Commerce Dismantlement:

Observations on Proposed Implementation Mechanism

T-GGD-95-233: Published: Sep 6, 1995. Publicly Released: Sep 6, 1995.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO discussed the proposed Commerce Dismantling Act, focusing on the creation of the Commerce Programs Resolution Agency (CPRA). GAO noted that: (1) the act would abolish or significantly reorganize the Department of Commerce; (2) although few precedents exist for dismantling a cabinet-level federal agency, past agency reorganizations and the Resolution Trust Corporation's (RTC) liquidation of savings and loans' assets could provide valuable information on how to proceed with the Commerce effort; (3) because of CPRA's limited planned life span, it may be more cost-effective to create an agency with continuing capacity if further federal agency reorganizations or dismantlements are deemed necessary; (4) additional implementation planning would help CPRA achieve the act's objectives within the designated deadline; (5) the act's projected time period for the dismantlement of Commerce and its residual components may be overly optimistic; (6) because of varied CPRA responsibilities, it may need to acquire staff from other agencies or contract out some of these services; (7) the act's mandated 25-percent funding reductions could adversely affect Commerce's workforce and component agencies' initiatives; (8) the CPRA dismantling effort may be vulnerable to greater fraud, waste, and abuse than warranted because the act abolishes Commerce's Inspector General Office; (9) the act does not establish clear termination responsibilities for CPRA; and (10) congressional informational needs on the progress of the dismantling effort may be better fulfilled by individual information requests rather than by the act's statutory requirements.

Status Legend:

More Info
  • Review Pending-GAO has not yet assessed implementation status.
  • Open-Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-implemented-Actions that satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-not implemented-While the intent of the recommendation has not been satisfied, time or circumstances have rendered the recommendation invalid.
    • Review Pending
    • Open
    • Closed - implemented
    • Closed - not implemented

    Matters for Congressional Consideration

    Matter: Because RTC, as a mixed-ownership government corporation, was exempt from numerous federal requirements, such as personnel laws, which provided RTC greater flexibility than CPRA would have to carry out a similar mission, Congress may wish to consider whether any exemptions from executive agency statutes and regulations would be appropriate.

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Action has not been initiated.

    Matter: Congress may wish to consider whether it should provide guidance to CPRA on resolving certain asset disposition issues, including: (1) specifying that a "reasonable" offer must be accepted; and (2) providing guidance about what would constitute a reasonable offer.

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: A change responsive to the matter for consideration was made to legislation in committee. The bill was passed by the House; no further action is anticipated at this time.

    Matter: Congress may want to assess the effects of the funding limitation on the ability of former Department of Commerce functions that are transferred elsewhere to achieve their program objectives.

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: A change responsive to the matter for consideration was made to legislation in committee. The bill was passed by the House; no further action is anticipated at this time.

    Matter: Congress may wish to further explore how budget cuts of the magnitude proposed in the Commerce Dismantling Act would require that a significant portion of the new weather systems be closed.

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Action has not been initiated.

    Matter: Congress may wish to provide an Inspector General's oversight of the efforts to terminate Commerce Department programs to help ensure that wind-up operations are conducted honestly, efficiently, and effectively.

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Action has not been initiated.

    Matter: If Congress expects that the government will need the capacity to guide reorganizations and federal agency downsizing in more than this one instance, it may wish to consider the feasibility and desirability of assigning the responsibility to an entity that will continue to exist.

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: A change responsive to the matter for consideration was made to legislation in committee; OMB was assigned responsibility. The bill was passed by the House; no further action is anticipated at this time.

    Matter: Because a significant and unusual responsibility for CPRA is the disposal of sometimes unique federal assets, such as laboratories, Congress may wish to require that the implementation plan specifically address this responsibility.

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: A change responsive to the matter for consideration was made to legislation in committee. The bill was passed by the House; no further action is anticipated at this time.

    Matter: Congress may need to consider assigning the responsibility for the termination of various Commerce functions or delegating the determination to another party, such as the President.

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: A change responsive to the matter for consideration was made to legislation in committee; responsibility was assigned to OMB. The bill was passed by the House; no further action is anticipated at this time.

    Matter: Since the proposed act specifies that the President is to submit a plan for winding up the affairs of CPRA, Congress may wish to further specify that the plan include a provision for a successor to CPRA to receive and terminate any residual CPRA activities.

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: A change responsive to the matter for consideration was made to legislation in committee. The bill was passed by the House; no further action is anticipated at this time.

    Matter: The House Committee should consider eliminating the statutory GAO reporting requirements and, as an alternative, requesting work as it is needed or anticipated.

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Action has not been initiated.

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