RSC Offers Solutions to Boost Government Efficiency During Pandemic | Citizens Against Government Waste

RSC Offers Solutions to Boost Government Efficiency During Pandemic

The WasteWatcher

On April 27, 2020, the House Republican Study Committee (RSC) released its Conservative Framework for Recovery, Accountability, and ProsperityThe commonsense plan has five broad pillars, representing the work of RSC’s five policy task forces.  These five pillars are broken down into a 37-point blueprint designed to guide America through the pandemic and ensure a speedy economic recovery.  The detailed framework should serve as a starting place for Congress’s coronavirus response.

Work done by the RSC’s Government Efficiency, Accountability, and Reform (GEAR) Task Force, representing one of the plan’s five pillars, underscores the necessity of increasing efficiency and accountability during and beyond the crisis.  RSC Chairman Rep. Mike Johnson (R-La) said, “In the best of times, cutting red tape and streamlining the federal bureaucracy saves time and money.  In the worst of times – as we’ve seen during this pandemic – it can also save lives and livelihoods.”  Bloated bureaucracy squanders time and resources, but during this unprecedented crisis, there is no room for error.  Government waste at a time like this can be deadly.

In a letter to House and Senate leadership, GEAR Task Force Chairman Greg Gianforte (R-Mont.) presented four recommendations “to increase efficiency and accountability in the federal government’s response.”  The first recommendation to “Streamline Federal Hiring and Optimize Pay for High-Skilled Employees,” calls for changes that, if enacted, would make the system of hiring and compensating federal employees more efficient.  

Currently, there is little incentive for federal employees to innovate, and the system largely ignores the merit of individual workers.  The RSC has noted that “the federal employee compensation system…overcompensates less qualified employees while undercompensating employees with higher qualifications.”  Unsurprisingly, this makes recruiting and retaining high-quality workers difficult.  These well-educated, productive workers are precisely who America needs on the frontlines when responding to a pandemic, yet the status quo is actively hurting the federal government’s ability to retain high caliber employees.

The second recommendation calls for Congress to pass H.R. 6128, the Eliminate Agency Excess Space Act.  This commonsense legislation, introduced by Rep. Greg Murphy (R-N.C.), would save taxpayers more than $15 billion over five years by cutting red tape and making it easier for federal agencies to sell or lease unused office spaces.  The Council for Citizens Against Government Waste supported this legislation when it was introduced, and the coronavirus has given the bill a new sense of urgency.  Unused federal buildings could be used to support healthcare workers and help with other aspects of the coronavirus response.  

The GEAR Task Force’s third recommendation to “Enact the Stopping Improper Payments to Deceased People Act,” seems like something Captain Obvious would be promoting.  Previous audits by the Social Security Administration Office of Inspector General found the agency wastes tens of millions of dollars each year by providing benefits to dead people.    Like the RSC’s other recommendations, this proposal has always made sense, but with the $1,200 Economic Impact Payments provided by the CARES Act already being flagged as being paid to dead people, it is critical that money from the massive emergency spending bills go only to those who are alive to receive them.

The fourth and final recommendation from the GEAR Task Force is to “Streamline the Permitting Process” to facilitate a speedy economic recovery.  Excessive regulations have always prevented America from realizing its full economic potential, but the stakes are much higher for the upcoming recovery.  If left unaddressed, government red tape will hamper economic growth by slowing job creation and limiting private investment. The GEAR Task Force recommended two pieces of legislation that, if enacted, would ensure bloated bureaucracy does not smother the recovery.  

The first bill, H.R. 5591, the Critical Habitat Improvement Act, was introduced by Rep. Johnson and would ensure the Endangered Species Act protects vulnerable wildlife without causing unnecessary economic harm to businesses and landowners.  The second bill, S. 1976, the Federal Permitting and Jobs Act, was introduced by Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) with bipartisan support.  The legislation would reduce the regulatory burden of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).  NEPA requires that federal agencies assess how certain infrastructure projects would impact the environment before construction can begin.  This process regularly results in lengthy delays, which in turn kill jobs and hinder economic development, and often duplicates similar impact assessments conducted at the state or local level.  As with everything else recommended by the RSC, the Critical Habitat Improvement Act and the Federal Permitting and Jobs Act are good ideas under all conditions, but passage of these bills is essential to rectify the economic damage inflicted by the coronavirus.

In the coming months, Congress will plot the course of America’s economic recovery.  While some are calling for big government solutions and trillions in new spending, there is a better way forward.  Rather than expanding an already oversized government, Congress should lift regulations, cut wasteful spending, and lower taxes.  The RSC plan has clear, actionable solutions that will ensure government supports, rather than stifles, economic recovery.  The need to cut red tape and eliminate wasteful spending has never been greater, and Congress should immediately get to work so that America will bounce back from the coronavirus stronger than ever before.

-- Jack Fencl