I am baffled daily with the ridiculousness that masquerades as the United States Federal Government. I mean, really, is there a better example of elitist ass clowns who bleat on about fixing this and changing that all while completely ignoring all the obvious fixes and changes that need to happen? The debt debate has been a perfect example of the hopelessness that exists when one thinks that any of these fools are in the slightest bit interested in doing what needs to be done in Washington DC. The only thing that is more ridiculous than a DC politicians are the millions of Americans who play along with the charade, believing that this party or that party is really the one trying to fix things and the “other side” is a group of godless heathens intent on ruining the American way of life.
Think about what you have heard from those who appear to accept the status quo from Washington DC, both here at SUFA and among the peers you mingle with day to day. We hear things such as, “Deficit spending is necessary in order for country to whether the storms and recessions that are thrown at us.” Another of my personal favorites is, “It is ridiculous to expect a gigantic entity such as the federal government to actually operate within a budget. There are too many variables involved.” It is this type of acceptance of what politicians have created (and have created for the precise purpose of causing you to make the above statement) that is at the root of America’s problems. Think about what you are saying. Essentially: It is impossible for government to operate within a set of fiscally responsible parameters.
Yet, when those gigantic corporations operate in the exact same ways as the federal government, those same folks will be screaming to the hills about how we need more government to reign in the out of control world of big business. If the average citizen or a corporation operates with anywhere near the reckless fiscal abandon that the federal government operates, people have a fit. But when the federal government does it, it is “unavoidable” and “necessary”.
The reality is that the federal government, under every President, does nothing but continue to grow. Certainly some administrations grow at a much quicker pace than others (a certain “hopey changey” President comes to mind), but there have been ZERO administrations that actually attempted to scale back any of the nonsense that came before them. Government always grows, it never shrinks. THAT is what many people in the “uneducated masses” seem to be starting to understand (hence groups like the Tea Party).
As a means of operating the way they want without any particular way for the American public to stop them, the federal government has over 1300 federal departments, agencies, bureaus, and commissions. Let alone the ridiculous number of “President’s Committee on…” that we are forced to endure. The industry that I work in keeps a lot of “trackers” in excel. We sometimes joke (and sadly sometimes use) trackers to track the trackers. Hasn’t it become time that we appoint a Committee to begin eliminating committees? 1300+ departments, committees, bureaus, and agencies. Is it any wonder that we are constantly wondering how to find more money to fund the federal government?
And sadly, the vast majority of those groups are especially inept at operating within a budget or actually accomplishing whatever it is that they were created with the intention of accomplishing. How do you get a government agency to operate at a budget near only a billion dollars? EASY, just set their budget at $100 Million. That should be a joke. Unfortunately that has become reality and something that far too many Americans have accepted from their federal government. Overruns, delays, and regular operating costs of 30%-70% over what their allocated budget is became something that won’t even get the American people to notice, let alone care about.
So what is my answer? It is time to review and assess every single one of the government agencies, bureaus, commissions and whatever else. I don’t care if it is the PTA for elementary school for wayward Congressional children. If it was created by government, it should be looked and and the determination should be made as to whether it should continue to exist. I propose a ten year plan to do so. As a means of determining what should stay and what should go, I offer up the following as a beginning of a list of criteria:
- Ability to end the fiscal year at or below their allocated fiscal budget.
- Effectiveness of the department, agency, bureau, or commission at doing what it was “created to do.”
- Critical assessment of the decisions made in the course of doing what they do.
- Need of the department, agency, bureau, or commission in today’s world.
- Determination whether the Constitution mandates that the purpose of the agency falls within the scope of the US government.
A little bit of my rationale for including each of these:
Ability to end the fiscal year at or below their allocated fiscal budget. This is why I determined the need for a ten year plan as opposed to simply shutting everything down immediately. The reality is that there is probably somewhere around 10% of all departments, agencies, bureaus, and commissions that would currently make the cut if this rule is imposed. And none of that 10% would be any of the major agencies in government. The bigger and more important the agency, the further away from fiscal responsibility they seem to operate. The ten-year plan allows us to force some necessary agencies to get their house in order or face elimination.
Effectiveness of the agency, bureau, or commission at doing what it was “created to do”. This is the one that I believe will provide the impetus for closure of many major agencies. We all know that my first desired axe recipient would be the Department of Education. They have obviously failed to create an environment where our children would both learn and learn to think. Our rankings in education show them to be a complete failure. This could be said of many government agencies, such as the Department of Energy, Department of Defense, Department of Health, etc…………
Critical assessment of the decisions made in the course of doing what they do. This is one that I would aim at all but is needed primarily because of the Department of Defense and the Pentagon. In what world do we deem it rational that a hammer should cost $900? Government agencies routinely operate with little to no common sense. If an agency cannot discern between paying $900 for a hammer and picking one up at Home Depot for $20, they should be radically altered or shut down entirely. In 2009 the GAO found “staggering” cost overruns of almost $300 billion in nearly 70 percent of the Pentagon’s 96 major weapons. What’s more, the programs were running, on average, 21 months behind schedule. This is not a result of sound decision making and is a major contributor to our problems.
Need of the agency, bureau, or commission in today’s world. This is a two-fold issue. First and foremost, the amount of redundancy in today’s government is astounding. How many agriculture groups do we need? How many trade groups? Does the Department of Housing and Urban Development really need an “Office of Equal Housing Opportunity” and an “Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity”? How many “intelligence agencies” do we need to have? Isn’t it odd that we find that a major problem we found, after 9/11, was that the intelligence groups weren’t talking to one another? So why not consolidate them into a single agency? DIA, CIA, NSA, FBI, Homeland Security, etc. One agency could do all of the above, and do so more effectively. Here is a list of agencies just in the Department of Defense:
- Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency
- Defense Commissary Agency
- Defense Contract Audit Agency
- Defense Contract Management Agency
- Defense Finance and Accounting Service
- Defense Information Systems Agency
- Defense Intelligence Agency
- Defense Logistics Agency
- Defense Security Cooperation Agency
- Defense Security Service
- Defense Technical Information Center
- Defense Threat Reduction Agency
- Missile Defense Agency
- National Security Agency
- National Reconnaissance Office
- National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency
- Naval Criminal Investigative Service
- Pentagon Force Protection Agency
- United States Pentagon Police
- American Forces Information Service
- Counterintelligence Field Activity
- Defense Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Office
- Department of Defense Education Activity
- Department of Defense Dependents Schools
- Defense Human Resources Activity
- Office of Economic Adjustment
- TRICARE Management Activity
- Washington Headquarters Services
The second part of this requirement is the fact that far too many agencies exist today that no longer are needed. And of many that may be needed, they are far larger and have far larger budgets than what they need. Do we still need an Office of Indian Affairs? Really?
Determination whether the Constitution mandates that the purpose of the agency falls within the scope of the US government. I am betting that this would be a gigantic roadblock for tons of agencies, commissions, and bureaus. The fact is that the US government should not have a Bureau for African development. Do any African nations have a Bureau for US development? But beyond this, we argue at SUFA daily about government operating within its proper scope and mandate according to the Constitution. It is time we start taking some of the government’s reach away from them, starting with eliminating agencies and groups within the federal government that shouldn’t be dabbling in their respective areas in the first place.
I am willing to go ahead and say that we can cut 50% of these entities fairly quickly and would do so without losing any effectiveness within the federal government (that was funny, effectiveness within the federal government, like that exists). I am certainly not interested in continuing to make excuses for why we need to have a government with the size and scope that we have. And if we need to scale back government in order to get the financial house in order, then I would highly suggest we start by closing many of the agencies, departments, etc that currently exist. And we should follow that up with regular reviews, which result in significant restructuring or complete elimination of the ones that cannot meet the criteria listed above.
Someone mentioned here at SUFA a week or so ago that government is not business and shouldn’t be expected to operate like one. He pointed out that business is focused solely on profit. I agree, government is not like business. Case in point, government doesn’t reach for profits (except in the pockets of Congressmen and corporate leaders), but instead fails to even reach for solvency. If government were a business instead of an entity that takes whatever money it needs at the point of a gun, they would have gone out of business a long, long time ago.
The time for accepting leadership that believes that trimming a percentage off of the amount we run in the red is sufficient is past.