White House announces plan to overhaul federal government and consolidate social safety net programs

Betsy DeVos runs the Education Department, the smallest Cabinet agency with just under 4,000 employees.
(Carolyn Kaster / Associated Press)
The Washington Post

The White House on Thursday announced a proposed overhaul of the federal government that would merge the Labor and Education departments, consolidate a slew of social safety net programs under a renamed health agency and reorganize federal food safety functions.

Labor and education programs would be merged into a new Department of Education and the Workforce, according to a plan released by the White House. The Department of Health and Human Services would be renamed the Department of Health and Public Welfare, to “better capture the nature of its programs,” which would house nutrition assistance programs, the White House said.

Many of the proposals would require congressional approval and are expected to face significant opposition from both Democrats and some Republicans.


The sweeping plan builds on Trump’s pledge to shrink the size and scope of the federal government, a long-sought goal of conservatives. The shifts, if enacted, would likely reduce the number of employees in some offices, which would draw opposition from federal employee unions, which the administration took aim at in May with a series of executive orders that curtail their power.

“This effort, along with the recent executive orders on federal unions, are the biggest pieces so far of our plan to drain the swamp,” Mick Mulvaney, director of the Office of Management and Budget, who has led the 14-month reorganization effort, said in a statement.

“The federal government is bloated, opaque, bureaucratic, and inefficient,” he added.

The streamlining plan includes some proposals that have long been discussed among groups that promote government efficiency. For example, federal economic assistance resources would be consolidated under a new Bureau of Economic Growth at the Department of Commerce.

The plan to consolidate the Labor and Education departments would allow the Trump administration to focus its efforts to train students in vocational skills in one place.

Education is the smallest Cabinet-level department in terms of employees, but Republicans have opposed the agency ever since it began operations in 1980. It was created during the administration of President Carter, who wanted the nation to pay more attention to education. Trump picked an Education secretary, Betsy DeVos, who has repeatedly expressed opposition to the existence of the department she heads.

Rein writes for The Washington Post.



10:25 a.m.: This article was updated with an announcement by the White House.

This article was originally published at 5:05 a.m.