In one of his few statements since joining government, presidential adviser Stephen Bannon announced that one of the Trump administration’s principal goals was “the deconstruction of the administrative state.” Given the critical role of federal agencies in protecting public health and safety, that’s pretty provocative. But President Donald Trump’s latest action suggests that reform is the aim, rather than deconstruction — and the reform might even turn out to be reasonable.
The action took the form of an executive order, issued in late February, “on enforcing the regulatory reform agenda.” Its text is quite bureaucratic, but it’s likely to prove profoundly important.
The order calls for the official designation of “Regulatory Reform Officers” and “Regulatory Reform Task Forces” within each department and agency of the federal government.
The reform officers are charged with carrying out three earlier executive orders. The first is Trump’s own requirement that agencies eliminate two regulations for every one that they issue. More surprisingly, the second and third come from Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. The Clinton order, issued in 1993, requires cost-benefit analysis of new regulations, along with approval by the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs.
The 2011 Obama order calls for “retrospective review” of existing regulations, with the goal of getting rid of those that don’t make sense. By requiring adherence to the Clinton and Obama orders, the Trump administration has signaled a degree of continuity with what came before. That’s a good idea (and it’s hardly deconstruction).
The reform task forces have a much more specific job. Within 90 days, they must provide a report to agency heads, identifying specific regulations that are ripe for repeal, replacement or modification. They are charged with calling out those rules that eliminate jobs or inhibit job creation; that are outdated, unnecessary or ineffective; or that impose costs in excess of benefits. The task forces are specifically directed to seek input from those affected by regulations, including small businesses; consumers; nongovernmental organizations; trade associations; and state, local and tribal governments.