Obama chooses leader for government reorganization

Federal government needs to become more efficient and less complicated, Obama says

President Barack Obama has chosen Jeffrey Zients, chief performance officer of the United States, to lead the work on developing a plan to reorganize the federal government, the administration has announced.

The administration will first tackle the agencies operating around trade and exports to help U.S. companies get ahead in the global economy, Dan Pfeiffer, the White House communications director, wrote on the White House’s blog.

“The president believes that we need to reform our government to make it better organized and better equipped to support American competitiveness. We want to ensure that we’re aligning all of the resources we have,” he wrote. Zients was announced as the leader of the reorg effort in a White House blog post dated Jan. 29.

In his State of the Union address Jan. 25, Obama said his administration will develop a proposal over the coming months to merge and consolidate the government. He then plans to send the proposal to Congress for a vote.


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In the speech, Obama noted that 12 different federal agencies work with exports while five deal with housing policy. He also pointed out that the Commerce Department handles salmon when they’re in fresh water, and the Interior Department has oversight when the fish are in salt water.

“We should give [citizens] a government that’s more competent and more efficient," he said. "We can’t win the future with a government of the past."

Along with Zients, Lisa Brown, assistant to the president and staff secretary, will help in the reorganization undertaking. Brown was a co-chair of the agency review working group for the Obama-Biden Transition Project. The transition project went on after the presidential election in 2008, as the newly elected administration prepared to take office.

Although Zients and Brown will use resources from the Office and Management and Budget for the work, they will also look for help and insight from the business community, experts, and the people who run the programs that will undergo close evaluations.

"It seems that the federal government is stuck in the age of black-and-white television while we are competing in the age of the iPad," Pfeiffer wrote.

About the Author

Matthew Weigelt is a freelance journalist who writes about acquisition and procurement.

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Reader comments

Wed, Feb 2, 2011 clem munno

Either you or President Obama got it wrong about the Salmon. Commerce (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries Service) manages them when they are in salt water and Interior (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service) when they are in fresh water. Might want somebody that knows a little about a lot of the Agencies to help them. This is a very large exercise that does not need people who need to learn but rather folks who know and can come in running.

Tue, Feb 1, 2011 Dave K

This is foolish. The Federal Government is structured exactly as Congress wants it to be. Any Congressman who tells you differently is either sponsoring a bill to change things, or is a liar. For any real change to occur, the Administration needs to stop building pyramids (appointing commissions, pushing 1200 page bills, etc.) and start recommending simple, incremental fixes that Congress can act on quickly.

Tue, Feb 1, 2011 luvsredwhite&blue Washington DC

Mr. Zients and Ms. Brown could also tap into those who have relativley recently (say,in the past five years) joined the federal government and brought many years of private sector experience. These "feds" have the valuable perspective of having walked on both sides. Beyond the value of their perspectives, it would also contribute to "buy-in" among career employees.

Tue, Feb 1, 2011

If the private sector were like the government, this is how reform would work -- McDonalds would "reform" the BigMac. They would stop putting the lettuce on top of the burger. Instead, they would put the burger underneath the lettuce. They would also change the name of the Quarter Pounder to the Four Ouncer. Having completed those two things, they would annouce a HUGE reform had been completed!

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