Report: Agency Reorganization Plans Include Massive Shake-up at HHS, Agriculture

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The Office of Management and Budget reportedly has nearly completed its work on long-awaited plans to reorganize the federal government and agency plans could be available for public scrutiny later this month.

Politico reported Wednesday that among the biggest proposals is an effort to greatly expand the Health and Human Services Department to be responsible for more public assistance programs, particularly the $70 billion food stamp program, which currently falls under the jurisdiction of the Agriculture Department.

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HHS is already responsible for entitlement programs like Medicare and Medicaid, and it runs the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families cash assistance program. The reorganization plan reportedly will argue it is more efficient for HHS to be responsible for more low-income assistance programs, rather than if they are scattered across agencies.

The idea of moving Agriculture’s assistance programs into HHS was floated in the Heritage Foundation’s own government reorganization proposal last year. It also suggests that programs that fund reduced price meals at public schools be shifted into HHS, which the conservative advocacy group describes as “the primary welfare department of the federal government.”

“The USDA has veered off of its mission by working extensively on issues unrelated to agriculture,” Heritage wrote. “This is mostly due to the nutrition programs. By moving this welfare function to HHS, the USDA will be better able to work on agricultural issues impacting all Americans.”

Despite testimony last month from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo backing away from proposed budget cuts to his agency, the reorganization plan again will suggest cuts to the government’s diplomatic arm, as well as to the Agency for International Development, according to Politico.

Last year, OMB Director Mick Mulvaney instructed all agencies to submit plans to reorganize with an eye toward reducing the size of the federal workforce by June 2017, and those plans were supposed to be finalized by last September. Officials at that time said the documents would remain in a “pre-decisional” state—and therefore not subject to public scrutiny—until the release of the fiscal 2019 budget in February. But in April, OMB Director Mick Mulvaney told Congress that his agency planned to release agency reorganization plans in May.

Officials at OMB did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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