SEMA eNews Vol. 15, No. 3, January 19, 2012

President Obama Seeks to Merge Federal Agencies; Export-Related Programs to Undergo Makeover

President Obama wants Congress to grant him authority to reorganize the federal government, starting with the merger of one department and five agencies that govern business, trade and export issues. Former presidents had such authority for more than 50 years, from the Hoover through Reagan administrations. President Obama has requested a 90-day fast-track procedure, giving Congress an up-or-down vote on each proposal. The intent is to consolidate functions and reduce duplication and the federal workforce.
 
The White House has specifically proposed merging the Commerce Department and five agencies tied to the business community: the Small Business Administration (SBA), Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, Export-Import Bank, Overseas Private Investment Corp. and the Trade and Development Agency. The new department would oversee trade, investment, business/economic development, technology and economic statistics and be led by a cabinet-level secretary. While Congress considers the issue, President Obama intends to elevate the current SBA administrator position to a cabinet-level post, at least until the new department is organized.
 
The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is leading the effort over the next 12 months to explore ways to streamline the agencies. For example, the agencies provide quite different export services for businesses, from loan guarantees to negotiating of trade agreements to direct assistance to U.S. companies.  
 
SEMA is reviewing the proposal. While we welcome efforts to consolidate functions within the federal government and to make the SBA administrator a cabinet-level post, the reorganization also poses a challenge to preserving unique SBA and export-related programs that address the specific needs of the small-business community. 

For more information, contact Linda Spencer at lindas@sema.org or Stuart Gosswein at stuartg@sema.org.

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