By Eric Katz
This story has been updated with comments from President Trump and details from the executive order.
President Trump on Monday issued a new executive order tasking federal agencies with cutting waste through agency reevaluation and reorganization.
The order will require a “thorough examination” of every executive branch agency to identify “where money can be saved and services improved,” Trump said while flanked by his Cabinet at a signing ceremony. Part of the proposed solution could result in a federal workforce reduction, as White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said the review could determine there are “too many people performing a function.”
Trump and Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney will ask agencies to “review themselves” to conduct the “long overdue reorganization,” Spicer said. There is no set number of programs or dollars the administration is seeking to eliminate, but the goal is to find government functions that are “bloated or duplicative or frankly just outdated or in need of technological advances.” The administration may ultimately recommend the elimination of wholesale agencies.
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“Sometimes you walk into an agency and realize that agency’s mission is no longer relevant,” Spicer said, “or is duplicative in three other agencies.” The review will make government “more efficient, effective and accountable to the American people.” The order will give citizens the chance to make suggestions on areas for cuts through the Federal Register.
Trump said Mulvaney will lead the review and seek input from people inside and outside of government, as well as “input from the American people themselves.”
“Based on this input we will develop a plan to make the federal government work better, reorganizing, consolidating and eliminating where necessary,” Trump said. He added there is “duplication and redundancy everywhere,” with “billions and billions of dollars” being wasted on activities that do not deliver results.
The president said he wanted to empower his Cabinet — “one of the greatest Cabinets in history” — to make their agencies “as lean and effective as possible.”
“They know how to do it,” he said.
Each agency leader will submit to Mulvaney a plan for reducing waste within 180 days. Within 180 days of receiving those plans, Mulvaney will submit a report of his own to Trump with recommendations to “eliminate unnecessary agencies, components of agencies, and agency programs, and to merge functions,” according to the order. The review will consider redundancies in government, whether functions would be better left to states or the private sector and a cost-benefit analysis of the agency itself. Included in the cost calculations, the White House said, should be those associated with “addressing the equities of affected agency staff.”
Trump is not the first president to seek an avenue to streamline government operations: In 2012, President Obama sent legislative language to Congress requesting a restoration of authority to consolidate agencies enjoyed by presidents from the 1930s to the 1980s. The Reforming and Consolidating Government Act would have permitted the creation, abolition, consolidation, transfer or renaming of an executive agency or department if the proposed reorganization reduced the overall number of agencies or achieved cost savings. The provision, had it been enacted, would have remained in effect for two years, and would have allowed Congress to approve of changes with a fast-tracked, up-or-down vote.
In 2011, Obama signed an executive order titled Delivering an Efficient, Effective, and Accountable Government as part of his “campaign to cut waste.” The order created a new accountability board to “help federal agencies improve their performance and reduce waste,” and required Vice President Biden to meet regularly with Cabinet members to identify wasteful spending and make government work better.
In 2005, the George W. Bush administration proposed the Government Reorganization and Program Performance Improvement Act, which would have created commissions to identify areas of overlap and programs to be restructured or terminated. President Clinton’s famed “reinventing government” campaign promised a “national performance review” to eliminate waste through reorganization and other cost-saving efforts. President Reagan’s Grace Commission proposed $424 billion in cuts to what it identified as inefficiencies in government.
During the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump promised a war on waste he would complete within his first 100 days in office.
“We are going to ask every department head in government to provide a list of wasteful spending projects that we can eliminate in my first 100 days,” Trump said in July. “The politicians have talked about it; I’m going to do it.”
On Monday, Trump said he he would work with Congress to implement the recommendations from his administration’s review.
“We’re going to do something very, very special,” Trump said.