White House sends results proposal to Congress

Government Reorganization and Program Performance Improvement Act of 2005

A White House legislative proposal that would create two commissions to examine the efficacy of federal agencies and programs has been sent to Congress for consideration today.

The Government Reorganization and Program Performance Improvement Act would authorize creation of a standing "Sunset Commission" that would review federal agencies and programs once every 10 years and recommend changes. If lawmakers did not vote to continue a program or an agency, its funding would automatically cease.

The act would also allow Congress to approve "Results Commissions" proposed by the executive branch to recommend structural changes in government organization around particular policy areas. “There are a lot of situations where multiple programs deal with the same issues,” said Clay Johnson, Office of Management and Budget deputy director for management. The commission would “seriously consider combining them, aligning them, making sure they don’t contradict each other,” he told Federal Computer Week earlier this year.

Both commissions would be made up of seven political appointees, two of them in consultation with the minority party in Congress.

A House Government Reform Committee spokesman applauded the proposal, promising that the committee “will be giving this legislation close attention in coming months.” But, he added that the committee could split the bill into two parts, mostly for congressional jurisdictional reasons.

Experience with a Sunset Commission in Texas shows that few programs end up being canceled as a result, OMB officials have said. Instead, the pressure of an upcoming review acts as an internal incentive to demonstrate results, Johnson said.

Recommendations from the Results Commission would be sent to Congress for expedited consideration, a mechanism Johnson has likened to the Base Realignment and Closure process.

As a tool for reorganizing government, the Results Commission would be less sweeping than a presidential reorganization authority, which President Bush sought, but did not receive during his first term.

Reorganization authority “is a much steeper hill to climb,” Johnson said. “It’s much more focused to look at programs, to deal with very specific issues.”

About the Author

David Perera is a special contributor to Defense Systems.

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