Obama seeks government reorganization plans in 90 days

Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, March 11, 2011

President Obama is giving aides 90 days to find ways to overhaul federal trade and export agencies, according to senior administration officials familiar with his plans.

The president is expected to sign a memorandum Friday formally launching a reorganization plan he announced during his State of the Union address that is set to focus first on revamping 12 trade and export agencies and may later shift to other government operations.

The process will be led by Office of Management and Budget Deputy Director Jeffrey D. Zients and Obama's former staff secretary, Lisa Brown. Other top officials from across the government are expected to join the discussions, according to the aides, who were not authorized to speak on the record.

White House press secretary Jay Carney on Thursday disputed a published report suggesting that the reorganization plan would propose merging the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative into the Commerce Department. The report "got way ahead of itself," because the administration has yet to draft any plans, Carney said.

In a related matter, Zients on Friday will host the first meeting of a new presidential advisory board made up of 10 top corporate leaders, including Motorola's Greg Brown, Pfizer's Jeffrey B. Kindler, Aetna's Ronald A. Williams, the American Red Cross's Gail J. McGovern and BET Networks' Debra L. Lee.

The business leaders will share advice on how to reorganize the trade and export agencies, but they will focus mostly on government management issues, according to administration officials not authorized to speak publicly.

Obama announced the group's formation last April but had not yet picked its members.

Zients, who is also overseeing plans to curtail government contract spending and trim the federal government's building portfolio, has been mentioned as a potential successor to Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, whom Obama nominated this week as the next U.S. ambassador to China.

Zients has no plans to leave OMB anytime soon, a spokeswoman said Thursday.

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