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 History of Duplication

HomeStudio / Shutterstock.com

The current push by the Obama administration and many in Congress to curb duplicative programs has a modern-day flavor -- record budget deficits and the demands of a globalized economy are driving the bid to streamline federal agencies.

But beware of the term “unprecedented.” Many of the tensions between the legislative and executive branches over who causes overlap in programs were debated as far back as World War I, as explained by Mordecai Lee, a professor of governmental affairs at the School of Continuing Education at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

In his 2006 book Institutionalizing Congress and the Presidency, Lee provides a history of the U.S. Bureau of Efficiency, a little-known entity that existed as an independent agency from 1916 to 1933. As “the first agency of disinterested management professionals in the federal government,” he writes, its chief purpose was crisis management and classification of personnel for the president. In its first few years, the bureau “created an extensive card index of government activities in an effort to create a database that could be used to identify possible duplication and overlap,” Lee notes.

The agency advised the new Bureau of the Budget (precursor to the Office of Management and Budget, created in 1921), and its leader -- an “efficiency expert” named Herbert D. Brown -- concluded in a paper that the problem of duplication was not widespread. “It is true that Congress sometimes passes legislation that authorizes duplications,” Brown said, “but in actual practice, the departments are careful to keep off each other’s toes.”

(Image via HomeStudio /Shutterstock.com)

Charlie Clark joined Government Executive in the fall of 2009. He has been on staff at The Washington Post, Congressional Quarterly, National Journal, Time-Life Books, Tax Analysts, the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges, and the National Center on Education and the Economy. He has written or edited online news, daily news stories, long features, wire copy, magazines, books and organizational media strategies.

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.