Ahead of the release of his first budget, President Donald Trump, on Monday, signed an executive order directing cabinet departments and federal agencies to submit plans for reorganization to the White House Office of Managment and Budget (OMB). The executive order is, as President Trump said, designed to “make [the federal government] less wasteful and more productive,” as well as to “eliminate unnecessary agencies.”
Cabinet departments and agencies have 180 days to submit reorganization plans to OMB Director Mick Mulvaney that will “improve… efficiency, effectiveness, and accountability.” The executive order instructs Director Mulvaney to publish a notice in the Federal Register, allowing a public comment period. The public comment period will allow interested parties to offer suggestions on the plan, which may be considered when the plan is finalized.
The public comment period is important. FreedomWorks Foundation has, through its Regulatory Action Center, drive tens of thousands of responses to federal agencies during public comment periods to influence the outcome of a proposed rule. For example, FreedomWorks Foundation drove more than 21,000 responses in opposition to the Department of Education's Accountability and State Plans Rule during the public comment period, which ended on August 1.
While the Department of Education, under the control of the Obama administration, finalized and published the rule, Congress recently canceled it through a resolution of disapproval, H.J.Res. 57, under the Congressional Review Act. The White House has indicated that President Trump will sign H.J.Res. 57 into law.
In addition to looking for redundancies and inefficiencies in cabinet departments and federal agencies that could be eliminated, Director Mulvaney is instructed to propose legislative recommendations to achieve the goals of the plan. There are a few of existing pieces of legislation that could help move the ball forward on this plan.
Drain the Swamp Act, H.R. 826: Introduced by Rep. Warren Davidson (R-Ohio), the Drain the Swamp Act requires the heads of executive agencies to develop relocation plans to move executive agencies outside of the D.C. area and submit them to Congress by September 30, 2018. Only 10 percent of an executive agency’s employees can remain in the D.C. area. The bill also requires executive agencies to implement relocation plans by September 30, 2023.
Reacting to President Trump's executive order on Facebook, Rep. Davidson wrote, “I’m glad to see this executive order from President Trump. My Drain the Swamp Act is similar, but would ask agency heads to also develop plans for saving money by moving outside of Washington DC. It would be more than just a geographic change – it would be an opportunity for fundamental restructuring conversations similar to what could be accomplished under this order.”
“I’m looking forward to the suggested changes that come from this action, and would encourage the agencies to go further and considering moving operations outside DC,” he added.
Agency Accountability Act, H.R. 850: Introduced by Rep. Gary Palmer (R-Ala.), the Agency Accountability Act would require federal agencies to deposit revenues collected through fines, fees, or proceeds from legal settlements into the general fund of the Treasury. Between 2010 and 2015, according to a report by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, federal agencies collected more than $83 billion. Only twelve of 34 agencies deposited these revenues to the general fund of the Treasury. This has effectively allowed federal agencies to create slush funds, free from congressional oversight.
Modern Employment Reform, Improvement, and Transformation (MERIT) Act, H.R. 559: Introduced by Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-Ga.) the MERIT Act would make it easier to “drain the swamp” by removing federal employees based on poor performance or misconduct. In a Facebook Live with FreedomWorks, Rep. Loudermilk said that the White House is interested in the MERIT Act as part of an agency overhaul.
Over the past several years, Americans have seen the cabinet departments and federal agencies grow more powerful. There are 2.66 million civilian employees in the executive branch. The executive branch has grown so large that no one can say exactly how many federal agencies actually exist. This executive order is long overdue, and we look forward to seeing what comes from it to drain the swamp.