What’s leaner, smarter and more consumer-friendly? It’s President Obama’s vision to create a smaller government, which was announced in a White House press release on January 13, 2012. President Obama has requested Congress to grant him consolidation authority so that he may reorganize the federal government. Is this an election-year gamble? Or, is this a plan that can really put the focus on economic growth and job creation?
Every President from Hoover to Reagan (except Ford) has had reorganization authority; however, Obama’s request differs. Obama is asking for authority to consolidate only and not to create additional departments or agencies.
Obama’s first proposal is to consolidate six agencies and departments, which primarily address trade and business-related issues–these are agencies that may affect the import and export of goods. Those agencies include:
- U.S. Department of Commerce (its core business and trade functions)
- Small Business Administration (SBA)
- Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR)
- Export-Import Bank (Ex-Im Bank)
- Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC)
- U.S. Trade Development Agency (USTDA)
President Obama is asking for passage of the “Consolidation Authority Act” in order to consolidate these government agencies, to minimize redundancies, to create a leaner, more streamlined and efficient government, and to save tax dollars. President Obama’s call to consolidate should further his National Export Initiative, which set a goal of doubling U.S. exports by 2014. And, in addition, President Obama’s plan to consolidate is also in line with the Export Control Reform Initiative, which we discussed on July 5, 2011, Shaping It Up To Ship It Out. You may recall that the Export Control Reform Initiative seeks to reform four component areas of our export control system:
1. Single Control List;
2. Single Primary Enforcement Coordination Agency;
3. Single Information Technology (IT) System; and
4. Single Licensing Agency.
According to the Administration, the merger of these agencies is designed to help all U.S. businesses, but it should especially help small businesses by creating a “one-stop shop” for all their trade and business needs. The Administration recognizes the difficulties that business may have in trying to understand what regulations apply, what agency has jurisdiction and what information needs to be distilled. Businesses have difficulties working through the existing “maze of federal agencies.” Press Release, The White House, President Obama Announces Proposal to Reform, Reorganize, and Consolidate Government (Jan. 13, 2012).
If Congress approves the President’s request, the President’s proposed agency mergers would be subject to an up-or-down vote from Congress within 90 days. If President Obama is successful in implementing his vision, there would be one phone number to call, one website to consult and we’d presumably have a “leaner, smarter and more consumer-friendly” government.
This new department would have one Secretary, but the Small Business Administration would have a Cabinet seat. In fact, President Obama has already elevated SBA administrator, Karen Mills, to a Cabinet-level position on a temporary basis until Congress approves or denies the President’s proposal.
The consolidation plan is estimated to result in 1,000 to 2,000 job cuts and save $3 billion over ten years. The Administration plans to focus on streamlining other areas of the government once its reorganization of trade and business is complete.
Obama also announced that a new website called BusinessUSA would be launched in a few weeks time and would consolidate information that is already spread across various sites.
It’s still too early to know whether President Obama’s plan can be implemented and we still need more information on the detail of his plan. But, this is a “big idea”. In the words of Brendan Buck, a spokesman for the House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, “. . . eliminating duplicative programs and making the federal government more simple, streamlined, and business-friendly is always an idea worth exploring. We look forward to hearing more about his proposal.”