Joseph A. Califano, Jr., the new Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare, served in the Pentagon and White House during the Kennedy and Johnson administrations. In this portion of an edited converstation with Haynes Johnson he discusses his impressions on how government has changed since he left in 1968:
One sense I have strongly about what's happened is that there are many, many programs now legislated with incredible specificity. There's an education program which requires us to write 90 regulations in 240 days and sets the exact date on which each regulation has to be issued.There are 381 programs set up by statute that can't be changed.
A footnote to our recent reorganization came when I read over the paper which has to be published in the Federal Register - I had signed it the night before - and I found it did not cover the consolidation of the student loan programs.
The lawyer who worked on this said, "You don't have authority to do that. The commissioner of education is the only one that can sign that. You don't have any authority over it." That's true of 70 people in this place. At HEW there are only 144 persidential appointee slots out of 145,000 employees to fill. In the field, two of the regional directors' are career people. So there are only eight regional director slots that I have the power to change. That strick me.
I also was struck by the need to lead and energize this place. And also how ready it was to be led. In the course of hunting for people and looking at what happened to this place, it became clear that we desperately heeded to revitalize the whole personnel area. The place needs fresh air. It's got to be pried needs fresh air. It's got to be pried open. There's a sense among the personnel here that they're not getting opportunities to cross over. I think Carter's appointment to the Civil Service Commission may be one of the most important he'll make in the whole administration.
People in this place had been forced, in terms of their consciences, to be disloyal to the leadership here. The last two administrations were sending up budgets and proposals so out tune with what the Congress wanted or intended to do that they were entraged. Their programs were being destroyed. They couldn't even administer things, execute laws that Congress had told them to execute. We still have a tremendous job to make it clear that we will executive those laws.
The tension between the Congress and the Executive - which I think we have less of here than elsewhere, at least at that the top - is there. It's there in part because the Congress has in many ways been running a lot of these programs for the last few years since Watergate. Now there's an executive [Carter] who's come in and wants to run them, and is saying to Congress, "All right, you pass the laws, we'll execute them."
Another thing: the staffs on the Hill are much much better and larger than they ever were. And much much more powerful. That's the biggest change that I've noticed since the last time I was in government. That is a big change.
I've told the governors on more than one occasion they'll have less trouble with a President like Carter than they will with the legislative branch. Congress has gotten down into the way states can organize or not organize their own state systems. Under the Vocational Rehabilitation Act Amendments in the last few years they legislate that no funds can go to the state in that area unless the state has a separate vocational rehabilitation agency. That's the extent to which things have changed.
But I understand the Congress. I'm sure I would have done the same things. They could not trust anybody. They didn't trust anybody in the Nixon-Ford executive to execute their programs. And in the education area, under the law lots of programs have been triggered one upon the other. You can't fund a program you might want to fund unless you fully fund two or three other programs. A Staute like that was unheard of in the '60s.
I have begun to see some of these forms and I can understand why people in and out of the government feel frustrated. They're no different from the school superintendents that come in here and say, "Why do we have a form that thick? Can't you get the information in a simple way?"
Part of the problem is we designed every form for the lowest common demoninator. We designed every form as though it has to be filled out by a 6-year-old. But we made it so long and so complicated nobody can fill it out. And when you talk about frustrations, there are other problems. That's why I'm talking about getting the absolutely best personnel I can. That's one problem. But there's another: there are problems with bright analysts. Take the 45-year-old first-class GS-16, 17 or 18 executive in Social Security tha tmight want to change his career, have a totally different government carreer - say in the health area or on child development or any number of things.
We don't have a way to take advantage of all the variety in this place so that bright people can change and do something different. That's terrible.
And GSA [the General Services Administration, the government agency that provides office space and equipment and maintains U.S. buillings] is an incredible problem for me. In this building. It's new, right? And this building is cleaned and run by GSA, okay? When I first came here and I'd get out of the car in the garge you'd walk into the door and it was filty. Cigarette butts, old cans. So I've been beating, beating, beating on them. Finally we got them to clean the place. They know I see it every day so it's cleaned up.
Then there were leaks all ove. David Mathews [his predecessor as HEW secretary] told me he sat here and there were leaks in this building, and rats in the building. David Mathews, quiet, clam David mathews finally had to write blistering letters and get on the phone with the head of GSA, roasting him to get some things done here.
Let me show you something. It's just befond belief. See, I'm going to take this space and put as lot of people here and make it more congenial, and make it better. I think I could get a batch of bright young people here, and have some conference rooms that people can use. And obviously it's a disgrace the way this space is allocated now. Okay. It's twice as much for GSA to do the work. We have to use them. It is twice as expensive as it would be if we just went out to a contractor.