What Would You Change About the Federal Government?

President Trump issued an Executive Order (Reorganization EO) on March 13 directing the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to submit a comprehensive plan to reorganize Executive Branch departments and agencies.  OMB has now issued a Memorandum for heads of Executive Departments and Agencies calling for a Comprehensive Plan for Reforming the Federal Government an Reducing the Federal Civilian Workforce.  The Memorandum calls for agencies to take immediate action to achieve near-term workforce reductions and cost savings, including planning for funding levels in the President’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 Blueprint; to develop a plan to maximize employee performance by June 30, 2017; and to submit an Agency Reform Plan to OMB this September as part of the agency’s FY 2019 Budget Submission.  An initial, high-level draft of the Agency Reform Plan is due to OMB by June 30.    

This Memorandum does not call out individual programs for review, so it is not possible to focus on anything in particular.  What this may mean for farm programs, nutrition assistance, food safety, food labeling, and drug and device approval activities, among others, remains to be seen, with a large array of stakeholders having the opportunity to voice their views.  The overall thrust of the plan is to review whether or not the Federal Government should be undertaking particular activities at all, or if they are better left to states, local governments, or the private sector.  Are programs redundant?  Are some programs or services not core to the agency’s mission or obsolete?  Is an agency, a component, or a program not justified by the unique public benefits it provides, or ineffective or inefficient?  Some changes could be made administratively, and some may require legislation.  Action could be taken as part of appropriations bills or authorizing legislation, as may be warranted.

Some specific administrative activities are to be reviewed, including how can new technology be used to automate processes, and if government-wide contracts for common goods and services can be used to avoid wasteful and redundant contracting activities. 

One of the goals of the effort is to reduce the size of the federal workforce.  Agencies are expected to review how work is assigned to various personnel, and when a vacancy occurs to determine if the now-vacant position should be filled or eliminated with the work (if necessary) reassigned to other personnel.  The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) is to provide streamlined templates to agencies for requesting approval to offer Voluntary Early Retirement Authority and Voluntary Separation Payments to agency personnel.  It’s important to keep in mind, though, that when senior personnel retire, there is always the risk that there is likely to be fewer experienced personnel to operate programs.

The Memorandum does call for public input.  The White House website has an item called “Reorganizing the Executive Branch: We Need Your Input!” There you can identify: What agency would you like to reform? What agency (and/or programs) would you like to eliminate? Do you have any management reform ideas, such as acquisition/procurement reform? Do you have any other ideas for reorganizing the Federal government?  Whether or not individual Departments or Agencies may undertake other public comment opportunities is yet to be determined.

 Every agency and program – and their supporters - are always told that they need to be prepared to justify their continued existence.   And those who disagree with agencies and programs are also looking for opportunities to voice their concerns and displeasures.  Have at it!  We will continue to report on specific information as it becomes available.

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