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Remarks to the Press Following a Cabinet Meeting on Management of the Executive Branch

May 02, 1964

I have been asked to review this paper with you that I went over with the Cabinet this morning. I had some impromptu additions to it. But it will take a little time. I guess the only way I know to do it is to go through it all and then you can take excerpts of what you want.

[Reading] "Good morning, gentlemen:

"In our efforts to increase efficiency and economy in the executive branch, we ought to be as unsatisfied as a little boy's appetite. We should never relax our efforts to give the American people a dollar's worth of value for a dollar spent.

"From time to time, therefore, I will devote a meeting of the Cabinet and agency heads to progress reports on these efforts.

"First, the House has already acted on six of the 1965 appropriation bills and another one comes up next week. Its schedule calls for House action on all bills by early June.

"The Senate situation is different. None of the 1965 money has been acted upon, although one bill has been reported out of the committee. I intend to talk to the leadership to see what steps can be taken to finish up work on the budget before the new fiscal year begins.

"I believe the Appropriation Committees recognize that we did our best to hold the budget down. They are finding that our budget request did not contain any padding. I have always believed that the Congress will respect a tight budget. I think the evidence this year on the seven bills that the Appropriation Committee has reported bears this out.

"This year the House reduced by 1.7 percent the budget request on six bills already passed. Last year the cuts were 4 percent.

"Second, our campaign to weed out unnecessary Government publications is beginning to pay off. Thus far, 141 publications have been marked for elimination, and the saving is estimated at more than $1 million a year."

Here are some of the examples of Government publications that have been weeded out: Decisions of the Secretary of Agriculture Under the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act; the Index of Patents of the United States Patent Office, publications that they feel they no longer need. We have hundreds of these that have been eliminated since my instructions at the last Cabinet meeting, some 141 We will have another report on this project as soon as large agencies, like the Defense Department, have completed their review.

"I expect substantial results. I want each of you to name a key assistant to ride herd on this project.

"Third, I want all reports made by the General Accounting Office and any congressional committee to be given prompt and thorough and careful attention. Honest mistakes can be forgiven, but it is hard to forgive failures to examine and tighten agency procedures to guard against a recurrence of an error that is uncovered by the GAO or by a congressional committee.

"Look into them promptly. If the criticisms are justified, I will expect you to take corrective action so that the error is not repeated.

"Fourth, I am gratified by your accomplishments in holding down Federal employment. I am writing Senator Byrd to that effect. We had 21,000 fewer civilian employees in March in the Government than we had when I took office, and we had 14,000 fewer civilian employees in March than we had a year ago. This has been done without any mass dismissals, without cutting down on any essential public service. We can do better; we must.

"As outdoor work expands in the second quarter of the year, we can expect the usual seasonal jump in employment. I still believe that a number of agencies should be able to end the fiscal year with fewer employees than your personnel ceilings allow.

"Fifth, no matter how small an agency or bureau may be, I want it managed as though it dwarfed everything else in the budget."

I had many reports from the Cabinet and I will have more later in the morning, on how they are setting new targets to get below their budget ceiling, and how they are refusing to fill vacancies until they are cleared by the higher echelon and management.

"Buy only what you must buy and get the best price you can.

"Use excess property wherever it will do the job instead of buying the same article on the open market.

"Ask yourselves if you really need all that real estate or all those regional offices, or all those supervisors, or all those automobiles.

"Sixth, I want us to find new ways to increase productivity. Productivity in industry has gone up each year by an average of better than 3 percent. Government productivity should increase, too, and it must.

"The Veterans Administration insurance program alone shows an average annual gain in productivity of almost 7 percent over the past 7 years. I am proud of the people doing that job, and I expect everyone else in the Government to try to emulate that example. If we can increase the Government's productivity at the same rate as industry has already increased theirs, we can save several hundred million dollars for Government every year.

"Seventh, let's continue to cut down on the number of questionnaires and reports in each agency.

"In less than 2 months we have made a reduction of 98 in the number of questionnaires, surveys, and other reports. As a result, American citizens will have to fill out 850,000 fewer individual reports for the United States Government this year than they filled out last year.

"We recently received a complaint from a businessman concerning a questionnaire having to do with the reemployment of veterans. We checked this and we discovered that the purpose would be just as well served under a completely different procedure which would cut down the number of reports from former employers from 75,000 to 7,500. I expect each of you in this Cabinet and independent agencies to look for a similar way to eliminate reports immediately.

"Eighth, additional economies can be realized in procurement and supply.

"In January the General Services Administration took over the responsibility for supplying Defense as well as civilian agency requirements for paint and handtools. This is expected to save 200 man-years and bring about an inventory reduction of about $40 million.

"Defense and GSA are weeding out of the supply catalog system thousands of nonstandard items. This will also save us a great deal of money.

"GSA last year came up with better standards of office space utilization which worked out to a reduction of 3½ square feet of space per employee, and this one step alone will mean a saving of over $5 million."

It all adds up, ladies and gentlemen.

"Ninth, we are beginning to work on the 1966 budget. I want you personally to take command of developing the information to help us define the problems that we must deal with in our budget next fall.

"I want you to be 'from Missouri' when somebody tells you that your budget has to be increased next year. Make him prove that he cannot do a shade better with what he already has.

"I want you to congratulate your employees on making this an economical, efficient, and a frugal administration. But I want you also to let everyone know that our expectations are still high. We have a responsibility to the American people which no one in this Government must take lightly. I am confident the people are going to be proud of what we are doing, and I think you will be proud too."

Some of the publications that we have eliminated are: Building with Logs, a how-to-do-it bulletin, $2353; Caribbean Forester, $3350; Other People's Homes, comic-type leaflet, $4200; Rural Line News Letter, $27,625; The Early Years, National Aeronautics and Space Agency, history of the first Goddard Flight, $5,000; the Chemical Composition of Representative Grades of 1952 and 1954 Crops of Flue-Cured Tobacco, $1870; the Story of the Patent Office, $2,000; the Highways of History, $700; Improvements in Printing and Reproduction Techniques, a total saving of more than $54,000.

Thank you.

Q. Have you a total figure there, Mr. President, for all those savings?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes. It was 141 publications and over a million dollars a year, 141 publications that have been eliminated at more than a million dollars a year.

Note: The President spoke to the press shortly before noon in the Cabinet Room at the White House following a meeting with members of the Cabinet.

Lyndon B. Johnson, Remarks to the Press Following a Cabinet Meeting on Management of the Executive Branch Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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