The American Presidency Project
John T. Woolley & Gerhard Peters • Santa Barbara, California return to original document
• Richard Nixon
Statement on Establishing Common Regional Boundaries for Agencies Providing Social and Economic Services.
March 27, 1969

THE REORGANIZATION ACT which the Congress has passed and which I am signing today 1 gives the President important tools in his effort to make the machinery of government work more effectively. As a part of that same effort, I am announcing today certain structural changes which I am making in the systems through which the Government provides important social and economic services.

1Public Law 91-5 (83 Stat. 6).

It was possible for me to take these particular actions without the authority extended under the Reorganization Act. I announce them at this time, however, because they provide specific illustrations of ways in which we can make significant improvement in the quality of government by making it operate more efficiently.

This restructuring expresses my concern that we make much greater progress in our struggle against social problems. The best way to facilitate such progress, I believe, is not by adding massively to the burdens which government already bears but rather by finding better ways to perform the work of the Government.

That work is not finished when a law is passed, nor is it accomplished when an agency in Washington is assigned to administer new legislation. These are only preliminary steps; in the end the real work is done by the men who implement the law in the field.

The performance of the men in the field, however, is directly linked to the administrative structures and procedures within which they work. It is here that the Government's effectiveness too often is undermined. The organization of Federal services has often grown up piecemeal; creating gaps in some areas, duplications in others, and general inefficiencies across the country. Each agency, for example, has its own set of regional offices and regional boundaries; if a director of one operation is to meet with his counterpart in another branch of the Government, he often must make an airplane trip to see him. Or consider two Federal officials who work together on poverty problems in the same neighborhood, but who work for different departments and, therefore, find themselves in two different administrative regions, reporting to headquarters in two widely separated cities.

Coordination cannot flourish under conditions such as that. Yet without real coordination, intelligent and efficient government is impossible; money and time are wasted and important goals are compromised.

This is why I said in the campaign last fall that "the need is not to dismantle government but to modernize it." The systematic reforms I announce today are designed to help in that modernization process. I would discuss those reforms under three headings: rationalization, coordination, and decentralization. It should be recognized, of course, that the three elements are interdependent. Without one the others would be meaningless.

I. The first concern is to rationalize the way our service delivery systems are organized. I have therefore issued a directive which streamlines the field operations of five agencies by establishing, for the first time, common regional boundaries and regional office locations. This instruction affects the Department of Labor; the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare; the Department of Housing and Urban Development; the Office of Economic Opportunity; and the Small Business Administration. The activities of these agencies--particularly in serving disadvantaged areas of our society--are closely related. Uniform boundaries and regional office locations will help assure that they are also closely coordinated.

The eight new regions and the locations of the new regional centers are as follows:

Region I (Boston)--Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont;

Region H (New York City)--New York, New Jersey, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands;

Region III (Philadelphia)--Delaware, District of Columbia, Kentucky, Maryland, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia;

Region IV ( Atlanta)--Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Tennessee;

Region V (Chicago)--Illinois, Indiana; Minnesota, Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin;

Region VI (Dallas-Fort Worth )--Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas;

Region VII (Denver)--Colorado, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming;

Region VIII (San Francisco)--Alaska, Arizona, California, Guam, Hawaii, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington.

I am asking all other Federal agencies to take note of these instructions, and I am requesting that any changes in their field organization structures be made consistent with our ultimate goal: uniform boundaries and field office locations for all social or economic programs requiring interagency or intergovernmental coordination.

My directive also asks that the five departments and agencies involved provide high-level representation in cities where regional offices do not exist. Such physical relocations as are required will be made over the next 18 months, with special efforts to minimize disruptions to the programs, the employees, and the communities involved.

II. The second step in this reform process emphasizes coordination. It calls for an expansion of the regional council concept from the four cities where it presently operates (Chicago, New York, Atlanta, and San Francisco) to all eight of the new regional centers. The regional council is a coordinating body on which each of the involved agencies is represented. It offers an excellent means through which the various arms Of the Federal Government can work closely together in defining problems, devising strategies to meet them, eliminating friction and duplications, and evaluating results. Such councils can make it possible for the Federal Government to speak consistently and with a single voice in its dealings with States and localities, with private organizations, and with the public.

III. The third phase of this systematic restructuring of domestic programs focuses on decentralization. I am asking the Director of the Bureau of the Budget to join with the heads of nine departments and agencies in a review of existing relationships between centralized authorities and their field operations. Participating in the review will be the Departments of Agriculture; Commerce; Health, Education, and Welfare; Housing and Urban Development; Labor; Transportation; Justice; the Office of Economic Opportunity; and the Small Business Administration.

This review is designed to produce specific recommendations as to how each agency: (1) can eliminate unnecessary steps in the delegation process, (2) can develop organizational forms and administrative practices which will mesh more closely with those of all other departments, and (3) can give more day-by-day authority to those who are at lower levels in the administrative hierarchy. Decentralized decision making will make for better and quicker decisions; it will also increase cooperation and coordination between the Federal Government on the one hand and the States and localities on the Other. Those Federal employees who deal every day with State and local officials will be given greater decision making responsibility.

Again, this action is a concrete manifestation of a concern I expressed during the campaign: "Business learned long ago that decentralization was a means to better performance. It's time government learned the same lesson."

Some of the reforms which I am announcing today have been urged for many years, but again and again they have been thwarted. This inertia must be overcome. Old procedures that are inefficient, however comfortable and familiar they may seem, must be exchanged for new systems which do the job as it must be done.

The particular reforms I have discussed here are part of a broad and continuing process of restructuring the basic service systems of government. The reorganization of the Manpower Administration in the Department of Labor, announced on March 13, is another example of this process. So are the reforms which are being made in the postal system and in the Office of Economic Opportunity.

I have established both the Urban Affairs Council and the Office of Intergovernmental Relations in part so that the Government could be better advised on additional improvements in service systems. Further systematic restructuring is on the way. Each reform, I believe, will have a major impact on the quality of American government--an impact which will benefit all of our citizens, in all parts of our country--well beyond the lifetime of this administration.

The Federal Government has been assigned many new responsibilities in the last several decades, many of which it carries and many of which it fumbles. Many of the disappointments and frustrations of the last several years can be blamed on the fact that administrative performance has not kept pace with legislative promise.

This situation must be changed. The actions I announce today are important steps toward achieving such changes. By rationalizing, coordinating, and decentralizing the systems through which government provides important social and economic services, we can begin at last to realize the hopes and dreams of those who created them.

Citation: Richard Nixon: "Statement on Establishing Common Regional Boundaries for Agencies Providing Social and Economic Services.", March 27, 1969. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project.
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