President Obama announced late last week that he will ask Congress to grant him authority to combine into one department six federal agencies that deal with business and trade issues.  Speaking to business owners at the White House, Obama said his proposal would help businesses of all sizes grow, save time, and save the taxpayers money.

Obama said the government needs reform and streamlining because “the government we have is not the government we need.”  He said that the government is not properly organized and equipped to deal with today’s economy.  “We live in a 21st century economy, but we’ve still got a government organized for the 20th century,” he charged.

The president would implement this consolidation under authority he is requesting to allow for expedient congressional action on a president’s government reform proposals.  The president pointed out that many previous presidents have had authority to streamline and reform the federal government, most recently President Reagan.  Obama is asking Congress to reinstate authority it removed in 1984.

Under Obama’s proposed consolidation plan, the Small Business Administration, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR), the Export-Import Bank, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, the Trade and Development Agency, and the business and trade functions of the Department of Commerce would be merged into one agency that focuses on business and trade.

In a related move, the president announced he will add the administrator of the Small Business Administration (SBA) to the cabinet.

Obama said his plan would give businesses the help they need from a single government agency.  According to the president, entrepreneurs in particular would deal with only one department “from the day they come up with an idea and need a patent, to the day they start building a product and need financing for a warehouse, to the day they’re ready to export and need help breaking into overseas markets.”

A White House press statement avowed that Obama’s proposal would mandate that any reorganization plan “must reduce the number of government agencies or save taxpayer dollars.”   Administration officials estimate that the move, if approved, will lead to a reduction of over 1,000 positions (mostly through attrition) and save $3 billion over 10 years.