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Trump wants the public to help cut waste at DoD, VA

March 14, 2017 (Photo Credit: AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON — If you have suggestions on how to save money on building the F-35 fleet, or on how to reorganize Veterans Affairs hospitals to be more efficient, President Trump wants to hear from you.

An executive order signed by Trump Monday afternoon calls for a “comprehensive plan for reorganizing the executive branch” to include a plan from every federal department by early September to “improve the efficiency, effectiveness, and accountability of that agency.”

In addition, the order calls for the director of the Office of Management and Budget to invite the public to suggest improvements to how federal agencies operate. That includes, the Departments of Defense, Homeland Security and Veterans Affairs (but not Congress, which is part of the legislative branch of government).

In a statement to reporters before his Cabinet officials, Trump said the move is designed to make the federal government more efficient and effective.

“Today there is duplication and redundancy everywhere,” he said, without offering further specifics on areas where he has seen those problems. “Billions and billions of dollars are being wasted.

“This order requires a thorough examination of every executive department and agency to see where money is being wasted, how services can be improved and whether programs are truly serving American citizens.”

Trump made cutting government waste a frequent promise on the campaign trail, although outside analysts have argued that potential savings won’t be enough to offset spending on the president’s proposed new programs.

And the idea mirrors similar actions by previous presidents, including President Barack Obama. In December 2009, he launched a new “openness in government” initiative that included input from the public on ways to make operations of federal agencies more transparent and less costly.

Details how the public can submit ideas will be published in the Federal Register in coming days.

The final report from OMB is expected to include whether some federal agency functions “would be better left to state or local governments, or to the private sector” and “the costs of shutting down or merging agencies.”

In January 2015, the Pentagon's Defense Business Board suggested the Defense Department could cut $125 billion in spending over five years by reducing services from contractors, implementing early retirements, reworking contracts and reducing administrative costs.

VA officials have also faced charges of wasteful spending in recent years, including expensive overruns on hospital constructions.

 
Leo Shane III covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He can be reached at lshane@militarytimes.com.
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