Politics

TheDC Analysis: Obama unleashes ultimate inter-agency turf war in sprawling bureaucracy

President Obama is vowing to reorganize the federal agencies that make up the executive branch for the first time in “half a century,” according to material released by the White House and the President’s prepared remarks for the State of the Union.

Obama says the plan will “merge, consolidate, and reorganize the federal government in a way that best serves the goal of a more competitive America.”

Maybe. Here’s another vision: this will become the ultimate inter-agency turf war, a morass of bureaucratic infighting.

As Obama notes in his speech, the federal agencies often draw ridiculous lines separating their jurisdictions. “The Interior Department is in charge of salmon while they’re in fresh water, but the Commerce Department handles them in when they’re in saltwater. And I hear it gets even more complicated once they’re smoked,” Obama says.

One of the reasons for these strict lines is that bureaucrats tend to defend their fiefdoms as fiercely as a mother grizzly defends her cubs.

For instance, Obama came into power hoping to significantly reduce the number of federal agencies regulating financial markets. Myriad agencies regulate different, and sometimes the same, parts of the markets, and Obama had hoped to unite many of them under the same banner.

But as the Wall Street Journal reported on June 9, 2009, the administration ditched the plan upon realizing the scale of the inter-agency turf war it would spur on.

This occurred at the beginning of Obama’s four-year term at the apex of his power.

Now consider the same effort applied across the entire federal government as the clock ticks towards the 2012 presidential election.

Bureaucrats, man your battle stations!