On Friday, at the request of Treasury Secretary Geithner, I attended an event hosted by the President in the East Room of the White House. The President announced his next Reforming Government initiative by calling on Congress to reinstate the authority that past Presidents had to reorganize government. He also laid out his first proposed use of that authority consolidating six agencies into one more efficient department to promote competitiveness, exports and American business.
As the President said, “We live in a 21st century economy, but we’ve still got a government organized for the 20th century. Our economy has fundamentally changed – as has the world – but the government has not. The needs of our citizens have fundamentally changed but their government has not.”
During the event, he pointed to a chart that showed how businesses are currently expected to interact with the Federal Government agencies that are supposed to support their creation and expansion. It was complicated, multi-colored, and confusing – just to look at.
Over the past three years, the Obama Administration has taken numerous steps to eliminate government waste and inefficiencies, and make it easier for businesses to find the assistance they need to expand and hire. But clearly there’s more work to be done. The bill the President is proposing reinstates the authority that past presidents have had to reorganize the government so it can be modernized, made more efficient, and provide better service.
And to guarantee that government reorganization will always result in a more efficient government, the legislation will add a new requirement that any reorganization plan meets this strong standard: It must save money or reduce the size of government.
At Treasury, we too have spent the last three years trying to make our services and programs more effective and much more efficient. We have much to do and some exciting ideas we are working on for the near future. Some of the work we have done to date includes:
- Eliminating paper benefit checks and saving taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars, while at the same time improving service to recipients and reducing the risk of loss or fraud.
- Eliminating paper savings bonds and moving all retail purchases over to the safer, more cost effective Treasury Direct program.
- Halting production of the Presidential Dollar Coin for circulation, saving $50 million while recognizing that 1.4 billion surplus coins in inventory is more than enough to meet circulating demand.
- Consolidating the Office of Thrift Supervision into the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, enhancing bank and thrift supervision.
- Saving hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayer money by shrinking office space, increasing energy efficiency, reducing fleet sizes, closing unnecessary offices and many, many more smart savings ideas that recognize the value of the resource we are working with: taxpayer dollars.
This is good for government and good for the American people. We know that the President looks forward to working with Congress to pass this bipartisan measure. In the meantime, reform and reorganization efforts will continue within the Department of Treasury and throughout the Administration to ensure that the government works for Americans.
Dan Tangherlini is Assistant Secretary for Management, Chief Financial Officer, Chief Performance Officer, and Director of the Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization at the U.S. Department of the Treasury.