Ronald Reagan, seeking to portray his administration as a cost-cutter from the outset, has told aides he will expect prompt and specific reports from Cabninet officials on ways to eliminate waste in their departments.
The move is one of several actions Reagan will take the first week of his presidency in an effort to demonstrate to the Congress and the country that he is serious about reducing the growth of government. Some of the other steps include:
A hiring freeze that Reagan aides claim will be more complete and effective than the present hiring freeze of the Carter administration.
Abolishing the Council on Wage and Price Stability and its estimated 200 positions. This will move more than meet an announced Reagan goal of reducing the size of the executive office of the presidency, with its 1,700 positions, by 10 percent.
A moratorium on a wide variety of pending federal regulations, which Reagan contends add greatly to the cost of doing business in the United States.
These moves are largely symbolic and will not, by themselves, make major reductions in the federal budget. Reagan aides did not even have an estimate of the dollar savings.
But it is the hope of the president-elect and his incoming team that these steps will have a salutary effect within the government. Aides said the president will instruct his Cabinet officials to report back "at a date certain" with specific proposals for reducing the cost of their own departments.
The goal, although it is not limited to that, is to cut by at least 10 percent the prospective cost of each agency as outlined in the last Carter budget.
When he became governor of California in 1967, Reagan announced both a 10 percent state budget cut and a hiring freeze. The freeze helped in reducing the spiraling growth of the state work force, but the 10 percent budget cuts were rescinded within three months of Reagan's inauguration.
The president-elect took his last flight as a private citizen from California to Washington Wednesday. He spent most of yesterday in closed-door meetings with aides and economic advisers.
Reagan talked to reporters briefly on a noontime stroll from Blair House to lunch at the Hay-Adams Hotel, saying that he was "delighted" with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee's vote recommending the confirmation of Alexander M. Haig Jr. as secretary of state.
In response to a question, Reagan also praised President Carter's farewell speech Wednesday night, saying "I thought it was very fine."
While there is some quietly voiced concern within the Reagan inner circle that the incoming administration has not moved swiftly enough in making appointments or preparing its economic package, optimism was expressed on both scores yesterday by Reagan's chief counselor, Edwin Meese.
Meese announced Reagan's final Cabinet-level appointment -- Republican National Chairman Bill Brock as U.S. trade representative -- and then said he expected that most of the sub-Cabinet appointments would be made by next Tuesday, Inauguration Day.
Meese also said that Reagan would issue an economic message soon after his inauguration. This would be followed within two to four weeks by a series of proposals to Congress for tax cuts, budget reductions and regulatory reform.
"We're right on schedule with the economic package," Meese said.
Domestic adviser Martin Anderson was quoted by The New York Times yesterday as telling a meeting of that newspaper's editors and reporters that the administration will accelerate decontrol of domestic oil prices, as Reagan promised during the campaign.
This move, if it comes, would be as symbolic as the series of inauguration-week actions planned by the Reagan team. Only about one-fourth of domestic oil is currently subject to price controls and these controls are scheduled to end Sept. 30 without any action by the president.
Meese was asked what the Reagan administration would do about the U.S. hostages in Iran if they are not freed by the time the new president takes office.
He said that the incoming president "reserves the right to start with a clean slate if it appears in the national interest to do so." This apparently was a reference to the view held by both Carter and Reagan that the new president will not be bound by current negotiations aimed at freeing the hostages.