Nominee for OPM vows to cut red tape, improve recruiting


WASHINGTON -- James King, President Clinton's choice to head the Office of Personnel Management, pledged to reduce government red tape and improve the recruitment and public image of federal workers.

The 58-year-old Democratic political adviser spoke yesterday at hTC a confirmation hearing before the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee. King's nomination appeared to sail through with no apparent opposition from senators on the panel.

"Our challenge will be to equip federal workers and managers to meet the president's and the public's expectation for the coming years: to become smaller and more productive," King told the committee.

OPM must support federal workers and managers, he added, "by reducing bureaucracy and creating a workplace that combines flexibility in procedure, with accountability for results."

In his experience, he said, the most successful government managers are those who bend rules and take risks. But because of excessive, regulations and fear of failure, workers often subscribe to the ethos, "If you remain motionless, there's a good chance you'll rise," he said.

King also wants to change the way OPM recruits workers. He told the committee that requiring applicants to pass exams often is unnecessary and discourages qualified individuals from seeking government jobs.

King, chief of staff for Sen. John Kerry in Boston, is on the fast track for confirmation. The Senate could vote to confirm him by the end of this week, a committee aide said.

Senators told King yesterday that they were especially impressed by glowing endorsements King received from his colleagues.

Of all of President Clinton's appointments, King seems the best fit for the position, Sen. David Pryor, D-Ark., said during the hearing.

Testifying on King's behalf were Massachusetts Sens. Kerry and Edward Kennedy, both Democrats. King served as special assistant to Kennedy from 1967 to 1975.

"He has the unique ability to have people who work for him, work extremely hard and love it," Kennedy told the committee. Kennedy's and King's families, both active in Massachusetts politics, are longtime friends.

After working with Kennedy, King served as special assistant to former President Carter in the presidential personnel office and as chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board.

He also was an associate vice president at Harvard University and a senior vice president at Northeastern University in Boston.

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