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White House’s Massive Government Overhaul Plan Would Merge Education, Labor Departments

Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney speaks about the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018 at the White House March 22, 2018. Credit: BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney speaks about the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018 at the White House March 22, 2018. Credit: BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

The White House wants to merge the Education and Labor departments into one federal agency as part of a larger plan to restructure the government.

The combining of the two agencies to form the proposed Department of Education and the Workforce was included in an Office of Management and Budget plan released Thursday that outlines a major overhaul of the executive branch.

President Donald Trump’s proposal is a long shot since reorganizing the government will need approval from Congress. Trump’s predecessor, President Barack Obama, tried and failed to combine several agencies focused on trade and commerce.

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos came out in support of the government restructuring plan, saying it’s a “big step” toward fulfilling Trump’s campaign promise to “reduce the federal footprint in education and to make the federal government more efficient and effective.”

“This proposal will make the federal government more responsive to the full range of needs faced by American students, workers, and schools,” DeVos said in a statement. “I urge Congress to work with the Administration to make this proposal a reality.”

The merger of the two departments was first reported by Education Week.

The proposed Department of Education and the Workforce would be broken into four sub-agencies, which the Trump administration claims “would help create alignment throughout the education-to-career pipeline, while also creating coherence within the workforce development and higher education worlds.”

Much of the plan reflects the Trump administration’s view that the purpose of education is to train skilled workers to join the country’s workforce. There was not a distinct Education Department until 1979, when President Jimmy Carter split the sprawling Department of Health, Education and Welfare into the Department of Education and the Department of Health and Human Services. Past efforts to abolish the Education Department have not been popular on Capitol Hill.

Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, said that “in any normal administration, combining some of the core functions of the Education and Labor departments might make sense,” but that “There is nothing normal about this administration, so we’re extremely skeptical of the motives here given how hostile Betsy DeVos and President Trump have been to public education, workers and unions.”

Last year, after Trump signed an executive order, Office of Management and Budget head Mick Mulvaney directed agency leaders to identify which programs were unnecessary and redundant.

Other proposed changes to the executive branch

In a call with reporters Thursday, OMB officials pointed at 34 examples of consolidation in the plan. They clarified that the proposal will not be implemented overnight, but will be used to start a discourse over the summer with Congress and the public to begin implementation. Officials said the breadth and scope are meant to frame the nature of the change needed but that the path forward will be different for each proposal.

OMB officials said implementation of steps they can take purely via executive action or administrative action will be announced by the end of summer.

The proposal includes having the US Marshals Service take over protection duties for Cabinet-level officials not already protected by typical law enforcement personnel.

The administration’s proposal would move several major US Department of Agriculture nutrition assistance programs — including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) — to HHS and rename the agency the Department of Health and Public Welfare.

The proposal seeks to move USDA rural housing loan guarantee and rental assistance programs to the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The sweeping overhaul includes removing the word “food” from the Food and Drug Administration’s name and renaming the agency to “focus on drugs, devices, biologics, tobacco, dietary supplements, and cosmetics.”

Federal oversight of food safety would be reorganized into a single agency within the USDA called the Federal Food Safety Agency.

The US Postal Service would be restructured to return it to a sustainable business model or prepare it for future conversion from a government agency to a privately held corporation.

Also under the proposal, the Federal Aviation Administration’s air traffic control system would spin off to a nonprofit organization, similar to Canada’s system.