Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Reforming Governance In the US

Over and over again friends ask how could the US avoid the slide into the abyss during the rest of this century and becoming a third-world country. Well there are certainly long term strengths underlying the US system of governance and economics but stresses and strains are not only beneath the surface, but on the surface, and may be made chrystal clear by next Tuesday's voting.

So here are some suggestions that hopefully are bypartisan and non-partisan.

1. Issues of Congressional oversight are not just political arrangements but impact governance and should be study for their impact on Executive Branch policies and federalism. No way to predict the outcome of such a study but needs doing.

2. To the extent possible the budget should become a two year effort with 1/2 the Executive Branch in one year and the other in the successor. There may be Constitutional limitations that need addressing. One cut could be all truly civil agencies and one cut for defense appropriations which would include all programs related to national security and defense including the Departments of Veterans Affairs and Energy.

3. All programs, functions, and activities that are not currently authorized by an authorization statute should be reviewed to determine whether they should continue to be the subject of authorization by appropriation.

4. The impact of science and technology on the US is enormous and the 150 year period where the US to some extent led the world may be ending. So how science and technology impacts governance should also be studied. And of course other than Patents being discussed in the Constitution these terms are not in that document. 

5. The STATES must reduce the number of their local governments. The federal government could assist in this reduction by only providing grants to LOCAL Governments that have independent authority to tax, sue or be sued authority, or are specifically granted limitations on immunity from liability by the STATE governments.

6. A limitation on the staff making up the NSS of 20% for military officers in active status. Selection should be by the SECDEF not the individual services, and with approval of the Advisors to the President for National Security and Homeland Security.

7. The role of the National Guard should a matter of law, they should be a member of the CHIEFS OF STAFF and NORTHCOM should always be headed by a NG Officer. The other services could hold the Number 2 slots.

8. The membership of the INTEL community should be reduced to no more than 10 members now and in the future no more than 5. My suggestion would be to have those five dual hatted, meaning civil military responsibilities, but no longer under exclusive control of the SECDEF and instead the DNI would become the INTEL lead with oversight of Satellite INTEL, HUMINT, Cyber Security, SIGINT, etc.  Also domestic intelligence collection would be under the DNI and removed from DHS and DOJ except with specific Presidential approval as are covert ops.

9. Various immunity from suit statutes, such as 33 USC Section 701 that immunizes the USACOE from liability for flood control projects should be eliminated. And all federal programs, functions, and activities should have provisions for judicial review and enforcement of due process and equal protection standards under the Constitution.

10. The number of Cabinent Departments should be consolidated. And the authority of the Director of the Office and Management and Budget and Associate Directors of OMB be transferred to the extent possible to this reduced number of cabinent secretaries. Associate Directors of OMB should be subject to Senate Confirmation and Congressional appearances if this is not done. And each years recommendations to OMB on the budgets and passbacks should be a matter of public record.

11. All SES appointees should be term for a period of 5  years with one opportunity for renewal and non-career SES positions should be abolished as well as career positions in return for the term assignments. The SES could be removed for cause, other than political affiliation. Current SES members could apply but are not guaranteed a term appointment under the new system. All SES ethics forms would be review by OGE not the agency and tax returns would be available for these ethics reviews to the examiners. Each SES would have a published position description indicating what specific legal authorities he/she would be administering. At the end of the second five years, these Term SES would be allowed to immediately retire but with some recognition given to their length of service if less than 30 years total military and civil service.

12. The number of politically vetted positions in the civil service should be reduced by 50%.  All INSPECTOR GENERALS should be appointed for one 10 year term without renewal. EACH IG should have exclusive criminal referral authority for his/her department or agency. All IG's should be protected under the Inspector General Act of 1978, as amended. And IG's should be protected from termination based on political affiliation.

Well that might jump start some reform. More later.