Senators gear up for government reorg

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With agencies' draft reorganization plans due at the end of the month, senators want to focus on legislative solutions to the low-hanging fruit for improving agency efficiencies.

At a Sept. 13 Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs committee Regulatory Affairs and Federal Management Subcommittee hearing, Chairman James Lankford (R-Okla.) said that despite modernization and reform efforts undertaken by the previous three administrations, "the job is clearly not complete."

This time around, the focal points of the Office of Management and Budget's restructuring memo are to "eliminate or reorganize unnecessary or redundant federal agencies" and to reduce the size of the workforce.

That memo set an end-of-September deadline for agencies to submit their reorganization plans, and Lankford said he "has heard positive news from many of the federal agencies" about getting them in on time.

Robert Shea, a principal of Grant Thornton's public sector practice, said, "if implemented properly, the president's executive order on reorganization could be the most ambitious reorganization of the federal government in its history."

However, he cautioned, "we shouldn't even begin this process unless we agree what outcomes we're trying to accomplish," given the costs of reorganizations.

Shea said OMB or a vendor should compile "a robust, consistent inventory of government programs," and employ data-driven analyses of which programs are -- and are not -- effective that can provide the administration and Congress something of a cost-benefit analysis.

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), the subcommittee's ranking Democrat, added that there's enough "low-hanging fruit" in government that both parties in Congress can cut.

Heitkamp said Congress owns a share of the blame for persistent inefficiencies at agencies.

The Government Accountability Office says "the same things over and over again... and nothing happens," she said. "We don't do appropriate oversight" to make sure different agencies aren't carrying out the same function, and employees aren't doing duplicative jobs.

Lankford noted that while OMB has taken the early lead in the restructuring effort, "real reorganization... needs to be legislative."

Shea, who served as OMB's associate director for administration and government performance under President George W. Bush, said, "it's really difficult for me to imagine Congress granting the president reorganization authority at this time in our history," but suggested there are steps OMB can take to earn that trust.

NTEU national president Tony Reardon testified about the workforce implications of a reorganization effort by an administration that has enacted a hiring freeze, targeted federal retirement and declared its intention to shrink the workforce.

"We are deeply concerned with the agencies being directed to make reductions in the workforce based only on proposed budgets that do not yet have congressional approval," he said.

About the Author

Chase Gunter is a staff writer covering civilian agencies, workforce issues, health IT, open data and innovation.

Prior to joining FCW, Gunter reported for the C-Ville Weekly in Charlottesville, Va., and served as a college sports beat writer for the South Boston (Va.) News and Record. He started at FCW as an editorial fellow before joining the team full-time as a reporter.

Gunter is a graduate of the University of Virginia, where his emphases were English, history and media studies.

Click here for previous articles by Gunter, or connect with him on Twitter: @WChaseGunter


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