Management

Will Trump's reorg plan get a boost from Congress?

handing over files (Billion Photos/Shutterstock.com) 

The White House proposed a wide-ranging plan that would consolidate and reorganize cabinet-level agencies, but not much can actually get done without congressional approval.

"Proposing and enacting are two totally different things," said Robert Shea, who served in the Office of Management and Budget under George W. Bush.

Shea, now a principal of Grant Thornton's public-sector practice, added, "if even a fraction of this gets implemented, it could really mean major changes for the federal blueprint."

OMB director Mick Mulvaney acknowledged during a cabinet meeting June 21 the proposal represents "first steps" for a large-scale reorganization.

"No one has ever tried it at this scale," he said. "Is this going to happen overnight? No. Some of it can because some of this stuff we can do by ourselves on a regularity fashion through the administrative process. Other stuff is going to take longer."

"The stuff that President Clinton came up with are peanuts compared to this," Mulvaney added.

But will Congress will be game to approve the proposed changes?

In regards to the merger of the Departments of Education and Labor, specifically, Mulvaney said there's "a chance" Congress gives the okay, in part because the congressional committee structure wouldn't have to change much.

Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who leads the House Democrats, indicated in a statement that the minority party wasn't going to go along with the reorganization. She called the proposal, "a recipe for more bureaucratic, inefficient and unresponsive government – and sadly, that's exactly Republicans' purpose."

Federal unions, in particular, have come out strongly against the proposed reorganization. Tony Reardon, national president of the National Treasury Employees Union, pointed specifically to the proposal to transfer human resources functions from the Office of Personnel Management to the Executive Office of the President, calling it a "power grab."

Shea is skeptical about the big pieces of the plan getting through Congress.

"I just don't see prospects that they get behind it any time soon, and the midterms are not going to make the likelihood of congressional action greater."

A statement from Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, suggested that the White House plan is just one piece of larger conversation about government reform.

"The executive branch organizational framework released by the administration today will provide valuable guidance to our committee as we continue working to create a more efficient, effective, and accountable government," he said. "I look forward to working with Director Mulvaney and other agency heads as we evaluate the administration's plan to reorganize our government."

Shea pointed out making major structural changes would initially be "hugely expensive," which could potentially deter an administration and a Congress with an eye toward cutting civilian-side costs.

Dan Blair, who served as the acting director and deputy director of OPM under the George W. Bush administration, pointed out the plan didn't include how, in moving human resources policy from the independent OPM to EOP, merit-based principles would be preserved or enhanced.

Blair also raised concerns that the "focus will be on reorganization at the expense of what's really needed, which is civil service reform."

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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