Davis: Let executive branch alone

It is time for Congress to give up some of its power and let the executive branch reorganize itself for the 21st century without congressional interference, politicians and policy experts said today.

At a hearing on making it easier for the federal government to consolidate departments and eliminate redundancies, lawmakers and government experts agreed that Congress should step out of the way and let the executive branch take care of its own operations.

"In the long and arduous debate on the creation of [the Homeland Security Department], one thing is clear...it is exceedingly difficult for Congress to undertake even the simplest reorganization of the executive branch," said Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), chairman of the House Government Reform Committee, which held the hearing.

In the wake of the creation of the Homeland Security Department (DHS), lawmakers and policy experts realized that the White House should have the authority to take care of its own structure without congressional meddling.

But Davis wants to short circuit the process by giving the executive branch reorganization authority.

"It was a fiasco with Homeland Security last year" as Congress worked to authorize 22 federal agencies be moved to the new department, Davis said. And it could be a fiasco with other departments, according to House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas).

DeLay noted that 45 offices at the Energy Department have awarded separate contracts for the same computer database programs. The Department of Health and Human Services manages seven separate agencies that fund programs to prevent child abuse.

The federal government has lagged behind the technology revolution "clinging to an organizational model developed between the 1930s and the 1970s," he said.

"Failing to exploit the benefits of a modernized organization — a mistake that would bankrupt any business in our competitive economy — has riddled federal programs with expensive and inefficient bureaucracies," DeLay said.

In testimony it submitted on the issue, the General Accounting Office warned that Congress must have a say in any reorganization plan.

"Only Congress can decide whether it wishes to limit its power and role in government reorganizations," GAO said. "Congress must agree with any restructuring proposals submitted for consideration by the president in order to make them a reality."

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