Fedweek

Administration officials have said that they plan to begin carrying out some of their reorganization plans in the fall, although many of those plans would require changes in law that could be difficult to achieve in the short run—in part due to opposition in Congress and in part due to the shortness of the working period planned before it recesses for the elections.

In late July, OMB deputy director for management Margaret Weichert told a Senate hearing that preliminary work should be finished in the fall to begin putting in place several of the proposals that would not require a change in law. She specifically mentioned improving the public’s customer experience with federal agencies; creating a central pool of federal employees with cyber skills who could be reassigned as needed; and creating a public-private cooperative to foster innovation and solve management problems in areas such as IT, cybersecurity and employee training.

However, the administration has put out few details on even those plans, although OMB has since put out a call to industry for information on how its proposed “Government Effectiveness and Applied Research,” or GEAR, center might be structured, with a goal of starting operations in 2019.

Also still unclear is the extent to which the other 30 or so major elements of the reorganization plan would require changes in law; she estimated that 10 or 12 could be accomplished administratively but did not specify which. At the hearing, Democrats pressed for such details while voicing opposition to some of the ideas that clearly would require legislation, including selling or privatizing the Postal Service. Also of particular interest was the plan to break apart OPM, sending its operational parts to DoD and GSA while making its policy functions an arm of the Executive Office of the President.

On an agency-by-agency basis, one of the most active in terms of reorganization has been the Agriculture Department, which already has restructured numerous offices and recently announced plans to move the headquarters of two subcomponents out of the Washington, D.C. area to an undecided location.

Also, the Interior Department last week announced a general reorganization into 12 standard regions, replacing the mix of regional structures currently used among its subcomponents. It said the change will “facilitate inter-bureau coordination, training, and experience and could enhance employees’ career development and movement of employees among bureaus.” It added that while some positions will be shifted out of the capital area, “no one will be forced to move”; that it “may consider” offering early retirement and buyout incentives; and that it has “absolutely no plans to run a reduction in force.”

The departments view those actions as within their discretion and not requiring specific permission from Congress. However, both were announced while Congress was on its summer recess and Capitol Hill has yet to weigh in.