Fedblog FedblogFedblog
Government Executive Editor in Chief Tom Shoop, along with other editors and staff correspondents, look at the federal bureaucracy from the outside in.

A Little Salmon, Anyone?


Salmon.jpgPresident Obama got in some choice jibes at the expense of the federal bureaucracy in his speech last night. First there was his little dig at the Transportation Security Administration, in discussing his plan to give 80 percent of Americans access to high-speed rail. "This could allow you to go places in half the time it takes to travel by car," he said. "For some trips, it will be faster than flying -- without the pat-down."

Then there was this jab at salmon regulations, made in the context of Obama's push for reorganizing federal agencies: "The Interior Department is in charge of salmon while they're in fresh water, but the Commerce Department handles them when they're in saltwater. I hear it gets even more complicated once they're smoked."

"What's so odd about this?" asks Greg Pollowitz at National Review Online. "The big issue with fresh water salmon is dams and how the damming of rivers affects their future as a species. And the Interior Department happens to be in charge of dams. Makes sense to me. As far as saltwater salmon, they're regulated by the National Marine Fisheries Serivce, which is part of NOAA, which is a division of the Deparment of Commerce."

So what exactly is the president's point? That salmon regulation would be more efficient if the same people now doing it at two agencies technically worked for the same agency? Or that somehow there could be fewer of them if they worked under the same umbrella? Or that the same people should be regulating both the oceans and dams within the United States? (And yes, I know it's just a joke, but those people should handle food safety issues related to smoked salmon, too?)

These types of examples of allegedly nonsensical regulatory practices are a staple of presidential speeches, but this one doesn't seem to hold up to much scrutiny. It's not in the same league, for example, as the old one about the Agriculture Department being responsible for frozen pepperoni pizza, while the Food and Drug Administration handled the plain cheese variety.

Update, 5:10 p.m.: Slate has the full explanation for why it makes sense to have two different agencies regulate salmon.

Tom Shoop is vice president and editor in chief at Government Executive Media Group, where he oversees both print and online editorial operations. He started as associate editor of Government Executive magazine in 1989; launched the company’s flagship website, GovExec.com, in 1996; and was named editor in chief in 2007.

Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

  • The Big Data Campaign Trail

    With everyone so focused on security following recent breaches at federal, state and local government and education institutions, there has been little emphasis on the need for better operations. This report breaks down some of the biggest operational challenges in IT management and provides insight into how agencies and leaders can successfully solve some of the biggest lingering government IT issues.

  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.