Agency Self-Reviews to Commence Under Executive Order

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By Cheryl Bolen

President Donald Trump signed an executive order that will start a government-wide review to determine where federal programs can be eliminated or modified and costs saved.

The March 13 order requires a “thorough examination” of every executive branch department and agency to identify where money is being wasted, how services can be improved and whether programs are truly serving the public, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said.

“This is the beginning of a long-overdue reorganization of the federal government, and another significant step towards the president’s often-stated goal of making it more efficient, effective and accountable to the American people,” Spicer said.

According to a White House fact sheet, the order, titled “Comprehensive Plan for Reorganizing the Executive Branch,” directs Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney to submit a plan to reorganize all executive branch departments and agencies.

Obama Tried

During his second term in office, former President Barack Obama repeatedly asked Congress for the authority to consolidate and reorganize the federal government.

Most recently, in July 2013, Obama directed his Cabinet to develop an aggressive management agenda for his second term that would make government smarter, more innovative and accountable to the public.

For more than 50 years, presidents were able to streamline or consolidate the executive branch by submitting a proposal to Congress that was guaranteed a simple up-or-down vote. But in 1984, during the Reagan administration, Congress stopped granting that authority.

“As the administration puts together a plan, congressional action is necessary to fix many of the larger instances of duplication and waste throughout the federal government,” Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) said in a statement. “I look forward to working with the administration to develop this important legislation.”

Self-Review

Under the new order, the OMB will ask each department and agency to submit a detailed report within 180 days containing concrete ideas to improve efficiency, effectiveness and accountability, the fact sheet said. The president will then work with Congress to put these plans and suggestions into practice, it said.

It is unclear whether Mulvaney has a numeric target in mind, either in terms of reducing the size of government or cost savings, Spicer said during a daily press briefing at the White House.

Instead, the idea is to go through each program to see what it does or doesn’t do, and whether it is bloated, duplicative, outdated or in need of new technology, Spicer said.

“There’s no set number that we’re driving down to, as we review government,” Spicer said.

Blueprint for Action

Sometimes when programs are reviewed, their mission is found to be no longer relevant, or are duplicated in three other agencies, or there are too many people performing a function that no longer exists, Spicer said.

“That’s why the mission is critical, that Director Mulvaney was given the mandate to go out and get all of these different agencies and departments to review themselves and to provide feedback for him as to where we can go,” Spicer said.

During a signing ceremony in the Oval Office surrounded by Cabinet members, Trump said he wanted to empower them to make their agencies as lean and effective as possible.

“Today there’s duplication and redundancy everywhere,” Trump said. “Billions and billions of dollars are being wasted on activities that are not [producing] results for hard-working American taxpayers, and not even coming close.”

According to the fact sheet, as part of the agency review process, all Americans will be able to submit suggestions and ideas on how to make government work better for them.

To contact the reporter on this story: Cheryl Bolen in Washington at cbolen@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Paul Hendrie at pHendrie@bna.com

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