President Trump is taking charge of his administration’s effort to reform the federal government and workforce, the biggest demonstration yet that Washington is under new management.
Aides describe the president as personally invested in the 32-point plan to shake the bureaucracy out of a 1950s model based on secretarial pools.
“So much of the ability to drive change requires a fresh perspective,” said Margaret Weichert, an author of the recently announced reform blueprint and deputy director for management at the Office of Management and Budget.
“It’s frequently why I, as a management consultant, was brought into an organization to consult on issues like this because fresh eyes and people who don’t have a stake in the status quo very often can see things differently than the people who are of that organization or institution. And that was a major theme in the last election, that people were effectively hiring a businessman to try to change business as usual in Washington,” she said in an interview.
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Screen Shot 2018-07-09 at 8.56.26 AM.png Combining Education and Labor departments is aimed at boosting trained workers. Trimming and reeducating the workforce, combining federal agencies and eliminating overlapping services won’t be easy and Trump’s team are bracing for a bruising fight with bureaucrats, federal employee unions and lawmakers.
But it is one that Trump is approaching like he did many of his business challenges, setting the overall goals and then promoting them.
“He gets involved in the high level conceptual framing of it and then when we pull together the proposals,” said Weichert.
One business practice used in drawing up the reform plan was keeping the proposals broad and welcoming outside ideas, she said.
“Very often good ideas literally die in committee because if you have a single proposal the people who are invested in the status quo start picking at it, and picking at it and picking at it and then what’s left isn’t even worth pursuing,” Weichert explained.
Another tactic is selling it, and that means describing how poorly the current federal structure works. She and OMB Director Mick Mulvaney, for example, are armed with silly stories of how Washington works, such as how chickens are regulated by the Agriculture Department, but eggs by the Food and Drug Administration, or how salmon are regulated differently if they are in the ocean or river.
“We are serious about top down change. It cannot all happen at once, it can’t certainly happen by fiat, but when you look at where we are at in 2018 two decades into the 21st century and you pair that with a bureaucratic infrastructure that was very well aligned to the needs of the post-World War II era, it’s so clear there’s a mismatch,” said Weichert, adding, “If now isn’t the time to get traction on this, I don’t know when is. We have to get serious about making change happen.”
Legislation has already been introduced to begin making Trump’s reforms, headlined by a plan to revamp the federal workforce, reform IT and add automation, and combine the Education and Labor departments so that schools can focus more on filling the nation’s skills gap like some European school systems do.
Like getting a skyscraper built in Manhattan, aides said that Trump is in it for the long haul.
“If we can prove that we can do this,” said Weichert, “that will give energy to work on more of these proposals in a consistent, ongoing way.”