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OUR THIRD CENTURY: DIRECTIONS
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 5, 1976
Washington, D.C. The symposium met, pursuant to notice, at 9:30 a.m., in room 1318, Dirksen Senate Office Building, Hon. John Glenn (ad hoc chairman) presiding.
Present: Senator John Glenn.
Mr. Zarb indicated he will be with us this morning. I think he is the only member of the panel not here, so I think we will go ahead and get started, because we do have some time constraints of this Government Operations Committee.
This meeting is going to be lengthy and we will have to break and decide whether we are still involved enough to have those of you who can come back this afternoon, to come back at 1 or 1:30 or whatever appears to be the best time. We will make that judgment then.
Just as a word of introduction, I think all of you are familiar with the general purpose of this. I won't go into a long introductory statement this morning.
The purpose, just as a short statement, is trying to look forward and see how we make our basic policy decisions in Government, and can we set up some better methods of doing that than we have in the past. I guess, first, that is what we should do?
There are three general agenda discussion items which provide a very broad view.
One. What role should Government play in setting long-term goals in the development of strategies for achieving those goals. Should it be a directed or a conscious effort to get to certain objectives as opposed to some of the techniques or lack of techniques we use now.
Two. What is Government presently doing in this regard and is it in any way deficient?
Three. If it is deficient, what can be done to improve the effort, either through the reform of existing institutions or the development of new institutions.
Our leadoff witness yesterday was Vice President Nelson Rockefeller, who has had a long interest in this area, as most of you are aware, and I believe as he termed it yesterday morning—I don't re member his exact words—but he termed them “the most exciting idea he has seen as far as things for a committee to look into, and also, the most important for the future of the country."
And I think that indicates the importance that he attached to this. He went through quite a listing of items under each of those general agenda areas yesterday. He went through the elements he felt should be under each one of those general titles.
Yesterday afternoon we had a panel comprised of Dr. Barry Commoner, Richard Barnet, Mary Bunting, Alvin Toffler, Jackson Gray. son, Malcolm Moos, and Clifford Alexander, which was a general conversation format that we have tried to set up here this morning also, instead of just going into the regular committee type layout here that we normally have.
If you have lengthy statements, we would prefer you to summarize them this morning or we will include them in the record. Hopefully we can keep the opening remarks to a few minutes so that we may have the maximum amount of time to have discussions back and forth between members of the panel, myself, and the other Senators that may happen to come in a little later in the day. All of you on this particular panel have had Government experi
mer ence and have seen this from the inside out as well as the outside in. So I think this can be a particularly valuable group that we have available to us here this morning.
So I think to open this up, if you do have short statements that you wish to make, we could just go through in alphabetical order, Mr. Ash.
TESTIMONY OF ROY ASH, FORMER DIRECTOR, OFFICE OF
MANAGEMENT AND BUDGET Mr. Ash. Mr. Chairman, I have a 5-minute summary statement. I have sent you copies, but I think for the processes of putting my premises on the table for discussion, it might nevertheless be useful for me to make that statement as a summer one.
Just as the Vice President stated yesterday, you have identified a very key question to which responsible Government officials should be addressing themselves in these times.
I'm pleased to add my own thinking to your deliberations, and it's certainly gratifying to me as well as the other panelists, I'm sure, that these discussions are being chaired by you and from your own personal participation in a program that successfully translated longrange objectives and policies into accomplished results.
I can respond by identifying four prefatory type observations that I think need to be made before I feel comfortable in even getting further into discussion of the subject.
First is that we need to understand each other when we use the “long-range objectives and policies." Are we discussing objectives such as life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, or are we discussing objectives like the rehabilitation of the Northeast Railway System?
Before we got too far into the subject, I think we need to have some concept among ourselves as to the length of term of the objectives we are talking about, the degree of abstraction of the objective we are talking about, and their comprehensiveness.
In my own thinking, useful work can be done toward developing Jong-range objectives, particularly at the programmatic level, that is, dealing with such things as the Northeast Rail program, the youth
unemployment, the future of Social Security, energy independence and that level of issue.
And I would also take this occasion to observe that none of us, I believe is smart enough to succeed very well in complex integrated national planning such as that being contemplated elsewhere in the Senate.
I think we have to avoid the temptation to use the seemingly highminded processes of planning as merely a foot in the door to inject the Government into matters that are better accomplished by the people and by the private sector.
So, the first point then is that we should decide what we are talking about when we talk about long-range objectives.
The second point, it's always tempting to attribute our disappointments and our frustrations with the vagaries of the real world-and the real world is full of vagaries—to a lack of foresight, a lack of analysis, and lack of anticipatory action based upon that foresight and analysis.
We like to think, and we're comfortable with the thought, that the world runs with some degree of order and reason and that only if we could discern and model all the necessary factors ahead of time, we could control events toward more satisfactory outcomes.
While I agre that more can be done to anticipate and deal with long-term future, I caution that having done the best we can, our surprises and frustrations will not be eliminated from the affairs of of man or the affairs of state.
For that matter, the very fact that we cannot anticipate the future with reasonable certainty makes it even more imperative that We rigorously think about it, think about the alternative possibilities, do the best we can to set our long-range objectives and our policies, but be prepared to change them and to take into account the changing events as they will change beyond our anticipation.
As I look at it, a good navigator and a good set of navigation charts are much more useful on a strong sea and under a cloudy night than when all is clear and calm, and all will not be clear and calm, so we had better well have a good navigator and a good set of navigation charts.
The third observation that I would like to make is that objectivesetting and policymaking, whether it be for an individual, his family, whether it be for a business or a state or Nation is a valueladen process. Values don't come out of computers, and as we all know, value differences are reflected in the governmental processes as political differences.
Certainly, such differences are not going to be eliminated by merely better analysis or the so-called scientific approach. Thus, while any one of us, or maybe even small groups
nis, can propose long-range objectives and policies consistent with our own ralues, it's a different matter for the whole of Government, let alone the whole of Congress, to agree upon and adopt them. Yet again, the work of objective-setting should go on because it adds to the usefulness of the task.
Conscious and orderly discussion of objectives bring out the sometimes inarticulated and hidden values that lie behind the objectives that we would each presume to be the proper ones.
The fourth point which comes a little closer to the real meat of your question draws from your observation that private business develops long-range policies and objectives, so why not the Government?
Well, while my own experience leads me quickly to conclude that business is not government and vice versa, there is one lesson I think can be learned by observing business in its task of setting long-term objectives and policies.
În looking at those differences in performances between individual companies, one can see a very close correlation between the quality and usefulness of such work to a company and variations in one factor, and that is, the commitment and the personal participation of top management.
When the management sets long-range objectives and policies, when the management takes a hand in doing so, the results show it.
When such work is not considered of use to management or relegated to some remote part of the organization, then the business organization pays the price for not looking ahead effectively.
Top management participation in a business also insures the inclusion of the organization's value system, that I referred to earlier, in setting objectives and policies; and furthermore, which goes to a point in your letter, since such objective and policy-setting work exists as the basis for action-and that is its purpose---participation in it by management insures better coupling to the action gears and levers.
This particular observation, in my judgment, is as relevant to Government as it is to business. As I see it, therefore, no procedural changes of any consequence are necessary to improve the government's work developing long-range objectives and policies, certainly no new organizational structures. What is required is that both the executive and legislative branches more strongly perceive the value in doing so, and then just do it. There is nothing at the moment that precludes them from doing so.
And then as it relates to the use of outside expertise to which you referred, when the leaders in the action offices of government are committed and involved in setting long-range objectives and policies, not only will they use outside competence, but they will in turn couple that outside competence into the action system of government.
Well, I leave my comments there and am prepared to go further than that, but I felt that I should establish the premises on which I would participate in further discussions.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
NICHOLAS JOHNSON, NATIONAL
Mr. Joinsox. I don't have a prepared statement, but I have a couple of opening observations I'll try to keep brief.
One is not unlike the last point made by Mr. Ash. I would draw an analogy to the matter of national health and diet.
We tend to look upon national health as a medical problem, or respond with research in laboratories about cancer and heart disease. Yet as HEW has most recently told us, and many of us have been aware all along, most of the causes of cancer and heart disease lie within our own control.
There are a lot of books about dieting. This is one of the features. of health, not only in terms of reducing weight, but also cholesterol in the blood and so forth. One way of approaching this problem would be to write better books about dieting, or try to think of better diets that involve grapefruit and water or high protein or what-not. A lot of people do that. But it turns out that the principal problem is not really coming up with a better diet. The principal problem is. developing the psychology that will encourage people to actually participate in the process of improving their own diets.
If one were to try to assess the problem of doing something about cancer and heart disease in the United States today, it most assuredly would come down to that. The question is not how do we do more medical research with test tubes in laboratories; or how do we come up with new exercise programs; but how do we get people to participate in them, to use the knowledge we already have.
It seems to me that the analogy is very close to what it is you are talking about here.
We know how to do systems analysis. We had a program planning and budgeting system. We have "think tanks” around the United States. We have people in the academic community, Government and elsewhere who are fully capable, competent, interested, and experienced in participating in the process of helping plan the future of this country and send us down an intelligent path.
The problem, it seems to me, is not: How do we devise better mechanisms in Government; how do we recruit better planners; how do we have better national commissions and committees; how do we have better hearings in Congress? The problem, it seems to me, is: How do you get people appointed to office who care about it?
If they care about it, there are plenty of ways of dealing with it. Those who you've gathered around this table and at your other panels -by process of self-selection in response to your invitation--are those people who did do something about it and they care about it.
I rigorously applied the standard that 30 percent of my time as Maritime Administrator was going to go into the planning operation. And we did that. A lot of other things didn't get done. Speeches didn't get given; there were cocktail parties I failed to attend. It seems to me that that is what it comes down to.
It starts with the President, necessarily. President Johnson, as I recall, sent out a memorandum saying:
I want to know from you what you think are the best poliries for this Nation in your area. And don't you worry about what's politically expedient and what isn't. I'll make the judgment about that, and oftentimes we can do things you don't think we can, and sometimes we can't do things you think we ought to be able to do. You tell me what's the best thing to he done.
And if there had heen White House tapes in that period of American history in the Presidency, you would have heard on the tanes discussions about the best way to get food to poor people and the