The Obama administration is thinking big about restructuring government, and understands that such an approach comes with costs attached, federal Chief Performance Office Jeffrey Zients said Tuesday. Speaking at a forum on government performance at the Brookings Institution in Washington, Zients openly compared the administration's effort to the last full-scale overhaul of government, under the Hoover commission.
"We have no illusions about how difficult this will be," Zients said. Analysts can "detail out with certainty" the costs of restructuring agencies, he said, so the "benefits have to far outweigh the costs."
"The answer isn't simply moving boxes for the sake of moving boxes," Zients said.
A half dozen staffers in Zients office are working on the reorganization effort, which in its first phase is focused on commerce and trade-related functions. The team is tapping into other resources at the Office of Management and Budget, and has reached out to federal employees as well by launching a website for them to submit ideas. It is also studying the work of public administration experts on previous reorganizations. "We're very mindful of what has worked and what hasn't," Zients said.
Zients' team has conducted more than a dozen meetings with congressional staff, and is beginning to meet with lawmakers from both sides of the political fence. The idea, he said, is to move beyond the "incrementalism" of the administration's early efforts in such areas as putting government data online and getting rid of excess real property. "That is not the stuff of radical change," Zients said, adding that President Obama has declared that "we need to think bigger."