The benefits of interagency conflicts

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John Kamensky, senior fellow at the IBM Center for the Business of Government, discusses the three types of interagency conflict, and how they impact getting work done in the executive branch.


While the Trump administration’s reorganization plan aims to streamline the federal government by eliminating conflicts and duplication between agencies. While moving missions from one agency to another would simplify operations, there may be some benefits to keeping the current structure. John Kamensky, senior fellow at the IBM Center for the Business of Government, says that important developments can come out of tensions between agencies. He said that there are three kinds of interagency conflict—Hierarchical conflicts, advisory and monitoring conflicts, and conflict between agencies with equal power.

 

“An example that I saw when I was working at GAO many years ago that I thought was intriguing was that the Chocolate Manufacturers of America were complaining that the Food and Drug Administration required [that] to ensure the cleanliness of their products, that they use stainless steel equipment. And the Occupational Health and Safety Administration said that to protect the workers’ ears, you need to put baffling on that equipment,” said Kamensky. “Until the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs was created in OMB, there was no one to broker the distinctions. Each of them had different legal requirements that they were trying to adhere to and different constituencies that they were trying to protect.”