President Donald Trump ordered work to begin on a reorganization plan for the federal government to reduce its size and cost.
“Today there is duplication and redundancy everywhere,” Trump said in an Oval Office signing ceremony on Monday. “Billions and billions of dollars are being wasted.”
The order requires federal agencies to submit a reorganization plan, including proposed cuts. Trump ordered a freeze on federal hiring in January, and on Thursday, he’s scheduled to release a budget plan that would impose deep spending reductions for federal agencies outside the Defense Department.
“This order requires a thorough examination of every executive department and agency to identify money — where money is wasted and how services can be improved and whether or not the programs are truly serving the American people,” White House press secretary Sean Spicer told reporters on Monday ahead of the signing ceremony.
Spicer said the order would commence a lengthy process of overhauling the federal government.
It’s not the first time a new president started his term with the goal.
Shortly after President Bill Clinton took office in 1993, then-Vice President Al Gore led a task force with the aim of overhauling how the federal government operated. But Congress rejected many of the proposals.
“There’s a lot that we didn’t get done and the reason was simple: Congress doesn’t care,” said David Osborne, who was a senior adviser to Gore working on the 1990s restructuring plan. “In our system, to change important things, you have to change laws.”
Other presidents have run into similar challenges. President Ronald Reagan created the Grace Commission to find inefficiencies in the federal government, releasing a 1984 report that sought to eliminate $424 billion in “waste” over three years.
Congress ignored most of the report’s findings.
Osborne, who wrote “Reinventing Government: How the Entrepreneurial Spirit is Transforming the Public Sector,” said previous administrations have tried and failed to transfer responsibility for federal government services to the local level or the private sector.
“It’s politically really controversial to take anything the federal government runs and sell it to the private sector,” he said.
There were fewer than 2.7 million civilian workers in the executive branch in 2014, according to the most recent figures from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management. That compares to 2.5 million federal workers in 1962, when the U.S. population was 186.5 million. The population has since grown to more than 324 million.