What's next for agency reorg plans?

As agencies wrap up their reorganization plans, successful reforms will prioritize mission delivery over simply slashing the workforce -- but proposed budget cuts and leadership vacancies pose additional challenges.

Shutterstock image.
 

A comprehensive reform of the federal government is a top management priority for the Trump White House, but proposed budget cuts and continued leadership vacancies pose additional challenges to successful reform.

As it stands, agencies are wrapping up their reorganization plans to "eliminate or reorganize unnecessary or redundant federal agencies," as mandated by a March executive order that directed agency heads to submit the plans within 180 days and tasked the Office of Management and Budget with a lead role in carrying out the reorganization effort.

In the wake of the Trump administration's hiring freeze, followed by the OMB guidance that lifted the freeze but directed agencies to provide near-term workforce reduction progress reports, the ongoing agency reorganizations present questions about the future of their workforces.

Robert Shea, a principal of Grant Thornton's public sector practice, noted there is a lot of overlap and duplication across government that can be looked at, but added, "reorganization for reorganization's sake is distracting because it's going to cost money, and get people worked up for not a lot of good reason."

NAPA President and CEO Emeritus Dan Blair said the goals of reorganization should primarily focus on what "is being done to better done the agency's ability to carry out the mission."

Productive reorganization entails "an effort to avoid [reductions in force]," Blair said. "It's not conducive to good management... The last thing you want to do is go through RIFs."

Federal workers appear to be getting out ahead of possible cuts. An Aug. 4 article in Government Executive observed that according to the July jobs report, federal agency employment was down 10,700 since Trump took office.

Blair, who served as OPM deputy director during the George W. Bush administration, said these reforms "should be shepherded by the highest ranks of the agency... hand-in-hand with the [human resources] office."

In the process of eliminating "unnecessary or redundant federal agencies," however, Blair pointed out that agencies will have to figure out what to do with the employees who worked in programs that may be targeted by the order.

"If program Y is not a priority, what are you going to do with the employees of program Y?" he said. "You could shift them to program X, but it's possible they don't have the skillset."

And if major reforms are enacted at an agency, such as the shuttering or consolidation of offices, Shea added, that means "all their operations are going to have to be modified to adapt to the new structure and new goals."

"If you're moving people from one organization to another, they have to be physically moved, trained, inculcated in the processes of the new organization," he said. "If you're actually eliminating a function... you're going to have to take care of the people you're letting go."

Additionally, just how radical these reorganizations can really be will depend on whether Congress gets involved with funding and statutory authorization.

Shea, who was OMB's associate director for administration and government performance under Bush, said that while "there's a lot organizations can do on their own, and agencies have varying levels of authority" to reorganize, eventually "Congress will almost invariably have to get involved."

Blair did suggest that one way pare down and shape the skillset of a workforce is for agencies to offer voluntary buyouts to employees, especially those already eligible for retirement.

The White House budget proposal for fiscal year 2018 slashes the budgets of many civilian agencies, but Blair pointed out less funding doesn't necessarily impede plans to restructure.

"It's not so much about the money, but looking, as an agency head, at what resources you have available and channeling those into your priorities," he said. "If you remain mission-focused, you can structure an agency, even in an atmosphere of reduced resources, where you can deliver effectively on that mission."

Another challenge facing productive reform is the number of vacancies in leadership positions.

Trump's sluggish pace of political appointments, compounded by slower-than-usual Senate confirmations, leaves many agency leadership positions — ones who would be helping to carry out his management agenda — unfilled.

Shea said that while it's possible for acting leadership to drive reform that's meaningful, "generally though, you're going to have career staff hesitant in the absence of cover from political leadership and the White House."

The risk presented by these vacancies, as agencies prepare to reorganize how they conduct business, is that "the reforms will lack the internal leadership within the departments," said Blair.

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.