President Reagan today announced a major overhaul of the White House domestic policy-making apparatus, creating two major new councils for handling domestic and economic affairs.
The new arrangement puts the imprint of chief of staff Donald T. Regan on the White House's policy machinery, but also gives prominent roles to two former White House aides, Attorney General Edwin Meese III and Treasury Secretary James A. Baker III.
The new Domestic Policy Council and the Economic Policy Council will consolidate the functions of seven existing Cabinet councils and the Senior Interagency Group on International Economic Policy. The two new councils appear to be closer to the mold of the White House organizations used by recent presidents.
Although the president will chair both councils, Meese will head the Domestic Policy Council in his absence and Baker, the Economic Policy Council. Meese formerly was White House counselor and Baker was the chief of staff.
White House spokesman Larry Speakes, who disclosed the overhaul in a statement read while Reagan was vacationing at his ranch near here, said, "I don't see any winners or losers here."
But the plan clearly reflects the management style of Regan, who switched jobs with Baker earlier this year and has sought to impose a more disciplined, corporate structure on the White House than existed under Baker, Meese and departing deputy chief of staff Michael K. Deaver.
Regan conceived the new plan, and will decide which issues will be handled by each council, Speakes said. One of Regan's deputies, Alfred Kingon, the White House Cabinet secretary, will receive the recommendations of the councils.
Speakes said the president was not dissastisfied with the previous arrangement, but critics of the Cabinet councils have said they were only partially effective.
The new councils may be more influential than the old ones. Reagan said today that along with the National Security Council, they will serve as "the primary channels for advising me on policy matters."
The economic council will include the secretaries of state, the treasury, agriculture, commerce and labor, the director of the Office of Management and Budget, the U.S. Trade Representative and the chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers. The Domestic Policy Council will include the attorney general and secretaries of the interior, health and human services, housing and urban development, transportation, energy and education, as well as the OMB director.
Regan and Vice President Bush will also be members. Other officials will be invited to attend meetings as needed.
Speakes said the Office of Policy Development, which used to include the Cabinet councils, will continue to function under John A. Svahn as a source of new policy ideas and initiatives.
Speakes said the formal trio of economic policy-makers -- the treasury secretary, the OMB director and the chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers -- will continue to meet and advise Reagan.