WHITE HOUSE BRIEFING BY KAMARCK AND MCCURRY
White House Press Secretary Mike McCurry and Vice President Gore's
Senior Policy Advisor and reinvention of government guru, Dr. Elaine
Kamarck, briefed April 18.
Following is the White House transcript:
THE WHITE HOUSE April 18, 1997
PRESS BRIEFING BY MIKE MCCURRY The Briefing Room
MCCURRY: Let me just start by reading to you a part of a written
statement from the Vice President of the United States, Al Gore. The
Vice President's statement reads: "The President and I believe we have
an historic opportunity to systematically reinvent the agencies which
implement the nation's foreign policies in order to ensure that they
effectively confront the new and pressing challenges of the post-Cold
War world. To that end, the President has approved the two-year
reorganization plan for these agencies.
"I'm proud of this achievement. I'm confident that through this
historic reinvention process we will create leaner and more effective
structures in order to ensure American leadership around the world for
the new century."
The person who has worked most closely with the Vice President on this
reorganization plan and can tell you a lot about the effort that's
really going on over the last three years to arrive at this moment is
Dr. Elaine Kamarck, the Vice President's Senior Policy Advisor and
reinvention of government guru.
Why are you looking at me, Leo?
Q: Well, I was going to ask you, why was it a bum idea the last two
years and this year it's a great idea?
MCCURRY: Never been a bum idea, but the time is right now and the time
was not exactly right then. And Dr. Kamarck can tell you why.
Q: Wait a minute. Are you denying that the administration strenuously
opposed this reorganization during the Christopher days?
MCCURRY: Yes, absolutely, because I was there with Secretary
Christopher -- we had always looked for ways of restructuring and
making more efficient those agencies, but we always believed
simultaneously it needed to be done in the right context of
reinventing government. It was not just about collapsing organization
boxes on an organization chart, it was about innovation and a new
spirit of modernization within our foreign policy apparatus. And it
took until now to do that.
Now, there are other complicating factors, too. There was a budget
fight in 1995-'96 which subsumed a lot of the efforts to look at the
function 150 Account broadly and then to look structurally at the
foreign policy apparatus. But Elaine will tell you a lot more about
Yes. Why do you want me in this when you've got the expert here?
Q: Why should this not be regarded as a quid pro quo for Senator Helms
in order to get a Senate vote on the chemical weapons?
MCCURRY: Because long before we got to the point of debating in the
Senate the Chemical Weapons Convention, Secretary Albright said she
was committed as a matter of principle to modernizing and
reinvigorating those foreign policy mechanisms that we used to advance
U.S. interests around the world, and moreover, as part of the Vice
President's longstanding interest in reinventing government, we had a
strong interest in bringing reinvention to the State Department. That
has been true for three years and we've been working to that end for
Q: But didn't she say that as a quid pro quo to get confirmed?
MCCURRY: She said that, recognizing, obviously, that Chairman Helms
has pressed this goal, but there's been support within this
administration for modernizing our foreign policy institutions over
the last three years as well -- three years being actually from the
beginning of the President's term, but the serious work began in '95
DR. KAMARCK: Let me talk to this a little bit. We looked at this
seriously beginning in January 1995. At that time we began a very
large scale reinvention activity that encompassed the four agencies
involved here. It was led by the National Performance Review. Among
the difficulties that we encountered at that time was a feeling that
there was a significant amount of reinvention that needed to go on in
the State Department itself before the State Department was ready to
then absorb other agencies.
We then, as Mike said, as we were beginning to sort out some of those
things and a reinvention agenda for the State Department, we came into
the summer of '95, as you know, we ran into the budget crisis and the
eventual shutdown of the government. And this job was put aside for a
time-being with the exception of work that was being done at OMB and
at the State Department about how the State Department itself ought to
When we got reelected, came into office again, this was one of the
pieces of unfinished business in the reinventing government agenda
that the Vice President wanted to go back to. He began to talk about
this with the new Secretary of State, who also came in with a
significant desire to do serious reinvention at the State Department.
Reinvention at the State Department is an a priori qualification for
doing any other consolidations of other agencies, and that's one of
the things that made this happen this time. There will be a new Under
Secretary for Management, there is some personnel changes, et cetera,
and there are management plans being developed right now at the State
Department. So part of what's going on here is we've got a
reinvigorated State Department and a State Department that will
hopefully start dealing with some of its core problems as we proceed.
Q: And it's only coincidence that it came a week before the chemical
DR. KAMARCK: Only coincidence.
Q: Is it a happy coincidence?
DR. KAMARCK: Yes. Of course, it is. But once again, remember, doing
these things takes a long time. I mean, we generated piles and piles
of paper last time. And one of the reasons that we could, in fact, do
this in a relatively short period of time right now -- as we started
thinking about this in February again -- is that we had, in fact,
gotten to roughly these conclusion two years ago and had done a lot of
the groundwork and kind of understood where the pieces would fit best
for a 21st century diplomacy.
Q: As a result of this reorganization, Elaine, how much money will the
taxpayers save over the next several years?
DR. KAMARCK: They will save some money, but the savings are not big.
The entire 150 Account, all of this money is about one percent of the
federal budget. These are very small agencies; they have a very small
number of employees. If you are looking to balance the budget on these
agencies, it would be impossible.
As we develop the legislation and actually go through the details of
the reorganization plan, we will give you personnel and savings
figures. But they're not -- they will not be huge given the size of
Q: Elaine, for two things -- first, how many jobs are going to be lost
and how is it going to affect the relative independence of the Voice
of America and other related --
DR. KAMARCK: The Voice of America has editorial independence and
integrity as it is and that will stay exactly the same under the
As I said before, there will be some job loss I'm sure, but this will
not be huge. There will be administration consolidations,
consolidations of public affairs, legislative shops, etcetera. But
basically, these are -- the ACDA and USIA consolidations are being
done in order to strengthen the State Department's capacity to do
public diplomacy and arms control.
Q: Do you have a figure on those jobs?
DR. KAMARCK: No, we don't have a figure on the jobs yet. And we won't
until we actually write the legislation and then have OMB cost it out.
Q: How far down the ladder on the table of organization at the State
Department is ACDA going to end up?
DR. KAMARCK: ACDA will be, actually, very high up in a new under
secretary that will have not only a reporting relationship to the
Secretary of State, but the ability to speak directly through the
Secretary to the President of the United States on matters of arms
control advocacy. And what was very important to the Vice President in
putting this together is that there be that independent advocacy role
of ACDA preserved in the State Department. And we have models
elsewhere in the government for preserving that independent access to
Q: And that under secretary will be limited to arms control or will
have wider jurisdiction?
DR. KAMARCK: Wider jurisdiction. What will happen is that ACDA and
what is now the PM bureau of State will merge essentially into a
larger under secretary.
Q: What about information activities at USIA, where will they go in
DR. KAMARCK: Some of those information activities will be moved into
the State Department. There will be an attempt to make a unified
public affairs structure for diplomacy. The I Bureau at USIA, which
has received a lot of kudos for bringing information into the
electronic age, will be preserved, brought into the State Department,
and we hope will enhance the State Department's capacity to
communicate to foreign publics.
MCCURRY: Tell them about the new under secretary for public diplomacy.
DR. KAMARCK: I don't think we'd better do that right now.
Q: Elaine, is there any way to assure those at VOA that the level of
independence won't be impacted by this? You've said it won't, but as
the process goes along -- might change. Can you give us that kind of a
DR. KAMARCK: I can give you that kind of guarantee. That guarantee was
explicit in the decision memorandum that the President signed off on
that there would be this editorial integrity. And that is something
that the President and Vice President feel strongly about.
MCCURRY: Let me add something on that. You will not be surprised to
hear that we have heard already quite an earful from Evelyn Lieberman
on that subject. She has stressed how important the integrity of VOA's
independent editorial voice is and how necessary it is for that to be
a useful and reliable tool of information around the world. And, of
course, that's foreseen as part of the plan.
DR. KAMARCK: Thank you.