Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Take a Little Off the Top

Virginia's government looks shaggy

When I ran for Congress in 2012 and 2014, I suggested that the Federal government could find economies and synergies (ugh – couldn't think of a better word) by merging cabinet-level departments. Now that the Commonwealth has had its oddball odd-year elections, I thought I'd do the same for Virginia's government.

The Governor's Cabinet consists of 15 appointees, four of whom work directly with the Governor rather that constituents: the Chief of Staff, Deputy Chief of Staff, Counsel to the Governor, and Secretary of the Commonwealth. Along with Education, Finance, and Public Safety and Homeland Security, I think these are standalone secretariats (though I still think that the U.S. Department of Education can be subsumed by the U.S. Department of Commerce to great effect).

The big merger I see is that of the Commerce and Trade, Agriculture and Forestry, Natural Resources, Transportation, and Defense Affairs secretariats: each has a hand in business and employment. Understanding how each sector has a place in the whole can offer a more complete picture in determining economic focus.

The other complementary merger is Health and Human Resources with Veterans Affairs. The Governor's website says that Veterans Affairs "distinguishes and elevates issues and opportunities for our veterans" – that's a terrific fit for vets as they leave military service and reintegrate with their communities.

Why the Administration and Technology secretariats are separate confounds me. Whereas Administration seeks "efficient and effective management of the people’s resources", Technology strives for "efficient and effective use of information technology to simplify government ... [and] improve public services". Kind of the same goals, right?

So those are my suggestions for paring some overhead and saving some money. Will anyone adopt them? Probably not. Once you put an organization in place – whether public or private – it's really hard to change it. And since all the incumbents won reelection on November 3, change is not in the air.

But unless you picture "what can be", you're stuck with "ain't happening".