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Posted at 11:30 AM ET, 01/30/2011

Zients to lead government reorganization project

By Ed O'Keefe

Updated 3:36 p.m. ET
Jeffrey D. Zients, the federal government's first chief performance officer and a deputy director at the Office of Management and Budget, will lead President Obama's efforts to reorganize parts of the federal government.

Jeffrey Zients
Jeffrey D. Zients. (By Susan Biddle/Post)

Zients, who has spent the last two years focused on cutting government contract spending, reforming the federal hiring process and making other operational cuts, will focus first on reorganizing how the federal government handles trade and export issues, the White House said Sunday.

He will be joined in the process by White House Staff Secretary Lisa Brown, who led the Obama-Biden presidential transition's review of federal agency operations.

Obama called for a reorganization of federal agencies Tuesday during his State of the Union address, noting that about a dozen federal agencies handle export issues.

"We have a number of agencies right now that deal with exports and trade and I think we're going to take a first look at those agencies who do work well together," White House Chief of Staff William M. Daley said Sunday.

"This government is structured basically mid-last century, not for the 21st century," Daley said on CBS's Face the Nation. "There's enormous duplication. So I think you're going to see a very concerted effort by the president. No doubt about it, it's a major task."

Obama may make some changes to federal agency operations by executive order, but other changes will require congressional approval, according to senior administration officials. He is aware of the difficulties that come with attempts to revamp the government, OMB Director Jacob J. Lew told The Post on Friday.

John Gage, president of the American Federation of Government Employees, said Sunday that he remains somewhat skeptical of the plans. "Changing boxes at the top isn't all that important," he said Sunday. "Getting down to the real mechanics of government is important," Gage spoke on C-SPAN's Washington Journal.

Leave your thoughts in the comments section below

By Ed O'Keefe  | January 30, 2011; 11:30 AM ET
Categories:  Administration  
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Comments

One hopes that serious action will be taken to eliminate redundancies in government programs. Do we really need multiple air forces, land forces, sea-going forces, housing programs, etc.?

Posted by: geraf-CO | January 30, 2011 12:00 PM | Report abuse

Reorganizations are extremely disruptive, imposed on an already shaky effectiveness/efficiency performance platform. DHS was the last great product, and it is poorly stiched and fragmented and costly. It has proven it cannot manage its HR or contractors. There is something to be gained, but not uniformly and not a lot from a govt reorg. The happy hunting ground for cost and impact improvements is DoD. Then the Intel Community. Then DHS. All of them resist and confound change agents of any type. Obama's OMB has done little to actually achieve contract cost cuts or implant metrics or show that it knows how to operate the government with some effect. Just talk with anyone who has seen how the top level of agencies are. Too many people reinventing the wheel, discovering what earler administrations have known. Very naive about getting agencies and individuals motivated. Whatever is done, it would be a shame to waste money on "management consultants," many of whom have made a lot of money from agencies that are not doing any better. Nice charts, no change. What the Texans say: he's all hat, no cattle.

Posted by: axolotl | January 30, 2011 12:17 PM | Report abuse

I'll repeat what I wrote last week on the same subject. It is quite possible to do something efficiently and economically which need not be done at all. And, everything's new to people who don't know anything.

Posted by: jdrd58 | January 30, 2011 12:24 PM | Report abuse

Is this the part where Obama reorganizes American government in Marx's image of Utopia?

Posted by: RIDGERUNNER5 | January 30, 2011 1:17 PM | Report abuse

Wouldn't it make more sense to let him finish reforming hiring and HR polices first before turning him lose on reorganizing the whole government?

Posted by: Dagpotter | January 30, 2011 1:30 PM | Report abuse

If you don't know what else to do, reorganize.

Posted by: MrBethesda | January 30, 2011 2:09 PM | Report abuse

If you don't know what else to do, reorganize.

Posted by: MrBethesda | January 30, 2011 2:11 PM | Report abuse

Anyone else find this ironic? Obama is calling for smaller government (through consolidation)! This is exactly the action that many on the right have fought so hard to bring forth. I would expect the left to complain about or object to this project - as it will most likely eliminate many federal jobs, spending, and loopholes. To object to this simply because Obama was the one to say it would be foolish - just imagine that it was Speaker Boehner who said it; now those objections seem not to apply, right? Remember, this was first suggested by the right.

Personally, I think that whether you're on the right or the left this has been a long time in the making and is needed to eliminate redundancy and multiple conflicting and contradictory standards.

You just know this is going to be painful to get passed - a lot of loopholes/spending/jobs are going to be eliminated, making some very powerful organizations quite angry. I imagine we will see this presented by the court of public opinion (media organizations, etc) in a most unflattering light in the coming months and years.

Posted by: bjornp | January 30, 2011 2:25 PM | Report abuse

Reorganizations are extremely disruptive, imposed on an already shaky guvmnt effectiveness/efficiency performance platform. DHS was the last great product, and it is poorly stiched and fragmented and costly. It has proven it cannot manage its HR or contractors. There is something to be gained, but not uniformly and not a lot from a govt reorg. The happy hunting ground for cost and impact improvements is DoD. Then the Intel Community. Then DHS. All of them resist and confound change agents of any type. Obama's OMB has done little to actually achieve contract cost cuts or implant metrics or show that it knows how to operate the government with some effect. Just talk with anyone who has seen how the top level of agencies are. Too many people reinventing the wheel, discovering what earler administrations have known. Very naive about getting agencies and individuals motivated. Whatever is done, it would be a shame to waste money on "management consultants," many of whom have made a lot of money from agencies that are not doing any better. Nice charts, no change. What the Texans say: he's all hat, no cattle.

Posted by: axolotl | January 30, 2011 4:38 PM | Report abuse

We can start by not allowing morons aka HR decide who makes the final interview cut. Our office has had former employees apply for positions and not make the interview cut. the office can't tap or even look into the "qualified" pool over the "most qualified." such BS. hiring offices know what skills are needed and need more autonomy.

Posted by: bethesda1 | January 30, 2011 5:45 PM | Report abuse

We all know what happened the last time he promised us change, I suggest we watch him and the hands behind his back very carefully this time. Be prepared to leap right down his throat every time he wants to change to match socialist Europe or this will be a third world socialist country in a matter months if he gets his way.

Posted by: jhnjdy | January 30, 2011 6:34 PM | Report abuse

Ridgerunner5 wrote:
"Is this the part where Obama reorganizes American government in Marx's image of Utopia?"
_____________________
Perhaps in your fevered imagination and otherwise empty head. Trying to make government smaller hardly seems like a marxist strategy (of course, Marx did say that eventually government would wither away . . . but I doubt you knew that).

I'm betting that Obama is to the left of you. Maybe considerably. But that doesn't make him a marxist, your delusions notwithstanding.

Take your meds.

Posted by: post_reader_in_wv | January 30, 2011 8:53 PM | Report abuse

John Gage is quoted, saying, "Getting down to the real mechanics of government is important." Yes, indeed, but so far Mr. O'Keefe looks to be light years away from understanding that. Otherwise he would have recounted some of the many past reorganizations that claimed to aim at more effective or efficient services but instead produced only more complex and expensive bureaucracy--almost all of them really aimed at asserting political control.

A telling example might be the divorce of inspecting meat, poultry and eggs from inspecting other foods. Little noticed at the time and rarely remembered, that occurred during an administrative reorganization by the Coolidge administration in 1927. It was hardened into practice by another administrative reorganization by the Franklin Roosevelt administration in 1940, moving the Food and Drug Administration out of the Agriculture Department and into the recently created, subcabinet Federal Security Agency, forerunner to the current Department of Hesalth and Human Services.

Posted by: AppDev | January 31, 2011 7:07 AM | Report abuse

So Obama want's to reorganize the government? Where will the Constitution fit in his plans? Or will it? So far he's seen fit to ignore the Constitution if it gets in the way of his agenda. Guess that Oath Of Office he took means nothing!

But, what can we expect from a Kenyan Born, Anti-American, Anti-Constituion, Muslim?

Posted by: TexRancher | January 31, 2011 7:45 AM | Report abuse

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