Executive branch staff cuts put in effect by President Reagan have failed to reduce bureaucratic waste, according to two out of three federal workers interviewed in a new Washington Post survey, and half say the cuts have reduced their ability to work effectively.
Half the 504 federal workers interviewed in the survey said they see "a lot" or "some" waste in their agencies; 24 percent said waste has been reduced where they work, but another 14 percent said the problem has gotten worse since Reagan took office. Reagan has said as recently as in March that the government is "reducing federal adminstrative overhead."
The survey was based on a random sampling of employes listed in the telephone books of six agencies--the Health and Human Services, Commerce, Interior, Transportation and Energy departments and the Office of Personnel Management.
Seven in every 10 interviewed said the budget cuts, a stated aim of which was to increase government efficiency, have not made their agency more efficient. Only 13 percent said the cuts have increased efficiency where they work.
A Commerce Department program analyst, one of those interviewed, said that "many programs are sitting on the back burners" as a result of the cuts, and that initiative has "stagnated." Agreeing with the goals of budgetary and fiscal responsibility, he complained that cuts at Commerce "should have been done more managerially, with more study instead of random cuts."
In all, the Washington-area staff in the six agencies was reduced by 9 percent from the time Reagan took office in January, 1981, through last December. Civil Service workers are sometimes as harsh or harsher in their views of waste in government than the public at large. One civil servant interviewed, an accountant at OPM, praised the Reagan-inspired drive to reduce waste, saying, "There's more emphasis on improving financial controls now."
Overall, however, most federal employes say the federal government does at least as well as private industry in holding down waste. Twenty-four percent say there is more waste in their agency than in private companies of similar size. But 45 percent say there is about the same amount of waste, and 14 percent say there is less waste in their agency.
Many government workers' complaints about budget cuts appear related less to the overall efficiency of the government than to how the cuts have affected them personally. Nearly half of the employes interviewed in six agencies say their workload has been increased since Reagan took office; 15 percent say the cuts have completely eliminated the jobs they used to do.
Here's what some of them said:
* A project manager at the Commerce Department: "I'm writing more proposals to upper-level management instead of doing research. They want choices to decide what to cut in the budget."
* An attorney at DOE, which the administration has recommended abolishing: "The major change has been toward dismantling or slowing down of programs or activities. Formerly, program development was the major focus."
* A training officer in one agency said he is now forced "to beg and borrow to get materials. To teach management-level skills to rising employes has been made much more difficult if not impossible."
* A contracting officer at HHS: Reductions in force "are affecting the wrong people."
* A Commerce statistician who was downgraded in March to a job with more clerical responsibilities: "Since I'm in a new job, it involved new subject matter that I'm not used to and that I have to relearn."
* A DOE computer systems analyst described how the tracking system her office had put in place under President Carter was eliminated through the budget cuts. "Now we have to use a piecemeal approach. Turnaround time is slow and information is not as accurate, or available."
Thirty percent of those surveyed said the responsibilities of their jobs have changed greatly since Reagan had taken office.
Three out of every four of those who said the morale of their agency was "poor" cited at least one way cuts had negatively affected them. The cuts were cited by almost everyone who complained that his or her job was "much less satisfying" than two years ago.
Perceptions of the cuts and their effects appear tied to some extent to a worker's own politics and views of Reagan. Democrats and independents were more likely to say they had been affected by cuts than were Republicans.