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Testimony

Restoring the President’s Reorganization Authority

Paul C. Light

Thank you for inviting me to share my comments on proposals to restore the President’s reorganization authority under statute. Having been before this Committee and others regarding the Department of Homeland Security, I can testify to the importance of reorganization as a tool for tightening executive performance. As we have seen in the case of homeland security, reorganization offers a significant opportunity to align agencies by mission rather than constituencies. If done well, which I believe is the case in homeland security, it can strengthen accountability, reduce wasteful duplication and overlap, tighten administrative efficiency, improve employee motivation, and provide the kind of integration that leads to impact.

The question before this Committee today is not whether reorganization can provide needed improvements in government performance, however, but whether Congress should give the President of the United States reorganization authority of some kind. I believe the answer is absolutely yes, particularly if granted through the expedited model envisioned by the National Commission on the Public Service chaired by former Federal Reserve Board Chairman Paul Volcker. As Chairman Volcker and fellow commissions Donna Shalala and Frank Carlucci testified before this Committee last month, reorganization is their number one recommendation for improving government today. As they also testified, it is also the most difficult recommendation to implement. That is why the Commission believed Congress should create a procedural presumption in favor of reorganization through the enacting of a “fast-track” or expedited authority. Such a presumption would not assure that all presidential reorganizations would succeed, but it would certainly give them a fighting chance.

My support for renewed reorganization authority is based on the answers to two separate questions: (1) Does reorganization hold significant promise for improving government performance, and (2) If so, how can reorganization plans be given some hope of legislative action?

1. Why Reorganize?

The threshold question in restoring some form of reorganization authority is whether there is any reason to believe that such authority holds the promise of better government performance. I believe there are at least six answers in the affirmative.

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