Two Potential Outcomes for the Office of American Innovation

Yesterday the White House announced the launch of an Office of American Innovation. This is the latest of several moving and overlapping parts to President Trump’s streamlining, swamp-draining, and “deconstructing the administrative state” agenda.  

The new Innovation office seeks to bring private sector management expertise, lessons, and methods to the bloat of a federal government that otherwise seeks only to expand, as well as to shore up faltering entities like the Veterans Administration. Were we starting with a blank sheet of paper, we would not maintain the same goals and roles, and perhaps not even keep many of the agencies themselves. But since we are far from a blank sheet, the president’s plans for this new office should be considered carefully in order to be effective.

This new Office of American Innovation has the potential to actually streamline parts of the federal government, particularly in such realms as technology implementation and IT overhauls at agencies, and in the elimination of some bureaus. But, conversely, it also has the potential to emphasize massive new government infrastructure programs that spend hundreds of billions, yet deteriorate over time when the glow wears off. It is the lesson of history that bureaucrats build up their empires, and this office will have to make sure that doesn’t happen at agencies, while ensuring it doesn’t fall victim itself to the same tendency when the private sector appeals of today are replaced with inefficient government agency management as the years wear on.

But done right, the “Innovation” emphasis, the mindset, can work hand-in-hand with Trump’s other moves to reduce the scope of Washington over the nation. Most relevant, these are: (1) the establishment of Regulatory Reform Task Forces at each agency to cut out read tape, (2) an Executive Order on a Comprehensive Plan for Reorganizing the Executive Branch, and (3) proposals in the Trump Budget Blueprint to eliminate some agencies altogether and to implement deep cuts in others such as the Environmental Protection Agency.

Our recommendations for the president to improve federal agencies range from replacing key agency heads to overturning burdensome regulations. We have been encouraged so far as the president’s goals aim to promote innovation, job creation, and financial freedom for Americans.