Ronald Reagan: he will chair the 'board'
President-elect Ronald Reagan plans to turn the Oval Office into something of a board room. There he and his top cabinet secretaries will give major national problems the same kind of businesslike attention corporate boards give to their concerns.
Mr. Reagan's decision to model the White House operation somewhat after the corporate structure contains these aspects:
* He is using as a model the Economic Policy Board set up by President Ford. It held daily meetings in the White House at which economic problems were quietly and quite efficiently tackled.
However, Reagan plans to make his cabinet -- and, particularly, a "super-cabinet" made up of from four to seven cabinet secretaries -- the centerpiece of his White House board structure.
* This "board" will not shift depending on whether the problem or urgency of the day is on domestic or foreign affairs. Instead, the secretaries of State, Defense, and the Treasury -- along with possibly the attorney general and the secretaries of Health and Human Services, Commerce, Labor, and one other cabinet secretary -- will be expected to give their best thinking and advice on problems across the board.
"These cabinet secretaries will be used as "wise men," one Reagan adviser says, "not as officials who merely seek to forward the interests of their own departments."
Caspar W. Weinberger, who himself may play one of these key cabinet roles, says in the Washington Post of Dec. 1 that "Reagan wants a cabinet whose members are advocates of the administration's overall policies to their departments, rather than advocates from the departments of the policies the special interests wish."
Edwin Meese III, cabinet-ranked counselor to the President-elect, confirms that a quasi-corporate board will, indeed, be set up in the White House.
Mr. Meese says that it will be his job to see that the concept works -- to keep the agenda on top priority problems both foreign and domestic and to make certain that all "board" members provide their input into the discussion.
* Actually, the Reagan administration in California was set up in a similar fashion -- looking much like and operating much like a private-sector business organization.
In fact, both Meese and Weinberger were part of that board in Sacramento -- Meese as the coordinator and Weinberger as the adviser on the budget and economic matters. Thus, both men may well be playing similar roles in the Reagan White House.
* The Reagan "board" plan is the structural implementation that will be designed, too, to make sure that the new President does fulfill his promise to have a "cabinet government."
Mr. Reagan is well aware that previous presidents have made that same promise -- but have ended up by relying mainly on White House aides for counsel on substantive matters.
However, he is known to feel that by setting up the super cabinet and making it a daily routine for that unit to meet with him, there will be no possibility that he will drift into reliance on his White House staff for counsel.