Trump proposes consolidating 2 cabinet-level departments in government overhaul plan

The White House on Thursday announced a sweeping plan to merge the departments of Labor and Education to create a new cabinet-level agency, the Department of Education and Workforce.

“Today’s Executive Branch is still aligned to the stove-piped organizational constructs of the 20th Century, which in many cases have grown inefficient and out-of-date.  Consequently, the public and our workforce are frustrated with Government’s ability to deliver its mission in an effective, efficient, and secure way,” reads one passage explaining the proposed plan.

The proposal follows 15 months of intensive reviews of government departments for the purpose of forwarding suggestions to shrink the size of the federal government.

Currently, the Department of Labor, which employs 15,000, oversees the Bureau of Labor Statistics and enforces labor laws.

Similarly, the Education Department employs 3,400 and is responsible for distribution of federal education dollars and enforces civil rights laws at public schools, colleges and universities.

Under the ambitions plan to reorganize government agencies, the two departments would be fused into one renamed agency and responsibilities of some departments would be shifted to different departments entirely.

White House

In the massive government restructuring plan, the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP), now under the domain of the Department of Agriculture (USDA) would be transferred to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which, under Trump’s plan, would be renamed the Department of Health and Public Welfare.

To manage the new responsibilities, the proposed department would oversee a new panel at the USDA, the Council on Public Assistance, which would administer SNAP and Medicaid programs.

In a similar move, the responsibilities of the Food and Drug Administration, largely its food safety functions, would be shifted from HHS to USDA.

The plan also includes the initiatives of privatizing the air-traffic control system, the U.S. Postal Service and government lending agencies, Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae and calls for the selling of government assets from the Tennessee Valley Authority and the Department of Energy to private interests.

Although the plan is embraced by advocates of limited government such as Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.), who called an overhaul “long overdue”, the proposal also has some serious opponents.  Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), the ranking Democrat on the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, declared the plan a non-starter on Capitol Hill, citing it as an example of Trump’s “latest attempt to make government work worse for the people it serves.”

As for the politics surrounding the proposal, some are skeptical but hopeful, such as American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, who says he supports bringing the departments of Labor and Education together but is “extremely skeptical of (Trump’s) motivations here,” while others like public service expert Paul Light are downright cynical.

“You’re not just asking members of Congress to reorganize agencies, you’re asking them to reorganize the appropriations process and give up their subcommittee positions,” he said. “There’s not a single member of Congress ready to give up those authorities.”

 

[Politico] [The Hill] [AP] [Photo courtesy REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst via PBS]