After a long warmup, the process of "Carterizing" the national government is now in full swing. The probable results are a fearsom workload for the federal bureaucracy and a fresh challege to Congress' capacity to help steer the direction of policy.
On Wednesday, President Carter signed into law the bill giving him power to reorganize federal bureaus and agencies according to his own design, subject only to retroactive veto by Congress.
On Friday he received the blue-print for installing zero-base budgeting, a new tool for focusing federal spending on his own priority projects.
Both reorganization and zero-base budgeting are untested weapons in Carter's hands. But they seem certain to have major impact on the executive and legislative branches - and the relationship between them.
For the 2.8 million federal employees - and especially those with major managerial and budger-making responsibilities - this is likely to be a year of ulcers and overtime.
They will be challenged by the man in the Oval Office to justify their long-established programs, their budgets and their tables of organization - or face having all three changed in ways they may not like.
For the 535 senators and representatives, there is a different kind of challenge: How do they keep a checkrein on a President who is clearly determined to put his own stamp on what the government does and the way it does it?
Zero-base budgeting poses a clear challenge to Congress by increasing the informational inbalance between the branches. ZBB, a technique developed in private industry and applied by Carter during his term as governor of Georgia, requires every budget office and program manager to perform some complex tasks:
Existing operations must be broken down into separate "decision packages"; each package must then be given a priority rating, which theoretically requires the agency head to decide what to do if he or she had anywhere from zero to infinite funds to spend; and finaly, the packages must be reassembled to fit three alternative spending ceiling - an improvement level, a maintenance level and a reduction of service level.
If it works as hoped, ZBB will give federal executives from sub-agencies up to the Oval Office a much more detailed took at the operatios of the federal government than they've ever had before, and enable them to make sharper devisions on where the money should be spent.
But ZBB is designed for use in and by the executive branch. Statements by Office of management and Budget Director Bert Lance and his deputy in charge of ZBB have put Congress on notice that Carter does not plan to share with Carter does not plan to share with Congress the details ZBB analysis on which his own budget decisions will based. The budget the President sends to COngress next January will look the way ures, reflecting the the President's best judgement on how much the government should spend and for what. If Congress wants a peek behind the scenes at the alternatives from which the President chose, it will have to it always has with only one set of figsecure that information its own - as it alway has.
As yet, there has been no move by any congressional committee to inquire of Carter administration officials how they plan to carry out the sweeping change in executive budget making represented by ZBB, or whether it can be adapted, in some way, to the needs of Congress as well as the President.
Instead, a large group of senators has launched an effort to create what some of them call a congressional counterpart for zero-based budgeting - sunset legislation.
The sunset law would set an automatic expiration date every five years for virtually all federal programs, and put them to death automatically unless they were affirmatively re-endorsed by Congress.
The idea is to force the same kind of tough-minded evaluation of accumulated programs by the legislative branch that zero-base budgeting is supposed to accomplish in the executive branch.
Although Sen. Edmund S. Muskie (D-Maine) signed up more than half the Senate as cosponsors of the sunset bill, hearings earlier this month in Muskie's subcommittee produced strong criticism of the proposal from son (D-Wash) and Russel B.Long (D-La.). Administration witnesses were remarkably cool to parts of the bill, considering that Carter has given it his formal blessing.
In any event, while Congress procrastinates, the administration has plunged headlong into the effort to streamline the functioning of the federal Government.
The effort, as Carter noted in signing the reorganization authority bill, was one of the central pledges of his campaign - the "commitment to the American people to make government more responsive, efficient and open."
On the stump, Carter promised often that he would reduce the number of government agencies from 1,900 to "no more than 200."
Today, administration officials concede that they're not sure they can identify say 1,900 agencies and don't know whether there will be 200,300 or 500 when reorganization is finished.
What Carter and the Congress do know is that his promise to shake upt eh bureucracy and curb wasteful spending touched a nerve in an electorate that has become very jaded about the capacity of government to do it job or deliver on its pledges.
Reorganization, ZBB and sunset represent three different - but related - efforts to redeem that promise. Here, in outline, is what is under way in each area, and the views of both skeptics and proponents on what may be accomplished.
Reorganization - At a seminar on government reorganization held a couple weeks ago by the National Democtratic Forum, Herbert Kaufman, the brookings Institution author of "The Immortality of Government Agencies." propounded what he called Kaufman's Law."
It goes like this: "The longer you spend trying to reorganize the lower your expectations become."
Kaufman said the reason for disillusionment is that the standard prescriptions for reorganization are self-contradictory. Presidents from Wood-row Wilson on have pushed reorganization, he noted, without achieving "a great deal in terms of eliminating waste and duplication."
James H. Rowe Jr., a Washington lawyer and veteran of several past reorganization efforts, was even blunter. He accused Carter of "dreadfully overselling reorganization" and told the Carterities present that "every time you move, you'll get clipped by the clientele government" of interest groups, lobbyists, bureaucrats and members of Congress, all intent on preserving their turf.
The principal recipient of this unwelcome advice was Harrison Wellford, the Office of Management and Budget official who is spearheading the reorganization effort.
But Wellford quickly ticked off a half-dozen reasons why this reorganization effort would succeed where others had failed. Among them: The "broad public support" for reorganization and the strong personal commitment of the President; Carter's past experience with reorganization in Georgia and the "supportive attitude so far" in Congress.
For the next three years, he can submit plans to reshuffle sub-Cabinet agencies which will take effect automatcially in 60 days unless vetoed by House or Senate. There are limits on his authority: he cannot create or abolish whole departments or regulatory commissions. But he can shape the plans to his own design, amend them if need be, and see them take effect automatically unless a majority of the House or Senate can be mobilized against them.
While the first reorganization plan - due in a couple months - will deal with the Executive Office of the President in order to show that Carter regards nothing as immune from review. Wellford says the real thurst of the drive will be a "bottom-up" review of all federal activities.
Early targets are federal personnel practices, civil rights enforcement efforts and regional operations, but the list will expand as time goes on.
Zero-Base Budgeting - While reorganization is seen as a four-year effort, Carter has ordered full implementation in 1977 of ZBB, the budget tool on which he came to rely in Georgia. Charged with applying it to the vast federal establishment is the man who installed it for Carter in Georgia, James T. McIntyre.
On Friday, he handed Carter the proposed text of the first full-scale directive on how the government should prepare its next (fiscal 1979) budget in XBB-style.
The reason for the rush is obvious: budget-making begins in earnest in June and by then the traditional A-11 directive from OMB to the agencies must spell out in complete detail this revolution in budget-making.
Some agency, officials say privately that it is absurd to think they can crank out the thousands of analyses and evaluations ZBB requires in six months' time. McIntyre, who has been through the process in Georgia, says it may be painful, but it's not impossiable. Rep Jack Brooks (D-Tex)., who lobbied privately with Carter to apply ZBB selectively and graually to government agencies, says the notion that it can be slapped into place across-the-board is "a happy dream; you believe you can do that, you believe in the tooth fairly."
To ease the pain somewhat, McIntyre is planning to make the evaluation requirements and funding alternatives rather simple for the first year, perhaps exempt some "entitlement programs" entirely.
In Georgia, ZBB turned up between 7,000 and 10,000 "decision-packages" for review each year. The number in Washington will be so much greater review system, with most of the judments being made at the agency or departmental level, and only major "packages" going to the OMB and that cIntypre is planning on a two-tier President for decision.
If the experience of a House Appropriations subcommittee is any guide, even that may prove to be burden some.
At the instigation of Rep. Max Baucus (D-Mont), the entire budget of the Consumer Product Safety Commission and a small piece of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration budget were prepared this year using Georgia-style ZBB techniques.
The size of the CPSC budget presentation expanded by 100 per cent. The ZBB presentation for three of NASA's 10 units was as big as the whole normal NASA budget book. And yet neither included the key ingredients of ZBB - priority evaluations and spelling-out of the consequences of various funding levels.
Rep. Edward P. Boland (D-Mass.), chairman of the appropriations subcommittee, called the result of the experiment "rather horrendous."
But difficult as they found the work, officials of the agencies testified that ZBB gave them a better picture of their own operations than they had ever had. "They learned a lot about their agencies they didn't know before," Baucus said.
Because there has been no serious congressional examination of ZBB, few members appear to know that it is seen by the Carterities as purely a tool for executive use.
In an appearance before Muskie's subcommittee last month, OMB Director Lance publicly recanted his earlier promise to Sen. John Glenn (D-Ohio) to let Congress have immediate access to the material OMB gets from the agencies in their budget requests.
Instead, he called for "decoupling" ZBB from congressional program review, and said the demand for ZBB information to be turned over to Congress "would interfere with the inefficient and expeditious conduct of government."
Lance's view drew protests from several senators, but McIntyre said in an interview that he is proceeding on the basis that Congress will get the budget from Carter next January in its traditional format.
To which Rep. Baucus said: "I hope they don't do that. Then we're talkiuing two different languages."
Sunset - the basic idea of sunset liigislation is very i simple: forece Congress to review the programs it has created by setting an automatic expiration date for them.
The idea began in Colorado and has been picked up by a few other states. In the Senate, Muskie had little trouble signing up 53 cosponsors, spaning the ideological range from Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass) to Sen. Barry Goldwater (R-Ariz).
It would apply to all but a handful of federal programs; exceptions are made for obligations like interest on the national debt and for self-financed programs like Social Security.
Every other program would automatically come up for review each five years, and programs in a given area would all expire in the same year, forcing simultaneous evaluation.
No program could be reauthorized without a finding by its parent committee that is was meeting its objectives and deserved re-enactment.
That simple and appealing idea for pruning the accumulated programmatic growth was endorsed by Carter during the course of his campaign. But when administration witnesses came before Muskie's subcommittee last month to testify on behalf of the bill, they raised more questions about its provisions than they answered.
Lance found some of its parts "unworkable". Labor Secretary Ray Marshall and Health, Education and Welfare Secretary Joseph A. Califano Jr., warned that it might unintentionally jeopardize such basic legislation as the minimun wage, child labor standards and civil rights, by subjecting their enforcement machinery to the perils of periodic review.
Califano joined others in wondering if Congress could cope with the work-load of "one thousand sunset reviews for HEW alone". Former Michigan Rep. James G. O'Hara, a liberal Democrat, said, "If I were a republican who opposed all these programs when they were adopted, I would think that sunset is the greatest thing that's ever come along."
Sen. Henry M. Jackson (D-Wash) said sunset would "overwhelm" Congress with work, and Sen. Russell B. Long (D-La), warned that it would significantly alter the power balance between Congress and President. He argued that a President could use his veto power to deny a congressional majority's ability to re-enact even a long-established and effective program, opposed by that President and a one-third minority in either the House or Senate.
Despite the unexpectedly stiff criticism, Muskie is pressing for action in his subcommittee this month, and sunset could reach the Senate floor by summer.
If it passes, the next few years could see the greatest unheaval in government programs, structures and budgets since the New Deal and World War II. And the President who is at the center of that storm would almost certainly be as powerful as Franklin D. Roosevelt.