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  • Washington Highlights

    White House Releases Plan to Reorganize HHS, Other Government Agencies

    Tannaz Rasouli, Sr. Director, Public Policy & Strategic Outreach

    The White House June 21 released a proposal to restructure the federal government. The 132-page document calls for a complete structural reorganization of the government and proposes to consolidate several nutrition assistance programs, currently housed in the Department of Agriculture, into the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) which would be renamed the Department of Health and Public Welfare.

    The proposal also would consolidate three HHS research programs – the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), and the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR) – under the jurisdiction of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

    Specifically, the proposal would move 15 nutrition assistance programs, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), into the jurisdiction of the newly-renamed HHS. To oversee these and other public benefits, the proposal would establish a permanent Council on Public Assistance that would “have statutory authority to set certain cross-program policies, including on uniform work requirements.”

    In addition to consolidating AHRQ, NIOSH, and NIDILRR under the jurisdiction of NIH, the proposal also calls for renaming these entities to the National Institute for Research on Safety and Quality, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, including the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program, and the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research. In further restructuring within HHS, the proposal calls for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to be renamed the Federal Drug Administration, and focus primarily on drugs and devices while moving its food safety functions to the Department of Agriculture.

    The proposal also calls for several changes that would impact graduate students and federal student loan borrowers. Specifically, the proposal would consolidate the administration of graduate fellowships under the National Science Foundation (NSF). Additionally, the proposal would create a Next Generation Processing and Servicing Environment (NextGen) for Federal Student Aid (FSA) customers. NextGen would, “enhance operational components of Federal student aid programs, make it easier than ever to apply for financial aid from a mobile platform, and streamline the way that schools interact with student loan servicing and the repayment system.”

    The proposal would also reduce the size of the Public Health Service Commissioned Corps and create a Reserve Corps for response to public health emergencies.

    Finally, the proposal calls for moving the strategic national stockpile (SNS) from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) currently housed in HHS. This has also been proposed in draft legislation to reauthorize the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act (PAHPA) authored by Reps. Susan Brooks (R-Ind.) and Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) [see Washington Highlights, June 8].

    Next steps on the proposal are unclear, as many proposed changes require Congressional action.