By Ese Olumhense
‘Duplication and redundancy everywhere’
President Donald Trump signed an executive order on Monday that would mandate an evaluation of every executive department and agency to determine where money could be saved.
Flanked by the confirmed members of his cabinet, Trump signed the “Comprehensive Plan for Reorganizing the Executive Branch,” the stated aims of which are to make the federal government more efficient, and improve agency and department services.
“Today we’re beginning the process of a long-overdue reorganizing of our federal departments and agencies,” Trump said. “We’ve assembled one of the greatest cabinets in history and — I believe that so strongly — and we want to empower them to make their agencies as lean and effective as possible, and they know how to to it.”
“Today there is duplication and redundancy everywhere,” Trump continued. “Billions and billions of dollars are being wasted on activities that are not delivering results for hardworking American taxpayers, and not even coming close.”
The move comes just days before the president is expected to introduce his 2018 discretionary spending budget on Thursday, which is expected to reflect his infrastructure, military, and homeland security priorities, as well as his rumored plans to downsize other regulatory agencies, including the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
It’s unclear how or when the review would commence.
Looming cuts would ‘shake the federal government to its core’
Monday’s executive order sets the stage for a historic downsizing of federal agencies and the federal workforce in Thursday’s budget proposal.
The Washington Post, which obtained leaked preliminary budget documents, reports that the proposal could “shake the federal government to its core if enacted.” This, The Post reports, would be the first time since World War II that the federal government has administered cuts this drastic.
According to the documents, Trump is expected to increase military spending by $54 billion, funding that would be offset by cuts to other government departments. HUD is expected to lose $6 billion — 14 percent of its current budget — which will have pronounced adverse impact on the nation’s public housing program, which is already suffering from a multi-billion dollar capital funding shortfall.
The EPA is also expected to see massive cuts, with a loss of about 20 percent of its budget, a change that would likely affect much of the Obama-era research into climate change. The State Department and the Department of Commerce were also on the list of agencies expected to see large reductions.
With budget cuts come potential furloughs, buyouts and layoffs, and many federal employees are already worried about what the rumored changes to the budget might mean for their jobs. Not all of Trump’s cabinet positions have been filled, either, leading some to speculate how any review of these agencies could take place without their relevant heads.
“People are very concerned,” said Jackie Simon, the policy director of the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), the largest union of federal employees in the nation. “They are very devoted to the missions of their agencies. If there are fewer of them on the job, the mission of the agency is undermined.”
The party of ‘small government’ might struggle living up to its moniker
Unlike the review of cabinet agencies promised in Trump’s Monday executive order, his budget proposal — and any of its planned cuts to domestic programs — will still require sign-off from the GOP-led Congress, and is expected encounter little pushback in the House.
In the Senate however, where the Republican majority is less broad, the plan could face sizable challenges. Republican members supporting an unpopular proposal, some of their colleagues say, could jeopardize their chances at reelection in next year’s midterms.
It’s rare that a GOP-controlled Congress would buck a Republican president’s proposals, but it’s not impossible. Already, the Trump-backed House alternative to the Affordable Care Act, being dubbed “Trumpcare,” is encountering resistance from House members, who have blasted it as “Obamacare Lite.” Some have promised not to vote for the plan at all.
Like the health care plan, the budget proposal could also face similar scrutiny and criticism from Republican congressmen and women, another turbulent moment for a party struggling to present themselves as unified and “in sync,” an image House Speaker Paul Ryan has projected.