AP NewsBreak: Obama Seeks Power to Merge Trade Agencies

APNewsBreak: Obama Seeks Power to Merge Agencies

2012-01-13 11:20:56.307 GMT

By BEN FELLER
Washington (AP) — President Barack Obama will ask Congress
on Friday for greater power to shrink the federal government,
and his first idea is merging six sprawling trade and commerce
agencies whose overlapping programs can be baffling to
businesses, a senior administration official told The
Associated Press.
Obama will call on Congress to give him a type of
reorganizational power last held by a president when Ronald
Reagan was in office. The Obama version would be a so-called
consolidation authority allowing him to propose mergers that
promise to save money and help consumers. The deal would
entitle him to an up-or-down vote from Congress in 90 days.
It would be up to lawmakers, therefore, to first grant
Obama this fast-track authority and then decide whether to
approve any of his specific ideas.
Obama was expected to announce his plans Friday. The
official confirmed the details to the AP on condition of
anonymity ahead of the president’s event.
In an election year and a political atmosphere of tighter
spending, Obama’s motivation is about improving a giant
bureaucracy – but that’s hardly all of it.
To voters sick of dysfunction, Obama wants to show some
action on making Washington work better. Politically, his plan
would allow him to do so by putting the onus on Congress and in
particular his Republican critics in the House and Senate, to
show why they would be against the pursuit of a leaner
government.
Obama also has an imperative to deliver. He made a promise
to come up with a smart reorganization of the government in his
last State of the Union speech. That was nearly a year ago.
At the time, Obama grabbed attention by pointing out the
absurdity of government inefficiency. In what he called his
favorite example, Obama said: “The Interior Department is in
charge of salmon while they’re in fresh water, but the Commerce
Department handles them when they’re in saltwater. And I hear
it gets even more complicated once they’re smoked.”
The White House said the problem is serious for consumers
who turn to their government for help and often do not know
where to begin.
Not in decades has the government undergone a sustained
reorganization of itself. Presidents have tried from time to
time, but each part of the bureaucracy has its own defenders
inside and outside the government, which can make merger ideas
politically impossible. That’s particularly true because
“efficiency” is often another way of saying people will lose
their jobs.
Obama hopes to enhance his chances by getting Congress to
give him the assurance of a clean, relatively speedy vote on
any of his proposals.
There is no clear sign that Obama would get that
cooperation. He spent much of 2011 in gridlock with Republicans
who control the House and can halt votes in the Senate.
Should he prevail, Obama’s first project would be to
combine six major operations of the government that focus on
business and trade.
They are: the Commerce Department’s core business and trade
functions; the Small Business Administration; the Office of the
U.S. Trade Representative; the Export-Import Bank; the Overseas
Private Investment Corporation; and the Trade and Development
Agency. The goal would be one agency designed to help
businesses thrive.
The official said 1,000 to 2,000 jobs would be cut, but the
administration would do so through attrition; that is, as
people routinely leave their jobs over time.
The administration said the merger would save $3 billion
over 10 years by getting rid of duplicative overhead costs,
human resources divisions and programs.
The point, the official said, is not just making the
government smaller but better by saving people time and
eliminating bureaucratic nightmares. The idea for the
consolidated business agency grew out of discussions with
hundreds of business leaders and agency heads over the last
several months.
The administration official presented Obama as the CEO of
an operation who should have more power to influence how it is
designed. According to the White House, presidents held such a
reorganizational authority for about 50 years until it ran out
during Reagan’s presidency in 1984.

 

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About Alexander Gordin
An international merchant banking professional with over twenty years of business operating and advisory experience in the areas of export finance, international project finance, risk mitigation and cross-border business development. Clients include foreign governments, municipalities and state enterprises as well as Fortune 500 and small/medium enterprises. Strong entrepreneurial instincts, combined with leadership and strategic skills. Transactional and negotiations experience in over thirty five countries. Author of the highly acclaimed "Fluent in Foreign Business" book and creator of the "Fluent in OPIC", "Fluent in EXIM","Fluent In Foreign Franchising", "Fluent in FCPA",and "Fluent in USTDA" seminar/webinar series. Currently developing "Fluent In ......" seminars and publications. Co-author of the Fi3 Country Business Appeal Indices. Extensive international business development and project finance transaction experience in healthcare, aerospace, ICT, conventional and alternative energy infrastructure, distribution and hospitality industries. Experience managing international public and private corporations. Co-Founded three companies abroad. Strong Emerging and Frontier Market expertise. Published and featured in numerous publications including: The Wall Street Journal, Knowledge@Wharton, NBC.com, The Chicago Tribune, Industry Week, Industry Today, Business Finance, Wharton Magazine Blog, NY Enterprise Report, Success magazine, Kyiv Post and on a number of radio and television programs including: Voice of America, CNBC, CNNfn, and Bloomberg. Frequent speaker on strategy, cross-border finance and international business development. Executive MBA from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. B.S. in Management of Information Systems from the Polytechnic Institute of NYU. Specialties Strategic Management Advisory, Export Finance, International Project Finance & Risk Management, Cross-border Negotiations, Structured Finance transactions, Senior Government and Corporate officials liason

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