The Washington Post

Obama expects trade, export reorganization plans in 90 days

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

The president is expected to sign a memorandum on Friday formally launching a reorganization plan he announced during his State of the Union address 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.

On Thursday, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney disputed a published report suggesting the White House would propose merging the Office of U.S. Trade Representative into the Commerce Department. That 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 comprised of 10 top corporate leaders, including Motorola chief executive Greg Brown; Pfizer boss Jeffrey B. Kindler; Aetna chief executive Ronald A. Williams; Gail J. McGovern, head of the American Red Cross; and Debra L. Lee, chairman and chief executive of BET Networks.

The business leaders will share advice on how to reorganize the trade and export agencies but 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. Obama nominated Locke this week as the next U.S. ambassador to China. Zients has no plans to leave OMB anytime soon, a spokeswoman said Thursday.

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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