White House unveils major organisational changes

By on 25/06/2018 | Updated on 24/09/2020
President Trump’s office plans to take direct control of policy on federal personnel (Image courtesy Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, US/Flickr/Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Dominique A. Pineiro).

The Trump administration has launched a wide-ranging plan for the reform of the executive branch of the US federal government, including proposals for the White House to take direct control of policymaking on the management of federal personnel.

The White House says its 32-point plan aims to help avoid duplication of effort between departments and agencies, improve civil service capability, and better align services with the needs of customers and stakeholders.

The move comes less than a month after US president Donald Trump signed three executive orders to curb the power of civil service unions and make it easier to sack under-performing federal employees.

In a statement, Office of Management and Budget director Mick Mulvaney said: “This effort, along with the recent executive orders on federal unions, are the biggest pieces so far of our plan to drain the swamp.”

Re-architecting government

The proposals in the latest plan, Delivering Government Solutions in the 21st Century, are divided into three areas: organisational realignment; management and efficiency improvements; and new capability requirements.

The first tranche includes proposals to merge the Departments of Labor and Education, consolidate economic assistance resources to a new Bureau of Economic Growth within the Department of Commerce, and bring all food safety functions into a single agency.

In addition, it proposes selling off a number of government functions – including the US postal system and a number of power transmission assets – and moving the policy function of the Office of Personnel Management into the Executive Office of the President.

In concert with this move, some operational activities – such as human resources, IT services and background investigations – would be devolved to “other federal entities better aligned to provide non-strategic transaction processing services that meet 21st Century needs.”

“This new structure would better accommodate an overhaul of the Federal civil service statutory and regulatory framework,” the document says.

Efficiency & capability changes

Under the management and efficiency improvements category, suggestions include disposing of under-used property along with investments in renovation and the creation of new facilities. It would also move federal agencies’ business processes and record keeping to a fully electronic environment.

The proposals under the capability improvements heading would see an attempt to solve the current federal cyber security workforce shortage by establishing a unified cyber workforce capability.

In addition, a new Government Effectiveness Advanced Research (GEAR) Center would be created in partnership with the private sector to help the government “respond to innovative technologies, business practices, and research findings that present opportunities to improve mission delivery”. And there would be changes to the way that policies are evaluated in order to help spread best practice.

Scepticism and opposition

Responding to the proposals, Partnership for Public Service president and chief executive Max Stier said that attempts by previous presidents to reform the civil service have rarely met expectations. “No one can reasonably dispute that our government needs reform, but structural reorganisations are rarely the most effective way to improve service to our citizens,” he said.

Stier added that if the reorganisation plan is to succeed, the administration will need to create congressional buy-in and bipartisan support as well as make substantial upfront investments.

Separately, 13 federal employee unions have filed a lawsuit attempting to strike out all three of the executive orders on union powers, claiming they breach existing law.

About Colin Marrs

Colin is a journalist and editor with long experience in the government and built environment sectors. He cut his teeth in local newspaper journalism before moving to Inside Housing in 1999. He has worked in a variety of roles for built environment titles including Planning, Regeneration & Renewal and Property Week. After a spell at advertising industry bible Campaign magazine, he became a freelancer in 2010. Since then he has edited PublicTechnology.net, local government finance publication Room151.co.uk and contributed news and features to Civil Service World, Architects’ Journal, Social Housing, management titles and written white papers for major corporate and public sector clients.

One Comment

  1. Charles Eldredge says:

    Bravo President Donald J Trump! We are way past due for some serious reorganization and consolidation.

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