17 years ago, President Clinton was leaving office. His replacement, President George W. Bush, was moving into the White House. While this transition was happening, a fear was looming on the horizon: what would happen with the “Y2K bug”? People worried that computer calendars would not be able to deal with the turn of the century, and systems would crash. This problem seems silly now, but what’s even sillier is that until last week, there were 7 different federal paperwork requirements related to this bug.
This story typifies the problem with outdated government rules and why OMB director Mick Mulvaney has made it a goal to clean them up. In total, the White House eliminated more than 50 requirements that were either outdated or unnecessary, with Mulvaney saying, “We’re looking for stuff everyone agrees is a complete waste of time.” These regulations are either outdated like the Y2K bug, or burdensome. Ending one, for instance, will save the Department of Defense 1200 man-hours every year—ensuring that they no longer have to file a separate report every time a small-business vendor is paid.
Mulvaney says this move is not intended to shrink the federal workforce, but instead give agencies the ability to use their time more productively and not focus on meaningless regulatory tasks.
Eliminating the 59 guidance and policy documents is part of OMB’s phase 1 of increasing government efficiency. Phase 2 comes at the end of this month when the heads of agencies will produce a list of reports and requirements that they deem unwarranted or outdated.
In September, agencies will submit their budget requests for fiscal year 2019. With these requests, they will also present a reorganization plan that makes the most sense for the agencies.
OMB Director Mulvaney, a longtime budget hawk, has been pushing for departments and agencies to determine themselves ways to save the government money and increase efficiency. Though these reforms alone cannot drastically change the overall fiscal health of the nation, it’s an encouraging sign to see the administration sticking to its promise of cutting waste, fraud, and abuse.