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

President Obama on Reorganization

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Some quick thoughts and quotes from President Obama's speech on his proposal to gain authority to reorganize federal agencies, starting with Commerce. (Please forgive any errors in my quick transciption.)

Opening remarks: "From the moment I got here, he said, "I saw what many of you already knew: The government we have is not the one we need."

He went back to his jibes from last year's State of the Union address about salmon regulation, and gave a little history of the reasons it's split between Commerce and Interior. According to Obama, it's because Nixon didn't like his Interior Secretary criticizing the Vietnam War, and so ordered that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration be in Commerce, not Interior.

On reorganization authority: "We've taken a whole range of steps administratively... We need to do more, we need the authority to do more."

"It's always easier to add than subtract in Washington."

Obama made the case that federal employees themselves often criticize the way government is organized, and took a little detour to praise feds: "By the way, you won't meet harder-working folks than some of these people in government." When the administration surveyed business owners about agency organization, he said, "most of the complaints weren't about an unresponsive federal worker, but about a system that's too much of a maze."

He noted six agencies/organizations are focused on trade and commerce: "In this case, six is not better than one." He kept referring to a "one department" to aggregate these functions. Is that an indication he will formally seek to create a new Cabinet department?

Obama announced that regardless of whether Congress gives him formal reorganization authority, he will elevate SBA to Cabinet status.

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.

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