Apparently, they finally discovered that there was a predecessor to this program, and that there was a pattern to be followed.
I think you would not be surprised, as I was not, when you perused that summary report which we recently received from the State of California, to discover that whoever put this together in the White House did not do anything original; they used the same language, same directions. As a matter of fact, I do not know what the magic of 150 is, but the California committee had 150 members and you have 152.
We looked at this, probably for the same reason you did, to see what it was that they came up with. What it was that they came up with in California were very specific recommendations about the level of benefits, the level of payments, the level of tuitition to be charged in colleges, and all sorts of things that, notwithstanding Governor Reagan's original announcement to the public that this was to look at the efficiency of the operation of programs, were then used with some degree of success as evidence of the fact that policy changes ought to be made with respect to these programs.
If indeed your people, after examining the California report, are not put on notice that this Congress is going to regard that kind of a product as being totally outside of your charter, then they should be. I just have to tell you that just looking at the little part of my own jurisdiction that you are into so far, and the direction in which you are going, when there are so many elephants to shoot, you are shooting the mice running by. You are over there fooling around with hot issues that could not be resolved by Solomon, while the real question of why it costs us so much more to operate the Office of Personnel Management than it did in past years is not even addressed in your work sheet. Your work sheet does not talk about whether they have too many people running around there making personnel decisions, or not enough people, or whether they should have them all in Washington or some spread around the country. Those are the kinds of things we would like to know about that agency, with respect to whether they are using the money we give them to operate efficiently.
We are not interested in having somebody else tell us what the level of benefits that they administer will be. But your study, we thought-at least I thought, until this morning-was going to be an opportunity for us to find out whether we are giving them too much money. We have a big argument every year on what the size of their operating budget ought to be. But you can take their entire operating budget away from them and close them down, and you will not save $23 billion in 4 years. The only way you can save $23 billion in 4 years is to change the programs that OPM is administering; they do not spend that much money in administering the programs.
I want from you, sir, some justification for, in this area, getting into it. Apropos of that, I have already talked to a couple of other chairmen about this. We have asked GAO to get for us these work reports from each of the task forces to see where it is you are going, and I would like to know whether you have made them available to GAO.
Mr. LARKIN. We have not.
Mr. LARKIN. Yes, because I think that the work plan itself before you is an example of a tentative, preliminary kind of document which is subject to change and improvement. I have no objection to giving them all, but I would like to have the guidance of counsel. Under our contract with the Commerce Department, the foundation itself is enjoined from giving out work papers or plans which include information from different agencies without the permission of the agencies. I am not thoroughly familiar with the Federal Advisory Committee Act, and if counsel tell me that there is no problem giving them, you shall have them. But I want to make certain that I am on sure-footed ground.
I would like to comment a little further, Mr. Chairman-
The CHAIRMAN. Let me just stop right there. The Federal Advisory Committee Act, as we read it, is rather clear and unambiguous. We believe that your task forces are subcommittees of the advisory committee, and that clearly this is the kind of advisory committee that was intended to be covered by the act, and that is why I asked you the question about whether you are holding meetings and whether your meetings are public. It goes without saying that since the passage of that act, no advisory committee can amass any kind of material inside a Federal agency without making that available to the public. The minute you touch it, as an advisory committee, you turn it into a public record. Certainly your counsel has been aware that you have the capacity to take otherwise privileged information inside an agency and turn it into public information just by the fact that you have asked for it. I think that the legal impact of that is something you should not overlook. Now that you have turned it into a public record, I think you ought to be very hesitant about following anyone who advises you to hold it back, much less from the General Accounting Office.
Mr. LARKIN. I am not an expert, as you are, on this, sir. I do not know that by securing this information-particularly Federal employees who do so, or special ones—it is then dedicated to the public. As I said, we will be perfectly willing to give you all the work plans or anything else, as long as I find that counsel says I should or must. I would like to comment little further, sir, for your information. I studied the California report about a week and a half after the President asked Mr. Grace to assume the chairmanship here. So I am reasonably familiar with most of it; I read the whole thing at that time. I must say, I am a little chagrined to hear you express the opinion that you think we are wasting our time, that we are confused, and so on. We have dedicated a lot of time, with a lot of people, to try to do our best to make a constructive effort here. All we can do, when we finally get to do it, is to recommend. We cannot do a single thing. It is up to you to decide whether you like it, whether you think it is meritorious, or whether you are going to turn it down; and the same thing is true of the administration.
We are in no position to implement a single thing, and it is up to factors beyond our control. However, we will furnish you with the rationale of some of the areas we are looking at, and we will be glad to consult with you further.
The CHAIRMAN. I have not looked at the agriculture report yet. Who is running the agriculture study, the task force on the Department of Agriculture?
Mr. BOLDUC. That happens to be two gentlemen by the name of Bill Graham and Billy Prince, as cochairs.
The CHAIRMAN. Which corporations are they employed by?
Mr. LARKIN. Billy Prince is retired. He is the former chief executive of the Armour Co. some years ago.
The CHAIRMAN. That is the meat packing company?
Mr. LARKIN. It has since been changed; I think they call it Esmark.
The CHAIRMAN. What is the other cochairman's firm?
Mr. LARKIN. The other cochairman is a man by the name of Bill Graham, with Baxter Travenol, which is a laboratory research company.
The CHAIRMAN. You do not have anybody with the Pillsbury Co. there?
Mr. LARKIN. No, sir.
The CHAIRMAN. These people were not selected because they come from businesses that are intimately intertwined with the Department of Agriculture, because of knowledge they would have of how the Department of Agriculture regulates meatpacking, for example, meat grading and inspection and all of the other multitude of regulations that they do in that industry. You said they were picked because of their business expertise and just by coincidence they happen to be in an agency that is, in the case of the gentle man from Armour, probably the principal Federal agency with which he had to tangle during his professional life with Armor & Co.
I have no quarrel with that-
Mr. LARKIN. We have a fine line to draw, sir, between some acquaintanship with the area and a lack of conflict of interest.
The CHAIRMAN. I am not suggesting a conflict of interest.
The CHAIRMAN. I am trying to develop with you why I would like to look at these work outlines for the task forces, because I would like to see whether the intimate association that the people on the task force have had with that agency would lead them, as it has this task force, into policy questions rather than into administrative questions with regard to the Department of Agriculture. I would like to see if they are undertaking to study the wisdom and the value of farm price support programs, marketing order syştems, and so on, and the way in which they are administered. There is a big difference, a real big difference. I suggest that my friend, the chairman of the Agriculture Committee, if he sees the same kind of outline that you have here for the Office of Personnel Management with respect to Federal employees outlined for programs under his jurisdiction in agriculture, is going to want to talk to your task force about how they relate that to the administration of the Department. I think now, at this point, it is essential that we have a look at the counterparts of this document for all of the task forces, and maybe you would have some consultation with your committee. You might want to caution them about going too broadly into policy areas, outside of the charter of your advisory committee.
I do not want to quarrel with you about the niceties, if you will, of the Federal Advisory Committee Act. It is very clear. It is very