Government lawyers, administrators and technicians soon will begin wrestling with a problem that comes up daily in newspaper city rooms. That is, who gets the by-line.
In newspapers, as a rule, reporters fight for by-lines. They want credit for the work that went into producing a story. And they want the world to know who did it.
President Carter says he is going to begin a by-line system in government. The idea is to require the people who write regulations to sign them. If you have read many government regulations, you know this could be a traumatic experience. That, Carter aides say, is the idea behind federal by-lines.
The HEW lawyer who issued the order banning father-son, mother-daughter banquets because they are sexist probably wouldn't have done it if she had to sign her name. President Ford signed his name to an order repealing that order. He got lots of mileage.
The people who wrote your federal income tax form (including members of Congress who set up the complex law) probably would resign before they would let their names go beside their portion of the 1040 nightmare.
President Carter hopes the sign-your-work edict, coming up soon, will reduce the "fog count" or "fog index" in government. That is a system, devised by Rudolf Flesch and Robert Gunning, language experts and university professors. Gunning defines it as the use of terms like "prodigious expenditure" when "big expense" would do, or "undoubtedly" for "no doubt."
To take a fog count, experts recommend you find a paragraph with about 100 words. Count the number of syllables in that paragraph. Anything over 125 is bad, foggy. Someone once did a fog count study of government documents and found levels ranging between 212 and 300 were typical.
The fog index ought to drop when the Carter by-line directive comes out. Right now the White House and Office of Management and Budget are looking for an employee who writes like Hemingway, speaks bureaucratese and who can and will draft the order for his or her first by-line. If somebody else writes it and Carter issues it maybe they will do a dual by-line. It would be a start.
General Service Administration: President Carter will keep Republican Jack Eckerd on as head of the government's housekeeping and purchasing agency. Eckerd was named to GSA by former President Ford who told him to straighten out the agency, which had become embroiled in political patronage from Capitol Hill and White House under the Nixon administration.
Carter told Eckerd he wants the agency to stay out of politics and stick with its mission, which includes leasing federal facilities, buying supplies and guarding government offices.
The reappointment is refreshing from several angles. Eckerd seems to be an able administrator and Carter had decided to keep him on despite his GOP background (the Florida millionaire was an unsuccessful Senate candidate). Eckerd, in turn, refused to play the Washington game whose rules require that job-hunters play hard to get. He told Carter aides he would like to stay on and they said do it.
No Heat, No Work: Some government workers in a leased building in Silver Spring were sent home on paid leave Wednesday and Thursday because of the cold weather. The Interior Department aides got off 6 hours on Wednesday and 7 hours Thursday because inside temperatures were in the 40s.
Employees in some sections of HEW's South building say they've been suffering because of low temperatures last week, and that things were uncomfortable Monday morning.
Last Line of Defense: The National League of Postmasters wonders: "Why is the Defense Department so worried?We have more than 8,500 deliverable nuclear warheads, which makes us very safe so long as we don't ask the U.S. Postal Service to deliver them."
Air Force-Air Corps Reunion: The 316th Troop Carrier Group from World War II and Korea is having a March 25-27 reunion in Fayetteville, N.C. Old hands from the 316 should contact H. B. McCullough, 3719 Swift Dr., Raleigh, N.C., 27606, for details.