Draining The Swamp, ‘Reorganize Gov’t Functions and Eliminate Unnecessary Agencies’
President Donald Trump signed an executive order Monday directing the head of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to devise a plan to “eliminate unnecessary agencies” and reorganize remaining ones to purge redundancy and ensure their public benefits justify their continued existence.
The OMB director is required to submit a plan within six months of the order – and to solicit public input and suggestions regarding the plan for an additional six months during a public comment period.
The director is ordered to produce a plan to:
- “Reorganize governmental functions and eliminate unnecessary agencies,”
- “Reorganize the agency, if appropriate, in order to improve the efficiency, effectiveness, and accountability of that agency,”
- Determine which agency functions “would be better left to State or local governments or to the private sector through free enterprise;”
- Identify which agency programs “are redundant, including with those of another agency, component, or program;” and
- Determine “whether the costs of continuing to operate an agency, a component, or a program are justified by the public benefits it provides.”
“Congress will need to pass legislation to make the biggest changes to departments and agencies,” the White House said.
“But this Executive Order will begin the work of creating a leaner, more effective, more accountable government,” it added in its announcement of the executive order.
The full text of the “COMPREHENSIVE PLAN FOR REORGANIZING THE EXECUTIVE BRANCH,” as provided to CNSNews.com by the White House, is presented below:
COMPREHENSIVE PLAN FOR REORGANIZING THE EXECUTIVE BRANCH
By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, it is hereby ordered as follows:
Section 1. Purpose. This order is intended to improve the efficiency, effectiveness, and accountability of the executive branch by directing the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (Director) to propose a plan to reorganize governmental functions and eliminate unnecessary agencies (as defined in section 551(1) of title 5, United States Code), components of agencies, and agency programs.
Sec. 2. Proposed Plan to Improve the Efficiency, Effectiveness, and Accountability of Federal Agencies, Including, as Appropriate, to Eliminate or Reorganize Unnecessary or Redundant Federal Agencies. (a) Within 180 days of the date of this order, the head of each agency shall submit to the Director a proposed plan to reorganize the agency, if appropriate, in order to improve the efficiency, effectiveness, and accountability of that agency.
(b) The Director shall publish a notice in the Federal Register inviting the public to suggest improvements in the organization and functioning of the executive branch and shall consider the suggestions when formulating the proposed plan described in subsection (c) of this section.
(c) Within 180 days after the closing date for the submission of suggestions pursuant to subsection (b) of this section, the Director shall submit to the President a proposed plan to reorganize the executive branch in order to improve the efficiency, effectiveness, and accountability of agencies. The proposed plan shall include, as appropriate, recommendations to eliminate unnecessary agencies, components of agencies, and agency programs, and to merge functions. The proposed plan shall include recommendations for any legislation or administrative measures necessary to achieve the proposed reorganization.
(d) In developing the proposed plan described in subsection (c) of this section, the Director shall consider, in addition to any other relevant factors:
(i) 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;
(ii) 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;
(iii) whether certain administrative capabilities necessary for operating an agency, a component, or a program are redundant with those of another agency, component, or program;
(iv) whether the costs of continuing to operate an agency, a component, or a program are justified by the public benefits it provides; and
(v) the costs of shutting down or merging agencies, components, or programs, including the costs of addressing the equities of affected agency staff.
(e) In developing the proposed plan described in subsection (c) of this section, the Director shall consult with the head of each agency and, consistent with applicable law, with persons or entities outside the Federal Government with relevant expertise in organizational structure and management.
Sec. 3. General Provisions. (a) Nothing in this order shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect:
(i) the authority granted by law to an executive department or agency, or the head thereof; or
(ii) the functions of the Director relating to budgetary, administrative, or legislative proposals.
(b) This order shall be implemented consistent with applicable law and subject to the availability of appropriations.
(c) This order is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.
THE WHITE HOUSE,
February 8, 2017.
Americans Deserve a Leaner, More Efficient, Less Expensive Federal Gov’t
This is a big week for the executive branch of the federal government. Yesterday, President Trump signed an executive order entitled “Comprehensive Plan for Reorganizing the Executive Branch” and this morning CEI released my colleague Wayne Crews’ newest study on regulatory reform, “Mapping Washington’s Lawlessness: An Inventory of “Regulatory Dark Matter.”
The new directive from the White House puts the director of the Office of Management and Budget in charge of creating a plan for merging, streamlining, eliminating, and otherwise reorganizing all of the cabinet departments, agencies, and programs reporting to the president. That’s a big job. The fact that it’s so big, however, is the clearest argument for why it’s also necessary. As CEI president Kent Lassman said yesterday:
“The burden of the federal government on the economy has grown like kudzu over the past two decades, under both parties, and it needs to be thinned to allow room for innovation and dynamic enterprise. The President’s executive order to reorganize the executive branch is an encouraging sign for consumers, taxpayers and businesses alike because it shows he is focused on the serious negative effects of too much complex regulation.”
Every agency head will have approximately six months to submit a plan of proposed changes. The OMB will also invite the public to submit comments on how the “organization and functioning” of the executive branch can be improved. The White House is in luck—their first set of recommendations is already prepared in the form of Wayne’s new study:
“This analysis covers how, in addition to Congress’s own laws and the many thousands of rules issued by unelected regulators, regulatory dark matter exists in the form of thousands of additional issuances from executive and independent agencies. This dark matter goes around Congress, the Administrative Procedure Act’s (APA) public notice and comment requirements, and the American people themselves.
“Examples include presidential and agency memoranda, guidance documents, bulletins, and public notices. These directives interject the federal government into our businesses, our communities, and our personal lives on matters such as healthcare, retirement, labor policy, education policy, and more.”
Solving this problem will involve both executive branch initiatives and legislation from Congress. Yesterday’s executive order is just one of the actions aimed at reforming the kind of overreach that today’s new study describes. Writing today in Forbes, Wayne summarizes the state of play:
“While the new order is more of a streamlining to improve ‘services,’ it should have heft for cutting agency regulatory invasiveness, too.
“Beyond talk, there’s been action; along with today’s executive order, President Donald Trump has issued aggressive ones requiring deregulation task forces at agencies; eliminating two rules to offset burdens of each new one; and a temporary regulatory moratorium.
“The Federal Register reflects it; apart from FAA airworthiness directives and Coast Guard drawbridge proclamations and fishery designations, new regulation has essentially stopped under Trump.
“Congress already passed several reform bills that await Senate action; and over a dozen nullifications of individual rules are in play.”
Bills passed by the House this session include the Regulatory Accountability Act, which itself incorporates several previously passed reform proposals. The full House version of the RAA may face a tough reception in the more narrowly-divided Senate, but its many sections will at least provide the basis for negotiations between Republicans and Democrats. In additional to the resolutions of disapproval under the Congressional Review Act that Wayne links to above, we will likely see more attempts to overturn late-stage Obama rules in coming weeks.
On that theme, the Congressional Review Act itself may have dramatically greater applicability than previously thought. Used successfully only once before this year, it has already gotten a workout in the 115th Congress. Normally the CRA only applies to rules that were finalized in the previous 60 legislative days (in effect, the past several months). But according to Todd Gaziano of the Pacific Legal Foundation, who helped write the Congressional Review Act when he was a Capitol Hill staffer in the 1990s, the failure of many agencies to officially submit their regulations to Congress as the law requires may open another set of opportunities:
“The window for Congress to disapprove a rule using expedited procedures is triggered by the later of the rule’s submission to Congress or publication in the Federal Register. Thus, for all the many rules that agencies failed to submit, the time for Congress to disapprove them has not yet begun to run. The Trump administration can go back over all the unsubmitted, burdensome rules issued since 1996 and belatedly submit them to Congress for its disapproval. That would allow the President and Congress to effectively block any substantially similar rule in the future.”
According to Gaziano, now promoting the “Red Tape Rollback” project, there are thousands of agency rules that were never properly submitted to Congress, among them many substantive regulations with large economic impacts on the U.S. economy. As Wall Street Journal columnist Kim Strassel recently wrote, this is a “game-changer” when it comes to the potential for Congress to challenge two decades of overregulation.
All of this potential for reform comes with a burden—we all have to do the work to make it happen. From OMB director Mick Mulvaney, to every agency head, to the relevant House and Senate committees and leadership, to organizations like CEI and others across the country, we all have a role to play. Americans want a leaner, more efficient, less expensive federal government. More importantly, we all deserve a government that respects the limits of the law and discharges its responsibilities in the daylight. It’s going to be an interesting 180 days.
Richard Morrison is a senior editor at the Competitive Enterprise Institute. He was previously a program manager at CEI’s Center for Advancing Capitalism, where he coordinated the Center’s outreach to the business community, universities, and other key stakeholders.