President Trump’s inspiring and visionary speech to the Joint Session of Congress harkened back to the best of Ronald Reagan. Just like Reagan, Trump has an historic opportunity to change the future of American government. In his case, he can reframe the Federal Budget in business terms. This means having the Executive Branch live within its means, demanding real value for money spent, and full accountability. Trump’s business-based approach will fundamentally challenge decades of out-of-control spending and waste. This is the true test for his "draining the swamp."
Members of Congress, from both parties, must be viable partners in bringing reality to government spending. This will be a challenge for those who usually protect Americans’ tax dollars with all the restraint of unsupervised kindergartners with a bowl of M&Ms.
Much has already been made of Trump increasing defense spending by $54 billion while seeking corresponding cuts in civilian discretionary spending. Trump and his team need to understand that the Defense Department wastes funds just like civilian agencies. Secretary Mattis could aggressively pursue military waste and confront questionable expenditures. Good management can reallocate many additional billions to rebuild America’s capabilities.
Special interests across the political spectrum are already howling about cutting $54 billion from the FY2018 budget. The usual Washington Establishment commentators are rendering their garments predicting chaos, lay-offs, and other mayhem. This pre-emptive assault covers up the vast sums of federal money lying around doing nothing.
There is $914.8 billion in unexpended, unobligated, funds piled up across the federal government within 1941 Accounts. Obama never conducted the “budget sweeps” done by all his predecessors. Trump, and his OMB Director, can recover these funds with the push of a button.
Another $1.028 trillion remains unexpended among general accounts and $461 billion remains unspent in trust funds. While these funds are technically obligated, the fact that they have languished for years raises questions about their use and their management. OMB should conduct an immediate review to sort out the worthy from the waste.
One of Trump’s first acts was to initiate an Executive Branch hiring freeze outside of Defense and Security functions. A full freeze would have cut $350 billion annually in personnel costs, because 60,000-plus employees a year leave government through retirements and voluntary departures. Not every vacancy should be filled.
Trump could save over $400 billion annually by delayering the entire Executive Branch. Those on the front line of service are the ones who actually interact and provide tangible service to the public. These positions, not the hierarchy, are what really matter.
The private sector has found that 3-5 layers are more than adequate to assure the success of the front line. Corporate performance “dashboards,” knowledge management, and empowering/enabling the front line have tossed away the old span of controls and pecking orders. It is time for the Federal Government to join the 21st century and eliminate from 9-23 layers of obsolete command and control supervisors and countless numbers of extraneous planners and monitors.
It is also time to finally end hundreds of billions spent on federal programs based upon outdated ideological agendas and pork-barrel politics. Why does the federal government spend billions running regional electric companies? Isn’t it time to finally end FDR’s 1930s power grab before its centennial? The Executive Branch is haunted by the costly ghosts of power grabs and boondoggles from Presidents Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, Truman, Kennedy, Johnson, Carter, Clinton, and Obama.
It is time to take full advantage of a dynamic president and Republican Congress to exorcise these costly phantoms once and for all.
Americans demanded a completely different way of doing business in Washington, D.C. Trump and the Republican Congress can prove they are serious about making this change with the 2018 Budget.
Scot Faulkner is the best-selling author of: "Naked Emperors: The Failure of the Republican Revolution." He also served as the first chief administrative officer of the U.S. House, and was director of personnel for the Reagan campaign and went on to serve in the presidential transition team and on the White House staff. During the Reagan administration, he held executive positions at the FAA, the GSA, and the Peace Corps. Read more of Scot Faulker, Go Here Now.
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