Reducing the federal deficit and improving the efficiency of government programs has increased attention on reorganizing federal agencies and programs as a mechanism to achieve these desired results. While there is merit in reorganizing the federal government, it may not achieve the desired results unless done properly. Even then, reorganizations may have limited impact on helping to reduce the deficit or immediately improving the efficiency of government programs.
There has been significant expansion of federal government agencies’ programs over the last several decades. This expansion has been due to actions by the Executive and Legislative branches of government to address new or reoccurring problems with new or expanded programs. As a result of the new or expanded programs, there has been mission creep among federal agencies and the creation of overlapping, duplicative and fragmented federal programs.
Eliminating or reducing overlapping, duplicative and fragmented programs is an important task for the next Administration and Congress. One important step may be to structurally reorganize these programs by consolidating them. This will require the expenditure of political capital by both the President and Congress. It will also require them to work closely together, reach consensus on the reorganization goals, and understand that savings and program efficiencies may not be immediate. They both need to use the important principles and guidelines for structural reorganizations. Additionally, the President and Congress should be careful not to replicate the design and process deficiencies that occurred in designing the Department of Homeland Security.
Another important step may be to increase the development of interagency councils to coordinate cross-cutting programs. This step has been called a “virtual” reorganization and can be used to supplement a more traditional reorganization. Creating interagency councils though will not be sufficient. The President and Congress should organize them around broad, agreed upon national goals and use other important tools to ensure accountability and transparency of such councils. Also, one agency head should be designated to lead each council and provided with the appropriate authority to ensure that multi-programs work together toward for achieving the broad national goals.
The next Administration and the Congress should use both steps to help eliminate or reduce the overlap, duplication and fragmentation among federal programs. This memo makes several recommendations regarding the structural and virtual reorganization of the federal government.