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Trade Agencies Could be Reshuffled as Part of Government Reorganization Effort

Thursday, April 13, 2017
Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg Trade Report

The Trump administration has signaled its openness to a restructuring of federal trade regulating agencies as part of a broader effort to improve the efficiency, effectiveness, and accountability of the executive branch.

The Office of Management and Budget announced April 11 a comprehensive plan for reforming the federal government that will require agencies to act immediately to save taxpayer money and reduce their workforces while developing longer-term plans to modernize and streamline their operations. OMB said that it will work with all agencies to identify areas that should be eliminated, restructured, or consolidated and that individual agency reform plans are due to OMB by September. These plans, as well as public comments submitted through June 12, will be incorporated into OMB’s final comprehensive reorganization plan, which the administration hopes to start implementing in fiscal year 2019.

OMB Director Mick Mulvaney characterized this effort as the first-ever attempt to rebuild the executive branch, which has “grown organically over the course of the last 240 years.” He emphasized that the focus is on securing “good government,” which could result in fewer agencies but also might mean “more [agencies] but smaller.” One suggestion that Mulvaney said business leaders recently made toward that end is to “restructure the government in terms of the functions that it performs.”

For example, he said, if the government determines that it wants to be in the business of trade, “let’s go find all of the functions of government that deal with trade and put [them] in one place.” Other administrations have had a similar idea, most recently an Obama administration proposal that was dropped after government officials and the business community expressed particular opposition to the idea of combining the Department of Commerce and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative.

Mulvaney acknowledged that some changes may require legislative authority but expressed hope for “congressional buy-in to try and get some of this accomplished.” For one thing, he said, the White House has made clear by moving within President Trump’s first 100 days that government restructuring is a high priority. In addition, responding to speculation that members of Congress concerned about changes in committee jurisdiction might oppose a reorganization, Mulvaney opined that lawmakers are as “frustrated as everybody else is … as to how poorly the federal government can function” and “probably have as much interest in finding the savings that may come from some of this as any other citizen is.”

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