March 20, 2017 2:45 AM, EDT
White House Seeks Public Input on Reorganizing Federal Agencies
Michael Reynolds/Bloomberg News

This story appears in the March 20 print edition of Transport Topics.

The White House is asking the public to weigh in on its plan for enhancing efficiency throughout federal agencies, according to an executive order President Trump signed March 13.

Over the next six months, public input will be collected via the Federal Register as a way to help guide the Office of Management and Budget’s proposal to the president for ways to streamline regulations, eliminate redundancies and promote productivity across the federal government. This includes agencies such as the transportation division of trucking regulators.

At the end of the public comment period, the director of OMB, Mick Mulvaney, will be tasked with outlining a plan that would “eliminate unnecessary agencies, components of agencies and agency programs, and to merge functions,” according to the order published in the Federal Register on March 16.

Input from the public and leadership at the agencies, primarily Cabinet secretaries, will be used to formulate the proposal, the order said.

“This order requires a thorough examination of every executive department and agency to identify money — where money is being wasted and how services can be improved, and whether or not the programs are truly serving the American people,” White House press secretary Sean Spicer told reporters March 13.

“This is the beginning of a long-overdue reorganization of the federal government and another significant step towards the president’s often-stated goal of making it more efficient, effective and accountable to the American people,” Spicer added.

Trump and conservative policymakers in Congress have advocated for reforming the setup at federal agencies.

Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), for instance, emphasized the impetus on the part of Republican colleagues for streamlining regulations in freight transportation. During a March 14 hearing, she noted the 2015 FAST Act highway law included provisions aimed at reforming the regulatory process at the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. The measure also aims to enhance transparency at the trucking watchdog agency.

“Because of this measure, FMCSA now needs to conduct a more transparent, inclusive and responsive regulatory process with stronger cost-benefit analysis. Data and methodology transparency will lead to rules that actually benefit safety. Unfortunately, robust analysis has not always been a priority for the FMCSA,” said Fischer, chairwoman of the Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety, and Security Subcommittee.

Meanwhile, transportation observers are cautioning against aggressive reforms and downsizing of federal funding programs at the U.S. Department of Transportation, such as the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery, or TIGER, grants.

“The program has been very successful,” Robert Puentes, president and CEO of the Eno Center for Transportation, told Transport Topics. “I think what that program did is start to make folks on the ground think differently about the investments they would want to make and gave them a new pathway for certain types of investments by encouraging to link up with all kinds of partners and reach across jurisdictional boundaries.”