Saturday, December 22, 2007
If I Were President, Episode #2
On the one hand, you have a President that always has to deal with currying favor with various legislators to gain their support for various laws and policies he wants to enact. On the other hand, DC and the surrounding areas has grown into one of the most pricey, traffic-laden, HR-recruiting nightmares in the country. A final factor in this line of thought is that DC was rather centrally located back with the USA was only 13 States on the Eastern Seaboard. But now, DC is far removed from most of the country and, many say, out of touch with the rest of the country.
Thus, I have the idea of decentralizing the Executive Branch operations out of Washington DC. By locating major Executive Branch secretariates in the States, the President instantly opens a dialog with the Senators and Representatives in those districts. The President, in effect, has a lot more pull with the legislature because he has control over thousands of jobs within the legislators' districts. The President is also able to serious impact the standard of living within the DC area by getting away from the idea that every major operation of the government must be established in Washington, DC.
For example, you could come up with a variet of good locations for many of the secretariates of the Executive Branch. My personal preference would be to locate the various branches in second tier cities where costs of living are lower and standards of living are high. Here are a few thoughts:
- State and Defense to remain in DC
- Treasury located in New York
- Justice located in a Pennsylvania
- Interior located in Oregon
- Agriculture in Nebraska
- Commerce in Illinois
- Labor in Ohio
- Health and Human Services in California
- Housing and Urban Development in
- Transportation in
- Energy in Texas
- Education in Massachusetts/Connecticut/Delaware or maybe North Carolina near Research Triangle
- Veterans Affairs in Florida
- Homeland Security in Colorado
I also feel like the overall number of programs that are active across the branches of the executive need to be simplified, rationalized, and reorganized. Decentralizing gives the branches an opportunity to do major restructuring and downsizing, since it's a well-known fact that you lose a large number of existing employees when relocating a corporate office.
Note that I'm not endorsing downsizing the staffing levels of the government for its own sake. Instead, I'm suggesting that we take each of the major program areas and rework them to take best advantage of simplification and information technology. For example, there are dozens and dozens of programs available farmers from not just the Department of Agriculture (e.g. grain subsidies, land conservation fees, etc) but also from the Department of Education (e.g. job retraining, education programs for farmers to switch from tobacco to other crops) to energy (e.g. credits and subsidies to distill their own machine-grade ethanol fuel). Why not have "Farmer Assistant Agents" in a call center who can help with all of these programs instead of different staffers in each and every one of these programs? For that matter, why have a zillion programs administrated by a vast number of organizations that know nothing about each other and each with their own requirements for paperwork, making life miserable for the farmer?
After doing a careful analysis of all the different programs, it's possible that the staffing levels (and the number of programs) don't need to change at all. Maybe only staff needs to move from some departments to others in order to properly serve their constituencies. On the other hand, I find it hard to believe that an organization that employs around three million people doesn't have a few thousand that could stand to go. The decentralization process would give the government an ideal opportunity to offer severance packages to anyone not wanting to relocate with their new HQ.
Of course, moving a department out into the States would also have a huge impact on the local economy in the region it were to locate in. This can provide some very big benefits to the local economies and job prospects of folk in those regions.