Reorganizing Government: Reforming the Government to Win in the Global Economy

The President is renewing his request for the Congress to revive the reorganization authority given to nearly every President from Herbert Hoover to Ronald Reagan. This authority would allow the Administration to submit plans to consolidate and reorganize Executive Branch Departments and agencies for fast track consideration by the Congress, but only so long as the result would be to reduce the size of Government or cut costs, a new requirement for this type of authority.

The following represents an ambitious set of cross-Government consolidations intended to serve as a blueprint for reorganizing and reforming the Government. The Administration will continue to work with the Congress and stakeholders to identify opportunities to make the Government more efficient and effective.

Economic Competitiveness

As the President first indicated in 2012, if he is given Presidential reorganization authority, he would propose to consolidate a number of agencies and programs into a new department focused on fostering economic growth and driving job creation. This proposal would consolidate six primary business and trade agencies, as well as other related programs, integrating the Government’s core trade and competitiveness functions into one new department. Specifically, the department would include the Department of Commerce’s core business and trade functions, SBA, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, the Export-Import Bank, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, and the U.S. Trade and Development Agency.

By bringing together the core tools to expand trade and investment, grow small businesses, and support innovation, the new department would coordinate these resources to maximize the benefits for businesses and the economy. With more effectively aligned and deployed trade promotion resources, strengthened trade enforcement capacity, streamlined export finance programs, and enhanced focus on investment in the United States, the Government could more effectively implement a strong, pro-growth trade policy. This reorganization would also bring together the core tools to help American businesses compete in the global economy, expand exports, and create more jobs at home. Businesses will more easily and seamlessly be able to access services in support of exports, domestic competitiveness, and job creation.

Absent this authority, the Administration has already taken numerous steps to begin streamlining Federal trade, business, and export-related programs. This includes initiatives simplifying the export control system to improve the competitiveness of U.S. businesses while maintaining strong national security protections; encouraging foreign investment into the United States; providing a one-stop online platform consolidating information on business- and export-related programs, resources, and services from across the Federal Government; and improving the ability of private companies to adapt Federal research for use in the marketplace by increasing Government-private sector partnerships and simplifying licensing procedures. Agencies have also begun to reorganize business-related offices and staff to maximize the effectiveness of limited Federal resources and focus on increasing export opportunities for American businesses, particularly small businesses.

Food Safety

While the U.S. food safety system is among the safest in the world, consolidating food safety functions is an essential step to reforming the Federal food safety system overall. More than a dozen agencies are involved in overseeing the safety of the Nation’s food supply, implementing at least 30 statutes governing some part of food safety. The Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) and food safety-related components of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) at HHS represent approximately 80 percent of the Nation’s total food safety system, and exemplify the fragmented Federal system. While FDA is responsible for most foods, FSIS is responsible for meat and poultry. While FSIS oversees processed egg products, FDA oversees shell eggs. FDA is responsible for seafood, but FSIS is responsible for catfish. FDA and FSIS can each have jurisdiction over the same category of food at different points in the food chain: a cheese pizza and its ingredients are regulated solely by FDA, but both agencies play roles in regulating the components and manufacturing of a pepperoni pizza. FSIS inspects manufacturers of packaged open-face meat or poultry sandwiches, while FDA inspects manufacturers of closed-face meat or poultry sandwiches.

Under FSIS jurisdiction, meat and poultry products must be approved prior to marketing, requiring continuous, visual inspection. In contrast, FDA conducts risk-based inspections to enforce prevention-oriented food safety standards. Fractured oversight and disparate regulatory approaches are confusing. This division of responsibilities was not deliberately designed, but rather evolved as the Congress passed laws to address specific food safety concerns. The Administration has taken the lead on food safety issues. The Administration partnered with the Congress to transform food safety oversight, and the President signed into law the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), which strengthened FDA’s mandate to set and enforce modern standards for preventing food safety problems, ensure the safety of imported food, and make more effective, risk-based use of resources. The FSMA provided FDA mandatory recall authority, in addition to a number of new authorities and enforcement tools, to strengthen the ability to swiftly remove contaminated food from the market.

Food safety and the prevention, mitigation, and response to foodborne illness outbreaks are public health concerns, consistent with the larger mission of HHS. The Budget proposes to consolidate the FSIS and the food safety related components of the FDA to create a single new agency within HHS. This new agency would be independent from FDA and have primary responsibility for food safety inspections, enforcement, applied research, and outbreak response and mitigation. The new agency would be charged with pursuing a modern, science-based food safety regulatory regime drawing on best practices of both agencies, with strong enforcement and recall mechanisms, expertise in risk assessment, and enforcement and research efforts across all food types based on scientifically supportable assessments of threats to public health. The agency would also serve as the central point for coordinating with State and local entities and food safety stakeholders.

A single Federal food safety agency would provide focused, centralized leadership, a primary voice on food safety standards and compliance with those standards, and clear lines of responsibility and accountability that will enhance both prevention of and responses to outbreaks of food-borne illnesses. It would rationalize the food safety regulatory regime and allow the Federal Government to better allocate resources and responsibilities.

Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics

The Nation’s competitiveness depends on the ability to improve and expand STEM learning in the United States. Over the past two years, the Administration has made considerable progress toward creating a more cohesive framework for delivering STEM education. Guided by the Federal STEM Education Five-Year Strategic Plan and a significant reorganization of programs, agencies are increasing coordination, strengthening partnerships, and identifying ways to leverage existing resources to improve the reach of agency assets. The number of different STEM programs has been cut from over 220 to just under 140. The Budget builds on these efforts and continues to reduce fragmentation, ensuring that investments are aligned with the Strategic Plan and support effective programs with strategic approaches to evaluation. The Budget invests $3 billion in 113 programs including $200 million for K-12 education in the Department of Education’s Math and Science Partnerships, $338 million for graduate fellowships, $62 million for graduate traineeships, and $135 million for improving undergraduate education at the NSF.

Reforming the Tennessee Valley Authority

Since its creation in the 1930s during the Great Depression, the federally-owned and operated Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) has been producing electricity and managing natural resources for a large portion of the Southeastern United States. TVA’s power service territory includes most of Tennessee and parts of Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, and Virginia, covering 80,000 square miles and serving more than nine million people. TVA is a self-financing Government corporation, funding operations through electricity sales and bond financing. Since the Administration announced in the 2014 President’s Budget its intentions to undertake a strategic review of options for addressing TVA’s financial situation, the agency has taken significant steps to improve its operating and financial performance and has committed to resolve its capital financing constraints. The Administration supports TVA’s ongoing initiatives and will continue to monitor TVA’s performance, including the achievement of critical milestones contemplated in TVA’s long-term financial plan and the pursuit of efforts to enhance governance and increase transparency of TVA’s decision-making on important agency actions. While the strategic review of TVA has concluded, the Administration continues to believe that reducing or eliminating the Federal Government’s role in programs such as TVA, which have achieved their original objectives, can help mitigate risk to taxpayers.

Other Actions

In addition to the high-profile reforms described above, the Budget highlights a wide variety of agency-level reforms and reorganizations designed to drive efficiency and accountability across Government. For instance, the Budget includes $200 million for GSA’s Consolidation Activities program to fund small projects that save money by reducing or economizing space (as discussed earlier in this chapter), and $15 million for DOE’s Federal Energy Efficiency Fund, which leverages Federal capital investments to increase renewable energy use and decrease energy consumption across the Federal Government. As in previous years, the Budget proposes the National Preparedness Grant Program, which would strengthen and consolidate the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s current fragmented preparedness grants into a streamlined program that emphasizes collaboration and reduces the burden on State, local, and tribal partners. The Budget proposes reforms to the Senior Community Service Employment Program to better target the program to those most in need, promote long-term unsubsidized employment for program participants in the private sector, and drive improved performance outcomes through competition. The Department of Homeland Security again proposes to transfer the Emergency Food and Shelter Program to HUD, reducing fragmentation and synchronizing efforts to reduce homelessness. The Department of Defense continues to pursue efficiencies, including a 20-percent reduction to management and headquarters staff, divestiture of legacy platforms no longer required to execute the defense strategy, and ongoing efforts to shutter unneeded facilities, including administrative actions and requested legislative authority for another round of Base Realignment and Closure. Taken together with the larger-scale reorganization proposals, these efforts represent the President’s ongoing commitment to promoting Government efficiency, preventing duplication, and making Government work better and smarter for the American people.

You’ve just read Chapter 3.6:
Reorganizing Government: Reforming the Government to Win in the Global Economy

Read next Chapter 4:
Cuts, Consolidations, and Savings