Administration Review to Consider Trade-agency Consolidation

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OMB deputy Director Jeffrey Zients is leading the federal reorganization efforts. Photo: omb.gov

The federal reorganization President Barack Obama pledged in his State of the Union address is beginning to take shape, beginning with 12 federal agencies focused on trade and exports, according to various media reports.

The White House issued a memo laying out a 90-day timeline for developing plans to restructure such agencies, The Washington Post reported Friday.

The beginning stages of the federal reorg is intertwined with the recent announcement of the leadership changes at the Commerce Department. Obama announced Secretary Gary Locke will become the U.S. ambassador to China, leaving the administration’s top spot for business and industry open.

Bloomberg reported last week the vacancy at Commerce could mean the reorganization efforts would mean changes for the department, including phasing the U.S. trade representative office into the Commerce Department.

However, according to The Post, the White House called that suggestion premature, saying the administration has yet to draw up formal plans.

The idea that the USTR would be folded into the Commerce Department gained traction especially as the head of the trade office, Ron Kirk, was floated as a strong contender for the open position.

Earlier this month, the Government Accountability Office released an exhaustive report detailing “unnecessary duplication, overlap or fragmentation,” in more than 30 general areas of duplication, including food safety, food assistance, arms-control and teacher-improvement programs.

Shortly after Obama’s State of the Union pledge, the White House tasked Office of Management and Budget Deputy Director Jeffrey Zients with leading the efforts.

His marching orders were to focus on reforming trade and exports “to give American companies a leg up in the global economy,” White House Communications Director Pfeiffer said in a blog posting announcing Zients’ appointment.

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