White House making plans for government reorg

Wednesday - 1/26/2011, 5:39pm EST

By Jason Miller
Executive Editor
Federal News Radio

The Obama administration is identifying Executive branch officials inside and outside of the White House to figure out how best to reorganize government.

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said on Wednesday during his press conference on Air Force One that the administration is setting up a structure to reduce duplication and prioritize substantive and structural changes to how agencies are organized.

President Obama called for a major reorganization of the government in the State of the Union speech Tuesday night. The President said it has been more than 50 years since the last significant changes to the structure of the government.

"And obviously a lot of this is going to require ultimately some congressional action, the authority to pursue executive reorganization," Gibbs said. "But I think given the fiscal times that we're in, this makes a lot of sense right now -- not just to meet the challenges but in understanding that we all agree that we are going to have to cut the amount of money government spends."

Gibbs said it remains undecided who would lead the reorganization, and there is no timetable for detailing a reorganization plan.

"I think we will begin a larger process of how one comes about the thoughts and theories of reorganizing a government for the 21st century," Gibbs said.

IBM's John Kamensky wrote in his blog that the last major reorganization was in 1949 and since then different administrations created new agencies including NASA, the Environmental Protection Agency, the departments of Housing and Urban Development, Transportation Energy and Education.

Kamensky, a senior fellow with the Center for the Business of Government, wrote that Presidents Richard Nixon and Jimmy Carter tried to propose reorganizations, and in the 1980s Congress took away the ability of the President to reorganize executive agencies.

Kamensky added that the President and Congress may get some new ammunition to for a reorganization. The Government Accountability Office is expected to issue a report in the next few weeks detailing areas of overlap and redundancy among federal agencies.

"Reorganization, in absence of a crisis (think Homeland Security, TSA, and the reorganization of the intelligence community as a result of 9/11) is very difficult," Kamensky wrote. "For example, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) has led a fight for more than a decade to integrate the 16 food safety agencies and the recently passed Food Safety Act didn't do it In fact, when Vice President Al Gore undertook the National Performance Review, one of his directions to the team was to not propose reorganizing the government. He felt this was fruitless exercise and charge his team, instead, with 'fixing what's inside the boxes, don't spend your time trying to move them.'"

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