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Meet Our Fellows: William Clinger (‘98)

Former Congressman William Clinger reflects on his greatest accomplishments and Grand Challenges.

Reflecting on your career, is there a highlight, a greatest accomplishment or a funny story you’d like to share?

The most significant thing I accomplished as a member of Congress was passage of the Clinger Cohen Act which among other things was an effort to reform the federal procurement system to make it more efficient and less costly. In the process I learned a great deal about why it is so difficult to change or reform any federal activity. Congress is a major contributor to the problem. There was major resistance in the House to passage from corporate entities with significant federal contracts who wanted no change in procurement policies because they had an inside track. There was opposition from the Small Business community, concerned that somehow the Act would disadvantage them. There was pushback from members who represented big time federal contractors, as well as from federal procurement officials themselves who didn’t want the system they were used to change. The most ironic lobbyist for defeat of the bill was AT&T which vigorously lobbied on behalf of small business. It took almost two years to get passage. The bill was defeated when it was first up for a vote and only passed after we amended it (and weakened it).

Where are you now? How do you like to spend your time?

I now live in a retirement village in Naples, FL where as a member of the Former Members Association, I give lectures to residents in my own place and others on the need for all of the state governments to transfer the reapportionment process away from the state legislatures to bipartisan commissions and make the case that gerrymandering has created a malfunctioning Congress with too many far, far right Republican members and too many far left Democratic ones.

Looking at the present and into the future, what do you think a public administration “Grand Challenge” is or might be? (Learn more about the Academy’s Grand Challenges initiative!)

For me a great decision would be for Congress to make it much more difficult for an administration to shut down the federal government which would be more likely if the House of Representatives was less tribal and polarized which can only occur when gerrymandering is a thing of the past

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