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Cummings Seeks Trump Administration’s Agency Downsizing Plans After Mulvaney Withholds Them from Congress as “Deliberative”

Mar 16, 2018
Press Release

Cummings Seeks Trump Administration’s

Agency Downsizing Plans After Mulvaney

Withholds Them from Congress as “Deliberative”

 

Washington, D.C. (Mar. 16, 2018)—Today, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, the Ranking Member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, sent a letter responding to a new claim from Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Mick Mulvaney that he will not produce copies of downsizing plans that he and President Donald Trump required each federal agency to submit by last September because they are “deliberative.”

“Congress cannot allow the Trump Administration to secretly push through one of the most significant—and potentially dangerous—downsizing efforts in modern U.S. history under the cover of darkness,” said Cummings.  “Congress has a responsibility to review these agency downsizing plans in order to evaluate President Trump’s budget proposal and ensure that they result in greater efficiency and effectiveness.”

On December 19, 2017, Cummings sent a letter asking Mulvaney to produce copies of each agency’s downsizing plan.  On February 16, 2018, Mulvaney sent a new letter declining to produce any of the plans and claiming that they were “deliberative” because they were going to be aligned “with the FY 2019 Budget process so the projected budgetary impact of proposals could be taken into account.”

“President Trump submitted his budget proposal to Congress four days before you sent your letter—on February 12, 2018,” Cummings wrote.  “If these agency downsizing plans have been incorporated into President Trump’s budget proposal—as you said they would be—then Congress should now be able to see them.  By your logic, Congress would be forced to wait until these downsizing plans are fully implemented before reviewing them.  If we accepted your argument, it would completely eliminate the fundamental role of Congress—and this Committee in particular—in evaluating proposed reorganizations of federal agencies, which is one of our core responsibilities.”

Cummings explained that agencies have already begun to implement these downsizing plans despite OMB’s refusal to provide them to Congress::

  • At the State Department, recently fired Secretary Rex Tillerson chose to “embark on an ill-advised, poorly laid-out reorganization plan that led to a bleeding out of key talent at the department.”  Since January 2017, “60 percent of the top-ranking career diplomats resigned,” and “Tillerson went along with the White House’s insane idea of slashing the State Department budget by more than 30 percent and cutting the department’s workforce by 9 percent.”  Dozens of critical diplomatic posts are vacant, including Ambassadors to Germany, Australia, Saudi Arabia, and South Korea, more than “two dozen ambassador posts are waiting for nominations to be put forward,” and the Department is cutting dozens of Special Envoy offices.

  • Starting last June, the Department of the Interior began reassigning dozens of career senior executives and other civil service employees.  According to press reports, many of these senior executives were “left in the dark” and had “absolutely no involvement whatsoever” in developing the agency’s plans.  The President’s Fiscal Year 2019 budget proposal states that a “Department-Wide Reorganization Plan” will be implemented utilizing “a combination of attrition and separation.”

  • The Federal Labor Relations Authority is already in the process of closing two of its seven Regional Offices in Boston and Dallas.  Employees reportedly were not even notified of this downsizing effort until last month.

In addition, when Mulvaney issued his memo on April 12, 2017, directing federal agencies to submit these downsizing plans, he promised that the Trump Administration would work with “key stakeholders,” including the federal workforce and Congress, and seek “public input.”

“Your new claim that these plans are now considered ‘deliberative’ contradicts your own promises of openness and transparency and prevents Congress from fulfilling our core responsibility to fully evaluate federal agency reorganizations and the budget proposal submitted by the President last month,” Cummings wrote.  

Democratic Members have been seeking these documents for months, but Republicans have shown no interest in obtaining them.  Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy has repeatedly refused to obtain the plans or hold hearings, and Republicans blocked an effort to subpoena these documents at a Committee business meeting last month.

Click here to read today’s letter.

 

 

115th Congress