By Cheryl Bolen
The Trump administration’s fiscal year 2019 budget was supposed to contain a comprehensive plan for federal agencies to cut personnel, streamline operations, and reorganize to produce real savings for the U.S. government.
And, while there will be more information about agency plans in the budget set for release on Feb. 12, it will mark the start of a longer overhaul process, Office of Management and Budget officials told reporters Feb. 8.
Reorganizations in the private sector are typically a journey rather than something that happens all at once, an OMB official said.
“There will certainly be indications in the budget of the beginning of that journey,” the official said. “Other things that, to the extent that they are larger, more challenging, or have bigger budgetary impacts, still need to be worked out.”
The process involved a lot of intake from the agencies and analysis of opportunities for streamlining and improving, the official said.
“Today there is duplication and redundancy everywhere” President Donald Trump said in remarks from the Oval Office on March 13, 2017.
To improve the situation, Trump signed Executive Order 13,781, a Comprehensive Plan for Reorganizing the Executive Branch, to eliminate unnecessary agencies, components of agencies, and agency programs.
The OMB director would oversee the plan, working with experts inside and outside of the federal government, as well as seeking input from the American people, the president said.
“Based on this input, we will develop a detailed plan to make the federal government work better—reorganizing, consolidating, and eliminating where necessary: In other words, making the federal government more efficient and very, very cost productive,” Trump said.
In April 2017, OMB Director Mick Mulvaney issued a memorandum to executive branch departments and agencies outlining the steps that OMB planned to take to develop a “comprehensive government-wide reform plan” for publication in the president’s FY 2019 budget.
As part of their FY 2019 budget submissions to OMB in fall 2017, agencies were directed to submit their proposed agency overhaul plans to OMB.
These would be incorporated into the government-wide reform plan, which would encompass agency-specific changes, the president’s management agenda, and cross-agency priority goals, among other changes, the memo said.
The plan was for agencies to begin implementing some of the changes immediately, while others would require congressional action, the memo said.
“Agencies should identify areas to eliminate activities that are not core to the agency’s primary mission and/or are needlessly redundant,” the memo said.
Consideration should be given to activities that are no longer necessary in today’s society, or where there is another entity that may more appropriately fulfill part or all of the role, such as the private sector, another federal program, or another level of government, it said.
Whether Trump can succeed where other presidents have failed remains to be seen. President Barack Obama made it as far as proposing legislative language in January 2012 to consolidate the six major departments and agencies involved in international trade.
Obama proposed consolidating the Department of Commerce, the Small Business Administration, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, the Export-Import Bank, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, and the U.S. Trade and Development Agency. But the proposal went nowhere.
On the other hand, President George W. Bush successfully accomplished the largest reorganization of the federal government in decades with the creation of the Department of Homeland Security in 2002.
In the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the U.S., Bush proposed integrating all or part of 22 different federal departments and agencies into one new department, which currently has about 229,000 employees.
Before him, President Bill Clinton created the National Performance Review in March 1993 and put Vice President Al Gore in charge. The mission of the so-called “reinventing government” initiative was to create a government that worked better at less cost.
Five years later, the initiative reported the size of the federal civilian workforce had been cut by 351,000 and agencies had eliminated about 16,000 pages of federal regulations.
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