President Trump has signed an executive order calling on the Office of Management and Budget to propose a plan to “reorganize governmental functions and eliminate unnecessary agencies, agency components and programs.”
The order comes ahead of the White House’s budget, due Thursday, expected to include a $54 billion increase in defense spending, to be offset by cuts to discretionary spending across a number of agencies.
The order directs the head of each agency to submit a plan to OMB director Mick Mulvaney with proposals to “improve the efficiency, effectiveness, and accountability of that agency” as part of their internal reviews.
It’s common for an incoming administration to carry out a performance review. For example, both President George W. Bush and Obama rolled out efficiency initiatives earlier in their first terms. However, in this case, agencies such as the EPA – which reportedly could see its budget slashed by billions and lose up to one fifth of its workforce – won’t merely be looking to trim fat or shift jobs around. The Departments of State (in particular foreign aid), Housing and Urban Development, Energy, and Education are also expected to see cuts.
During a signing ceremony, Trump said “billions and billions of dollars” are being squandered and that he wanted to enable his cabinet to make their agencies as “lean and effective as possible.”
White House press secretary Sean Spicer called the review “long overdue” and said it could result in fewer workers where redundancy is found, or even the elimination of an agency outright.
In formulating its plan, the order directs OMB to consider:
Whether some or all of the functions of an agency, a component, or a program are appropriate for the federal government or would be better left to state or local governments or to the private sector through free enterprise;
Whether some or all of the functions of an agency, a component, or a program are redundant, including with those of another agency, component, or program;
Whether certain administrative capabilities necessary for operating an agency, a component, or a program are redundant with those of another agency, component, or program;
Whether the costs of continuing to operate an agency, a component, or a program are justified by the public benefits it provides; and,
The costs of shutting down or merging agencies, components, or programs, including the costs of addressing the equities of affected agency staff.
The National Academy of Public Administration was quick to point out that GAO has been examining issues of overlap, duplication and fragmentation each year starting in 2011. “In implementing this Executive Order, the Administration does not have to start from scratch,” said Academy President and CEO Terry Gerton, recommending that new agency leaders coordinate with career staff to start with the GAO reports, “knowing that these recommendations have been thoroughly researched and evaluated.” NAPA said it stands ready to assist in the effort.