State of the Union 2012 analysis: Obama on a leaner federal bureaucracy

January 25, 2012

President Obama jolted thousands of federal employees this month when he vowed to seek congressional authorization to establish a Cabinet-level department responsible for trade and investment and slash about 3,000 federal jobs.

The proposals stemmed from his 2011 State of the Union address, when he lamented the disparate nature of the federal bureaucracy and joked that at least two departments — Commerce and Interior — share responsibility for salmon.


View Photo Gallery: Tuesday’s speech was President Obama’s third State of Union address and his sixth address to Congress overall.

The joke was part of a 15-sentence screed on government reorganization. This year, the topic earned just three sentences:

“The executive branch also needs to change,” Obama said. “Too often, it’s inefficient, outdated and remote. That’s why I’ve asked this Congress to grant me the authority to consolidate the federal bureaucracy so that our government is leaner, quicker, and more responsive to the needs of the American people.”

If presidential priorities are measured in sentences and word count, Obama’s reorganization plans won’t earn a strong push this year. And the fate of salmon will remain a multi-jurisdictional affair.

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Ed O’Keefe is covering the 2016 presidential campaign, with a focus on Jeb Bush and other Republican candidates. He's covered presidential and congressional politics since 2008. Off the trail, he's covered Capitol Hill, federal agencies and the federal workforce, and spent a brief time covering the war in Iraq.
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