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Special Message to the Congress Proposing Programs for Development of Government Executive Selection and Training

July 17, 1974

To the Congress of the United States:

Over the past four decades as the Federal Government has grown larger and more powerful, the people it serves have expressed widespread dissatisfaction that the Government has also grown increasingly unresponsive to their needs.

One of the foremost objectives of this Administration has been to reverse that trend, restoring the original vitality of the federal system and returning the traditional power of the people over their governing bodies.

At the centerpiece of our efforts has been the concept of New Federalism and the many programs such as General Revenue Sharing which help to carry out its principles.

Through revenue sharing programs, we are seeking to channel funds, authority and responsibility to those governments that are best able and willing to serve the needs of the people. General Revenue Sharing is already providing States and localities with a predictable amount of Federal funds with a minimum number of restrictions and controls. In a similar vein, State influence has been increased through our grant program for law enforcement assistance, and we have sought to replace a score of categorical grants for manpower programs with a block grant approach. The next steps along this road should be the establishment of block grants for community development, enactment of the Unified Transportation Act, and enactment of the Responsive Governments Act.

Supporting these New Federalism initiatives has been a concurrent effort to rationalize and streamline the organization of Government departments and agencies. We have created an independent United States Postal Service, and we have established the Environmental Protection Agency, the Special Action Office for Drug Abuse Prevention, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Federal Energy Administration as well as other new organizations. I have also proposed to the Congress and continue to support a fundamental realignment of the executive departments.

In addition, we have established regional boundaries and Federal regional councils to harmonize activities of the principal agencies disbursing grants-in-aid, and we have greatly improved Federal consultation with State and locally elected officials on the administration of federally assisted programs


Yet we recognize that even as we work to change hassle relationships among Federal, State and local governments through our New Federalism efforts, it is also vitally important to ensure that the people who manage the institutions of government become as efficient and responsive to human needs as possible.

To improve general management of the Federal Government, I launched an intensive effort last year to establish clear objectives for Federal agencies and departments and to measure our progress toward meeting those objectives--not by producing a thinly veiled display of activity or by rearranging work processes hut by producing specific program results. Each major department and agency has been working with me in developing objectives to be achieved throughout the year, and they are measuring specific results by specific deadlines. These commitments are continually reviewed and help to guide day-to-day operations until the objectives are met.

Today I call upon the Congress to join me in carrying forward our program of managerial reform by enacting and otherwise supporting a comprehensive series of changes to improve the quality of management at all levels of government.

Specifically, I ask the support of the Congress for my proposals to begin a large-scale effort aimed at upgrading the training and education of government executives and to institute reforms in the personnel system by which Federal executive manpower is managed. These two initiatives should contribute substantially to the achievement of fundamental, long-term improvements in the capacity of governments to manage their programs more effectively.


I propose that we give first attention to improving the means by which our current managers and executives learn the art of public management. Such learning comes from both work experiences and formal education and training. Because of the lack of appropriate emphasis, many of our career managers and executives have not had the benefit of recent education or training in modem methods of management. American business and industry have proved that education and training in management improves the capacity of people to lead more effectively. The level of investments in this type of training made by progressive private employers greatly exceeds public sector investments for the same purpose. It is time that government caught up.

Therefore, I am taking three related actions:

First, I am instructing the Civil Service Commission to establish a Program Management Fellowship with selected colleges and universities for postgraduate educational programs for Federal executives. I shall recommend to the Congress an appropriation of $10 million for the first 250 Federal participants in this program. This sum will pay for both tuition and salaries of those in the program. In this program our best career employees will increase their managerial perspective and expertise and will learn more effective ways of administering significant governmental activities such as delivery of health care, transportation, and community development.

Special program emphasis of this kind, when coupled with curriculum offerings in up-to-date management, will equip our public executives to meet the demands of highly complex programs so that they will deliver what they promise to the American people. To support the planning, installation, and continuing conduct of these special educational programs and to ensure that the best candidates are selected on a competitive basis, I propose that they be centrally financed and administered by the Civil Service Commission.

Second, I propose to increase the management capability of State and local program managers through additional postgraduate education. Under the authority of the Intergovernmental Personnel Act, State and local government personnel will have the opportunity to collaborate with their Federal colleagues in the Program Management Fellowship if they so choose. Having key leaders from Federal, State, and local governments learn together about management as it applies to their program responsibilities should improve the program delivery capability at all levels of government. To support this new program, to increase the level of short-term management training available to State and local managers, and to continue to improve personnel management will require amending the Intergovernmental Personnel Act (IPA) and a doubling of the current $15 million appropriation request for the IPA Program. With these funds it will be possible to educate, through long-term programs alone, approximately 250 State and local managers a year, while paying a portion of their salaries. I hope this approach will encourage State and local governments to increase their own development and training of executives.

My third proposal is to accelerate the management development of career Federal executives through short-term training courses. I am asking the Civil Service Commission to move promptly to acquire a permanent facility for the Federal Executive Institute on the professional and graduate grounds of the University of Virginia. The Federal Executive Institute has already demonstrated its value. Now it is time to enlarge its capability. The Institute would be enlarged and have its functions expanded to handle the knowledge and skill needs of our future executives. The Federal Government looks forward to cooperating with the State of Virginia in this effort.


Executive performance in the Federal government is currently hampered by a cumbersome, fragmented personnel system, by weak selection procedures, and by the absence of financial incentives for career employees. To rectify these conditions, I am taking four actions.

Federal executives are employed under a number of appointing authorities which make the effective management and utilization of this valuable resource very difficult. There can be no comprehensive, periodic review of each agency's total need for positions by either the Civil Service Commission or the Congress. Further, the manner in which a majority of these people are classified and paid is unreasonably inflexible and provides limited opportunity to recognize differences in individual performance and ability.

The Congress has given preliminary consideration and provided advice on the first proposal the Administration made to reform the executive manpower management system. I soon will be sending to the Congress new legislation which incorporates earlier Congressional views. The new Executive Personnel System I propose will:

1. Provide flexibility to assign senior career executives where they are most needed;

2. Compensate on the basis of individual capability within broad salary bands;

3. Remove the current, inflexible quotas and other statutory allocations applicable on the number in the highest three grades, but maintain a responsible oversight on the total number;

4. Recognize the distinction between the executives with career commitments and those temporarily working for the Government; and,

5. Improve the overall management of our total executive resources by providing for a comprehensive annual analysis and review by the Congress and the executive branch.

Enactment of this legislation would provide the means to build and maintain an effective and responsive Federal executive work force. I urge early and favorable consideration by the Congress.

Second, I strongly urge prompt congressional action on the recommendation for pay increases for Federal executives that I submitted on May 7, 1974. The failure of the Congress to approve higher salaries for the executive, legislative, and judicial branches has created a severe problem within the Government that needs to be remedied quickly. Some 10,000 executives are now paid the same salary. This pay compression denies fair increases in compensation and the incentive to seek greater responsibility. For many of the top staff within the Government, it has become financially more rewarding to retire than to remain in the Federal service. Failure to relieve this situation may well lead to a serious decline in the quality of our management capability.

Third, to insure that those individuals entering our executive ranks in the future are managerially fit, I have asked the Civil Service Commission to improve the criteria by which individuals are judged for those positions. There must be assurance that these individuals have been adequately prepared to handle their new responsibilities. While technical competence will remain a factor in filling executive positions with leadership responsibilities, demonstrated managerial capability will be more heavily weighed in the future.

Finally, I am calling for and supporting new and original efforts to reward outstanding performance among our executives. We do not offer our executives strong personal incentives to be aggressive and achieve results. Often our most deserving and promising civil servants leave the Government in search of employers who are better able to recognize and reward their ability. We cannot afford to lose such people.

Therefore, I am directing that the Incentive Awards Program be more widely utilized to recognize outstanding managerial performance. There will be experimentation with group awards that executives can selectively use to reward subordinate managers who are especially effective. But awards for outstanding individual executive performance will also continue. We must overcome traditional reluctance to use these legislative authorities to reward executive excellence.


Both the Congress and the President must act responsibly to create an executive work force at the national level that is second to none. There is no more demanding nor vital career than executive management in the Federal service. We should act now in order to achieve the long term reforms that build and maintain an executive corps capable of dealing with the policy and management complexities of the future.

The new initiatives I am taking and the legislation I am proposing are designed to build upon the efforts made by this Administration over the past five years to reform the management of government programs. Within the past year, significant progress has been made to make the investments necessary to develop our finest career managers and executives. We must not imperil the future by failing in our duty to prepare career executives to carry out their responsibilities with skill and wisdom.

What I am proposing is an essential part of my efforts to enable governments, at all levels, to deliver what they promise. Not everyone can manage the public's business. The measures I am today proposing will develop those who can.


The White House,

July 17, 1974.

Note: The text of the message and a fact sheet on Government executive development were released at San Clemente, Calif.

Richard Nixon, Special Message to the Congress Proposing Programs for Development of Government Executive Selection and Training Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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