- - Monday, May 8, 2017


Mick Mulvaney, director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), calls it “the biggest story that nobody is talking about.”

By that he means President Trump’s executive order to restructure the federal government, making it leaner, more efficient and more accountable.

It’s not hard to find federal programs that are duplicative, ineffective or even counterproductive. Most any federal employee will gladly point out examples of government policies that waste taxpayer dollars and make their jobs more difficult than needed.

That’s why President Trump, dubbed the “businessman in chief” by Mr. Mulvaney, wants to make the government function more like the private sector. In many areas, that means starting from scratch with a “blank sheet.”

The president’s executive order, issued March 13, requires all agency heads to submit within 180 days plans for reorganizing their operations. Their proposals are to “include, as appropriate, recommendations to eliminate unnecessary agencies, components of agencies, and agency programs, and to merge functions.”

That all sounds great, but what does it actually mean for Americans both inside and outside the Beltway?

Well, for starters, it means the previous federal hiring freeze is no more. But it doesn’t mean programs and departments are free to hire willy-nilly. Instead, they’ve been instructed to follow a smart-hiring plan, consistent with the President’s America First Budget Blueprint (the full budget will be released in the second half of May).

A few agencies, like the Defense Department and Veterans Affairs, will beef up staff. Most, however, will have to pare down employment. As Mr. Mulvaney said, “We think we can run the government with fewer people than the previous administration had.”

All federal employees can expect to see resources shift from low- or no-priority programs to higher-priority ones. Many may be asked to do something new or different with the goal of optimizing employees’ skills and time.

Federal employees’ compensation may change too, in ways that align more with private-sector compensation. Currently, the federal government massively overcompensates lower-skilled workers and undercompensates higher-skilled ones. It doesn’t take an MBA to know that’s not a good business model.

The upshot for federal employees is that these changes could improve their productivity and job satisfaction, bring about more competitive and flexible compensation and help attract and retain skilled, productive employees.

For Americans both inside and outside the Beltway, this will likely mean changes in some types of government services and in how they are delivered. For example, Mr. Mulvaney pointed to the absurdity of having 43 different job training programs across 13 different agencies, all of which provide little to no benefit to the workers they serve. The restructuring plan will presumably attempt to streamline those training programs and limit taxpayer dollars to those that actually accomplish what they are supposed to.

But don’t expect changes to be made overnight. Agencies have until June 30 to submit their draft restructuring proposals to OMB. Then OMB will work with the agencies to formulate final plans by September.

The changes called for can then start to be implemented. Many federal workers may experience them almost immediately. But Americans outside of government aren’t likely to notice any change until 2018 at the earliest.

Mr. Mulvaney predicted changes will become more and more noticeable over time, saying, “What grows out of this will be hard-wired into the 2019 budget.”

That’s because the president won’t have the power to enact all of the recommended proposals. Many will require buy-in and approval from Congress. But as Mr. Mulvaney noted, the president will use all means within his legal authority to pursue his priorities.

Want some say in how to restructure government? You’ve got it. All Americans can participate in this process by submitting their ideas on the WhiteHouse.gov website through June 12.

If successful, a leaner, more efficient and more accountable federal government will produce more effective programs for those who need help and massive savings for taxpayers.

Rachel Greszler is a Research Fellow in Economics, Budget and Entitlements in the Heritage Foundation’s Institute for Economic Freedom and Opportunity.

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