Carson Dunbar went to work this week as New Jersey's state police superintendent even though he remains a federal employee, assigned to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms in Washington. Dunbar, a career FBI agent, joined ATF for only a brief period before heading off to New Jersey.

The job changes were made possible by the little-known Intergovernmental Personnel Act (IPA) and the willingness of Attorney General Janet Reno to work with New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman, a Republican, to find a new chief for the state's troopers.

Dunbar's job switches drew a few grumbles at ATF, where some in the rank and file did not like the idea of a state police superintendent carrying ATF credentials in his pocket. But a senior official at the Treasury Department said the arrangement had been approved by federal ethics officials. "We did it by the book, completely," the official said.

Dunbar's journey began earlier this year, when Whitman began looking for a new police superintendent. She had fired the previous chief after he claimed that racial minorities carried out much of the drug trafficking in the state. New Jersey police also were engulfed in allegations of "racial profiling" when stopping motorists for traffic violations.

In September, Whitman announced Dunbar's selection as superintendent and he won confirmation from the state Senate. But Dunbar, a federal employee for more than 20 years, made it a condition that he be given a leave of absence from the FBI so he would keep earning credit toward a federal pension, a spokesman for the state public safety department said.

Some Justice Department officials, meanwhile, became concerned that Dunbar might face a conflict of interest, because Justice was negotiating a consent decree with the state over racial profiling.

After debate within Justice, Reno asked Treasury to put Dunbar on its payroll so that the government could make him available to New Jersey. Dunbar had served as a New Jersey state trooper early in his career, and the appointment made him the first African American to head the state police. "He is an individual who is uniquely qualified," a Justice Department official said.

New Jersey officials said Dunbar would make about $125,000 annually as police superintendent and that the state would reimburse Treasury for his salary. The IPA agreement allows Dunbar to stay two years in New Jersey, which means he likely will return to ATF at about the same time as Whitman's term as governor expires.

The IPA program traditionally has been used to move federal employees into temporary assignments at state agencies, colleges and think tanks. About 450 federal workers are on such details now.

Treasury and Justice officials said they could not recall a similar instance in which the detailee had to receive legislative confirmation in order to take a state job. They also agreed it was unusual for an IPA decision to rise to Reno's level.

But the Treasury official said, "The federal government felt it had a guy who could help New Jersey."

THE PERMANENT REINVENTION: Vice President Gore has not given up on "reinventing government," one of his signature initiatives in the Clinton administration, but acknowledged in an interview with a research foundation that "we're keenly aware that we're not there yet."

From his vantage point, Gore said, "Our greatest challenge remains making reinvention a permanent part of our government's culture, and that's what we'll be focusing on over the next 15 months."

The interview appears in the Business of Government, a publication of the PricewaterhouseCoopers Endowment, scheduled for release Monday.

Gore's reinvention machinery has slowed in recent months, in part because the vice president has diverted his attention to campaigning for his party's presidential nomination. Gore announced one of the last building blocks for his reinvention--a plan to link employee pay to performance--in January, but his proposal has not moved beyond the drafting stage inside the administration.

While "a few more years" will be needed to ensure that reinvention takes root across the government, Gore said, "we're so far down the road that I think it would be almost impossible to go back to the days before reinvention was put into motion."

MOVING ON: George Nesterczuk, the Republican staff director at the House Government Reform civil service subcommittee and longtime watchdog over federal personnel practices, is calling it quits on the Hill. He said he plans to leave in January for life somewhere in the private sector.