The Washington Post

Obama asks federal workers for reorganization ideas

With less than three months before plans to reorganize parts of the federal government are due to President Obama, he is personally asking federal employees to share their ideas.

Saying he’s grateful for their service, the president tells the rank and file in a new video message that any and all proposals will be critical to reorganizing the 12 federal agencies and offices responsible for trade and export issues.

“We need to reorganize our government so as to best serve the goal of a more competitive America,” Obama says in his brief message. (Watch it above or read a transcript of his remarks below.)

“You know what works and what doesn’t. And you know why this is so important. So I’m asking you to go to to share your thoughts about this project.”

About a half-dozen administration officials are drafting proposals to either merge, consolidate or shutter 12 trade and export agencies and are consulting with a wide array of constituencies, including lawmakers, business leaders, federal worker union leaders and government workers potentially affected by the changes.

As we first reported last week, the White House has asked federal employees to share their ideas by visiting the Web site and voting on the best suggestions submitted. The project is modeled on a similar cost-cutting idea contest held the last two years.

Here’s the full transcript of Obama’s remarks:

Hello everybody. I want to take a moment to speak with all of you – our federal employees – about a new effort we’re undertaking and how you can get involved.

As public servants, you help to protect our environment and educate our children. You safeguard our public health, serve our veterans, and keep our nation secure. And as President, I’m grateful to you for your service you provide to our country.

Every day, you all strive to do your very best work for the American people. But I know that sometimes, your best efforts are hindered by outdated technology, systems, or programs that don’t always work as they should. The fact is, even as the world around us has changed, our government has much of the same basic structure as it did half a century ago.

We all know that America can’t win the future with a government of the past. We need a government that’s more efficient and effective; that gets rid of waste and better harnesses the technologies that have already transformed our economy.

That’s why we started by going through the budget, line by line, making some difficult cuts – even to worthy programs we’d otherwise support. And we’re spending smarter and reducing red tape. Because just as families have to make sacrifices in hard times to make ends meet, the government needs to do the same.

But this isn’t just about cutting costs. It’s also about making government work better for the people we serve. And we know there are areas where we have room for improvement. For example, we’ve got a dozen different agencies dealing with trade and exports, and more than 50 federal programs to help entrepreneurs. Oftentimes, our businesses don’t know where to turn. And those are just a couple examples.

That’s why we need to reorganize our government so as to best serve the goal of a more competitive America. We’re starting with the areas that handle exports, trade and business competitiveness. And we need your help.

You know what works and what doesn’t. And you know why this is so important. So I’m asking you to go to to share your thoughts about this project.

Your ideas will be a critical part of this effort, and I look forward to hearing from all of you in the days ahead.

Thanks so much.

Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

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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