President Donald Trump's latest executive order, signed during the chaos of the GOP's healthcare scoring report this week, instructs department heads to recommend any "unnecessary" agencies or programs to be slashed as part of a plan for "reorganizing" the federal government—and could spell disaster for agencies like the Department of Education, critics warn.
The order, officially titled the Comprehensive Plan for Reorganizing the Executive Branch, instructs agencies to consider:
- Whether "some or all of the functions of an agency, a component, or a program are appropriate for the federal government or would be better left to state or local governments or to the private sector through free enterprise";
- Whether "some or all of the functions of an agency, a component, or a program are redundant, including with those of another agency, component, or program";
- Whether "certain administrative capabilities necessary for operating an agency, a component, or a program are redundant with those of another agency, component, or program";
- Whether the "costs of continuing to operate an agency, a component, or a program are justified by the public benefits it provides"; and
- "The costs of shutting down or merging agencies, components, or programs, including the costs of addressing the equities of affected agency staff."
Put simply, as Charles P. Pierce wrote for Esquire on Tuesday, the order gives Trump and his advisers the power to "eviscerate the federal agencies that might inconvenience them by actually acting like they're part of the government or something."
Trump's first proposed budget, announced last month, which follows a hard-line blueprint put forward by the conservative Heritage Foundation think tank, included massive cuts to discretionary spending. The official budget is expected to come this week. Pierce suggested Tuesday that the executive order could act as something of a backup in case those proposed cuts don't pass muster in Congress.
Noting chief strategist Steve Bannon's behind-the-scenes power in the White House, "it seems likely that this is the fundamental purpose behind the order," Pierce wrote.
"This 'reorganization' of the executive departments sounds very much like how a polar bear 'reorganizes' your innards prior to making a meal of you," he added.
And as Education Week reporter Andrew Ujifusa warned, one of the agencies almost certain to be on the biggest chopping block is the Department of Education.
"On the campaign trail, Trump talked about either shutting down the Education Department or significantly slashing its budget," he wrote. And while there hasn't been any word yet what his administration plans to do with the office, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has indicated her support for massive cuts.
"DeVos is essentially on the same page as Trump on this issue," Ujifusa continued. "Last month, she announced that she would look through the Education Department budget in order to identify unnecessary programs. DeVos is a long-time donor to GOP candidates and causes who has advocated for a limited federal government role."