Combining or ending duplicative programs would make the government work more efficiently and would save money, but it is a difficult task that would require cooperation among political leaders, good planning and patience until the benefits are achieved, several groups promoting good government said Thursday.
“There has been mission creep among federal agencies and the creation of overlapping, duplicative and fragmented federal programs,” said the latest in a series of memos to political leaders about the challenges ahead. The memos are issued jointly by the National Academy of Public Administration and the American Society for Public Administration.
The memo noted that the Government Accountability Office has found overlapping, duplicative or fragmented programs in dozens of areas including teacher quality, economic development, financial literacy and employment and training.
However, consolidating programs scattered across numerous agencies “will require the expenditure of political capital by both the President and Congress. It will also require them to work closely together, reach consensus on the reorganization goals, and understand that savings and program efficiencies may not be immediate,” the memo said.
Reorganizing agency structures and producing savings will take years, the memo warned, and costs typically increase in the short run as employees and offices are moved and support systems such as information technology are merged.
The memo cited as a cautionary example the creation of the Department of Homeland Security from 22 agencies. It said that DHS needed to resolve differences in personnel, information and payroll systems as well as create a combined field office structure. Some of those issues “received minimal attention during the legislative process” and many key questions “are still unresolved 10 years after DHS was created.”
Even that largest of recent government reorganizations left related functions in other agencies that need to coordinate with DHS, it added.
Another strategy for reorganizing government is increasing the role of interagency councils, the memo said, but those must be organized around clear goals and there must be accountability to make sure that programs work together toward achieving those goals.