President Obama just said in his State of the Union address that he wants to consolidate and reorganize federal agencies:
We shouldn’t just give our people a government that’s more affordable. We should give them a government that’s more competent and efficient. We cannot win the future with a government of the past.
We live and do business in the information age, but the last major reorganization of the government happened in the age of black and white TV. There are twelve different agencies that deal with exports. There are at least five different entities that deal with housing policy. Then there’s my favorite example: the Interior Department is in charge of salmon while they’re in fresh water, but the Commerce Department handles them in when they’re in saltwater. And I hear it gets even more complicated once they’re smoked.
Now, we have made great strides over the last two years in using technology and getting rid of waste. Veterans can now download their electronic medical records with a click of the mouse. We’re selling acres of federal office space that hasn’t been used in years, and we will cut through red tape to get rid of more. But we need to think bigger. In the coming months, my administration will develop a proposal to merge, consolidate, and reorganize the federal government in a way that best serves the goal of a more competitive America. I will submit that proposal to Congress for a vote and we will push to get it passed.
Much has been written about the politics of President Obama’s call for a partial spending freeze. (In short, they’re hard to figure out: The freeze annoys liberals, it’s too small to placate conservatives, and because it exempts defense spending, it hasn’t earned many plaudits from real fiscal hawks.)
Less has been written about the policy side, partly because the details of the freeze won’t be public until Obama releases his budget on Monday. But the sense I get — and I alluded to this in a quick State of the Union story last night — is that the freeze will really have a minimal impact on federal employees, both on their priorities and their pay.