During the presidential campaign, Cabinet departments are wide targets for candidates touting efficiency and fiscal responsibility. This makes for a nice sound bite, but how badly are these departments performing?
It is high time to have a top-to-bottom review of all Cabinet-level departments to determine the purpose, mission and efficacy of the organization. Every Cabinet department has room to improve. The following are the worst in terms of mismanagement and straying from their intended mission.
The Interior Department manages about 20 percent of the nation’s land. Does the federal government really need to own that much land? Much of it is rich in natural resources that are not developed because of Bureau of Land Management regulations and other Interior Department policies. It would be prudent to auction off these resources to those who are best experienced at developing them responsibly.
The Agriculture Department has 17 different agencies and 15 different offices within the department, including the Office of Environmental Markets, which supports the development of emerging markets for carbon, water quality, wetlands and biodiversity.
The department employs more than 100,000 people and has an annual budget of about $95 billion. That is one employee for every 22 farms, at an average expenditure of $50,000 per farm. What is the USDA doing to protect and nourish the farming tradition? What is it doing to preserve the integrity of our food chain? What is it doing to protect Americans from the proven, impending threat of genetically modified crops?
According to a recent article in Popular Science magazine, biotech companies will soon perform their own studies to determine whether their genetically modified seeds are safe for the environment, according to a new federal plan.
That means companies such as Monsanto, which provides about 90 percent of the world’s transgenic crops, will help the government decide whether their own products should be approved. The USDA will let the firms do the research themselves and submit data to the government. Isn’t that the same logic the Securities and Exchange Commission used to allow the banking industry to regulate its credit leverage ratios?
The mission of the Energy Department is to advance the national, economic and energy security of the United States. It needs to spend more time doing that. Somewhere during the past 10 years, the DOE emphasis has shifted from the development of reliable, clean and affordable energy to administering federal funding for scientific research for alternative energy technologies. The market, not the federal government, should decide which technologies are promoted. The DOE should be educating the public and promoting the relative safety and efficacy of current nuclear reactor technologies; we should be building nuclear power plants.
The Health and Human Services secretary oversees a budget of about $700 billion and about 65,000 employees. The department’s programs are administered by 11 operating divisions, including 8 agencies in the U.S. Public Health Service and three human services agencies, including the administration of Medicare and Medicaid, which together provide health insurance to one in four Americans. Why, again, do we need Obamacare? Could we not achieve a better return on our health care dollar by simply improving the effective management of such a large organization?
The Housing and Urban Development Department could also be revamped. The federal government should only enforce fair housing laws. Home ownership is not a right, and the department’s role in supporting home ownership for lower- and moderate-income families through its mortgage insurance and rent subsidy programs should be re-evaluated for its effectiveness, with repetitive and overlapping programs trimmed back.
Rep. Bill Cassidy has his blood drawn by Alesha Barbour during a free hepatitis screening in the Rayburn House Office Building hosted by the Congressional Viral Hepatitis Caucus to recognize "National Viral Hepatitis Testing Day."
Roll Call has launched a new feature, Hill Navigator, to advise congressional staffers and would-be staffers on how to manage workplace issues on Capitol Hill. Please send us your questions anything from office etiquette, to handling awkward moments, to what happens when the work life gets too personal. Submissions will be treated anonymously.