Government reorganization taking first steps

A timetable for the restructuring hasn't been decided

The White House is starting to set up a structure to substantially reorganize the federal government and is also identifying executive branch officials to lead that effort. President Barack Obama called for the government overhaul in his State of the Union speech on Jan. 25. 

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“We live and do business in the information age, but the last major reorganization of the government happened in the age of black-and-white TV,” he said in the address. “In the coming months, my administration will develop a proposal to merge, consolidate, and reorganize the federal government in a way that best serves the goal of a more competitive America. I will submit that proposal to Congress for a vote – and we will push to get it passed.”

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters Jan. 26 that the administration has already been discussing what a reorganization would look like.

“And obviously a lot of this is going to require ultimately some congressional action, the authority to pursue executive reorganization,” Gibbs said.  “But I think given the fiscal times that we’re in, this makes a lot of sense right now – not just to meet the challenges but in understanding that we all agree that we are going to have to cut the amount of money government spends.”

There hasn’t been a decision on which White House official will head the reorganization or what its timetable will look like, Gibbs said.

John Kamensky, a senior fellow with the IBM Center for the Business of Government, said in a Jan. 26 blog post he thinks the government should be reorganized to be more effective and noted that a Government Accountability Office report assessing the fragmentation and overlap in government programs will be released in the coming days.

However, Kamensky, who served for eight years as deputy director of former Vice President Al Gore’s National Partnership for Reinventing Government, said the reorganization is “maybe” worth the effort. Only if Congress joins in a coordinated effort can it succeed, he said. 

“Congress needs to play an active role and reorganize itself, if any executive branch reorganization is to be successful,” Kamensky wrote. “In a number of agency reorganizations, such as [the Environmental Protection Agency] and [Homeland Security Department], these agencies were created but Congress did not reallocate its own committee’s jurisdiction of the pre-existing programs to a smaller number of committees.”

He added that, as a result, EPA and DHS report to more than 70 committees and subcommittees, with their appropriations coming from multiple bills.

About the Author

Alyah Khan is a staff writer covering IT policy.

Reader Comments

Wed, Feb 2, 2011 RT

EU doing similar effort on procurement -- see at the eu website

Mon, Jan 31, 2011

Well, their last reorg that created DHS sure worked out well, didn't it? And it took how many decades to get the services to buy into being part of DoD?No argument that the Federal tree needs a lot of pruning, but unless they can get the power up front to do a blank-sheet-of-paper reorg, there is no point in even beginning the exercise. Nobody will ever voluntarily give up turf and power, no matter if the same mission is being done in multiple other agencies and locations. I personally think they could downsize FedGov at least 20 percent just by combining all the shops with duplicate missions.

Fri, Jan 28, 2011 James

Sure, real savings. Spend more money appointing a new official with support staff and resources. And then start planning and doing stuff that can't be accomplished in the time Obama is left in office so he's spent more funds on something that will never be finished. Typical socialist.

Fri, Jan 28, 2011 RPLee

Without first engaging in and achieving a consensus on the foundational Constitutionally authorized role of the Federal government, any attempt to reorganize will be characterized as "rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic"! More studies, ideas, plans will only spend money we still don't have without likely improvement in the operation of the Federal government.

Fri, Jan 28, 2011

Every year, month, week, and day, politicians talk about re-organizing the Government.

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