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Executive Reorganization

Executive Reorganization

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Harrison Wellford, Jitinder Kholi, and James Harrison on six lessons about executive reorganization the Obama administration could learn from the Carter era.
Harrison Wellford, Jitinder Kholi, and James Harrison on six lessons about executive reorganization the Obama administration could learn from the Carter era.

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Published by: Center for American Progress on Jun 09, 2011
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1Center or American Progress | Executive Reorganization
Executive Reorganization
Six Lessons from the 1970s
By Harrison Wellford,
Jitinder Kohli, and James Hairston June 2011
Introduction and summary
 In his January State o the Union speech, President Barack Obama promised toreorganize the executive branch.
He said the last major restructuring was in the “dayso black and white television,” reerring to Carter’s successul reorganization o ederalagencies. Te Center or American Progress joined Harrison Wellord, who led theCarter administration’s reorganization eort, to pinpoint key lessons the Obamaadministration should heed as it develops its detailed proposal.
 Whie House ocials are scheduled his week o presen he presiden wihrecommendaions or reorganizing he execuive branch o beter promoe a morecompeiive America. Te idea is no new. Presidenial aides in 1978 proposed heormaion o a “Deparmen o rade, echnology and Indusry.”Ta idea was never enaced, bu he adminisraion o hen-Presiden Jimmy Carer did oversee a large-scale and successul reorganizaion o governmen wihhe ormaion o he deparmens o energy and educaion, and comprehensivecivil service reorm.Reorganizing governmen agencies is no or he ain o hear. Like reducing hedeci, everyone is in avor o i in he absrac, bu is allure ades when presi-dens conron he winners and losers o change. Te iron law o reorganizaion isha he inensiy o a sakeholder’s ineres is oen inversely proporional o hesize o he sake a risk. No uni o governmen is so obscure or redundan ha anagency head or member o Congress will no soop o deend i. Srucural reor-ganizaions, in which agencies are eliminaed or shied on an organizaional char,are especially dicul.
1 Harrison Wellord, now chie executive ofcer o Wellord Energy Group in Washington, D.C., was executive associate directoro the Ofce o Management and Budget and led the President’s Reorganization Project under Jimmy Carter.2 On March 11, 2011, President Barack Obama issued a presidential memorandum directing that “Within 90 days rom the dateo this memorandum, the Chie Perormance Ofcer shall submit recommendations to me or presidential and, ultimately,congressional action to restructure and streamline Federal Government programs ocused on trade and competitiveness.” The 90 day deadline expires today.
2Center or American Progress | Executive Reorganization
Te las presiden o underake a reorganizaion o he ype Obama is conemplaing was Carer, who campaigned on he promise o cleaning up Washingon. Par o hispledge was o conduc a comprehensive reorganizaion o he execuive branch simi-lar o he one he did as Georgia’s governor rom 1971 o 1975. Carer’s “PresidenialReorganizaion Projec” was successul.Te Deparmen o Energy Organizaion Ac o 1977 creaed he Deparmen o Energy by bringing ogeher he Aomic Energy Commission, he Federal PowerCommission, and energy programs rom he deparmens o agriculure and heinerior. wo years laer, Carer’s proposal o orm a new Deparmen o Educaion was enaced by Congress. Lawmakers also agreed o 10 smaller reorganizaion plans,covering civil righs enorcemen, disaser assisance, and nuclear power regulaion,among oher areas. Carer also oversaw major civil service reorm including hecreaion o he Senior Execuive Service.Presiden Obama has made a similar promise o reorganize governmen, saying“We can’ win he uure wih a governmen o he pas.” In March he asked Jerey Ziens, he U.S. Chie Perormance Ocer, wih developing specic proposals orreorganizaion ocused on rade and compeiiveness. Specic recommendaions aredue o he presiden his week. As he Obama adminisraion shis gear rom developing proposals o geting hemenaced and implemened, he presiden should ake accoun o six lessons rom heCarer era:
Be crystal clear about reorganization’s goals.
Te more concree and policy-relaedhe beter.
Don’t underestimate the political capital required of the president.
He mus also beprepared o inves his personal ime o achieve a successul reorganizaion.
Be ready for the war within.
Te presiden mus spend as much ime selling his planinernally as he does o ouside groups. Cabine members and agency heads caredeeply abou ur and will gh hard o deend i.
Be ready for the war on the Hill.
Reorganizaions can only be enaced by Congress.Resisance is vehemen especially among lawmakers whose power base is hreaenedas commitee boundaries change.
Enlist external allies and understand foes.
Key rade organizaions, ineres groups,governors, and mayors wih a sake mus be idenied and brough on board, o pre-emp opposiion o he presiden’s plan.
Reorganization requires organization.
Tere is more o reorganizaion han he poliics.Tey are major organizaional change projecs and require a skilled eam o lead hem.Tere is one overarching ruh o reorganizaion ha underlies hese recommendaions:Reorganizaion mus ollow policy—no vice versa. Shuing boxes on an org char isno a subsiue or policy reorm. On he oher hand, a badly organized governmencan hold back implemenaion o good policy.
3Center or American Progress | Executive Reorganization
In he December CAP repor “ A Focus on Compeiiveness ,” John Podesa, Sarah Warell,and Jiinder Kohli argued ha he curren ragmenaion o responsibiliy or compeiive-ness policy made i dicul or he ederal governmen o successully implemen policieso promoe our uure prosperiy. We believe a beter policy ramework is needed and hagovernmen needs o be beter organized o implemen i.Te presiden’s reorganizaion iniiaive could se he sage or ha new ramework, andheeding lessons rom he Carer era will improve is chances o success.
Six lessons from the Carter era
Here are six broad lessons rom he Carer era ha he Obama reorganizaion eamshould keep in mind as i atemps o implemen is own major resrucuring o heexecuive branch.
Be crystal clear about reorganization’s goals
 A successul reorganizaion requires he presiden o se ou a compelling case or change.Carer campaigned on he need o make governmen more ecien, responsive, and accoun-able—and he relied on his rack record as governor o Georgia, where he had led a wholesaleresrucuring o he sae’s execuive branch. Each reorganizaion proposal rom he Careream specied deailed objecives in cos savings, accounabiliy, openness, and execuion.During he campaign, Carer promised he American people ha i eleced he would reducehe number o governmen agencies and commitees rom nearly 2,000 o 200. While hepromise o cu he number o agencies was compelling campaign rheoric, he Whie Houserealized aer he elecion ha i ied he presiden o a quesionable meric o success, so i was quiely abandoned aer he rs 100 days. Insead, he Whie House saw eliminaingagencies or overlapping uncions as a means owards beter governmen, no an end.o make a successul case or reorganizaion, he presiden has o convincingly answerhree quesions:
 Why is reorganizaion necessary righ now?
 Wha does reorganizaion seek o achieve?
 Wha will be he merics o success?Having a clear policy agenda or supporers o rally behind—be i compeiiveness, job cre-aion, deci reducion, or improving governmen perormance—is essenial o he successo reorganizaion. In he curren poliical and economic climae, he adminisraion will wano rame he benes o reorganizaion as saving money, creaing jobs, or boh.

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