In my previous posting on the Administration's government reorganization posting, I mentioned that the re-organization proposal seems to be based on a Center for American Progress (CAP) report A Focus on Competitiveness. I hope the Administration will look very carefully at other the parts of the CAP report which I highlighted earlier:
• A Quadrennial Competitiveness Assessment by an independent panel of the National Academies whose objectives are to collect input and information from many sources and perform a horizon scan that identifies long-term competitiveness challenges and opportunities
• A Biannual Presidential Competitiveness Strategy that lays out the president's competitiveness agenda and policy priorities, and captures the attention and buy-in of cabinet principals
• An Interagency Competitiveness Task Force led by a new deputy at the National Economic Council that develops the biannual strategy, oversees White House coordination of competitiveness initiatives, and monitors their implementation by agencies
• A Presidential Competitiveness Advisory Panel of business and labor leaders, academics, and other experts who assist the administration in developing policy details.
These actions don't need to wait for Congressional action. The Administration should move ahead with them on its own.
There is some indication that the Administration is going beyond the Commerce Department reorganization proposal. At the same time as the President announced the re-organization proposal, the person behind that effort -- Jeff Zients, OBM Deputy Director and Federal Chief Performance Officer -- issued a Memorandum on an Inventory of Government Programs: Trade, Export and Competitiveness Pilot. The memo informs agency heads that OMB will be working with a select group of agencies (the pilot part of the activity) to "development a comprehensive list of government programs" and then "map them to established programmatic and organizational structures, as well as agency's strategic planning and performance goals." The agencies involve go beyond those involved in the re-organization (Commerce, USTR, SBA, TDA, Exim and OPIC) to include BLS (already mentioned part of the re-organization's plan for statistic agencies), parts of NSF, the Community Financial Development Institutions Fund at Treasury, Community Economic Development at Health and Human Services, and the Rural Business and Cooperative Service at Agriculture.
That sound a lot like the first step toward some of the planning activities recommended above. It is only a preliminary step however. Still needed is the overarching competitiveness policy that would be developed in the Quadrennial assessment and Biannual strategy. Looking at how programs map with agency strategic plans is fine. But there needs to be the top level activity that makes sure the individual agency strategic plans add up to an overall competitiveness strategy.
I realize that this is an election year. During an election year, an incumbent Administration wants to talk about how its current strategy is working and what has already been accomplished. But setting up a comprehensive review system on competitiveness as outlined in the CAP report is a good way to show that the Administration has a serious plan for addressing the economic issue on an ongoing basis. That would be both good policy and good politics.