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4 questions about Trump’s agency reorg order

March 14, 2017 (Photo Credit: Evan Vucci/AP)
The White House’s much-anticipated plan to reshape federal agencies landed with a leaden thud on March 13, promising a tectonic shift in the executive branch.

The new executive order calls for agency leaders to submit a plan to the Office of Management and Budget within 180 days to reorganize their operations, possibly by eliminating components and merging offices.

While the order lays out a broad plan for how officials are meant to move forward, many questions remain. Here are four things President Trump’s reorganization plan still needs to answer.

Who will make the reorganization plans?

Per the executive order, agency leaders have until roughly Sept. 9 to submit plans “to reorganize the agency, if appropriate, in order to improve the efficiency, effectiveness and accountability of that agency.”

But while the Trump administration continues to take shape, several agency leaders have yet to be appointed. Temporary agency heads were put in place to maintain agency functions ever since Jan. 20, but it’s unclear whether they will be made permanent leaders, will craft the reorganization plans or whether the White House intends future candidates to craft those plans once they are appointed.

What role with the public play?

The executive order also calls on agency leaders to place notices in the Federal Register calling on the public “to suggest improvements in the organization and functioning of the executive branch” that will be included in the reorganization plans.

How much sway with these suggestions hold and what will the impact be for services currently being provided by the agencies? The answer largely depends on the next question.

How will the order affect private and public stakeholders?

One of the key portions of the order outlines a number of points agency leaders must consider when crafting their reorganization plans.

Chief among them is whether their operations “are appropriate for the federal government or would be better left to state or local governments or to the private sector through free enterprise.”

That signals a likely broader push toward government contractors and a potentially monumental services shift from Washington and on to state government that will impact budgetary forces.

Does this mean federal employees will see layoffs?

Quite possibly. The order instructs agency leaders to examine whether certain operations are redundant with other agencies, whether the cost to operate agency components “are justified by the public benefits it provides,” and what the cost of eliminating or merging those components would be, “including the costs of addressing the equities of affected agency staff.”

That doesn’t sound promising if you are a federal employee, but the effects could vary from agency to agency or even component to component. Coupled with the anticipated budget cuts and with a workforce that is increasingly eligible for retirement, the move could preempt another wave of workers leaving federal agencies.

To see the full executive order, click here.
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