The Republican Study Committee’s (RSC) Government, Efficiency, Accountability, and Reform (GEAR) Task Force recently released a report highlighting more than one hundred commonsense solutions to move the federal government in a smaller, smarter direction. 

RSC Chairman Rep. Mike Johnson (R-La.) and GEAR Task Force Chairman Rep. Greg Gianforte (R-Mont.) should be commended for their efforts in creating this extensive plan of action. 

The report identifies three central problems that plague federal bureaucracy, the first being power. Runaway federal bureaucrats have seized power from Congress, and that has opened the floodgates for abuse of power in agencies like the IRS.

The GEAR report calls for a restoration of the proper balance of power between Congress and the Executive Branch. Notably, the report recommends (among many proposals): 

  • Enacting the REINS Act, which would require Congress to pass a joint resolution for any major rule within 70 days of promulgation before the rule takes effect. This legislation would fundamentally change the rule-making process and save taxpayers money by expanding Congressional oversight on major rules. 
  • Expanding use of the Congressional Review Act (CRA), which allows Congress to roll back recently promulgated regulations under an expedited parliamentary process. Expanding CRA use will allow Congress to use its rightful constitutional power to prevent the implementation of harmful, costly regulations. 
  • Codifying that CRAs apply to “regulatory dark matter,” which would encompass so-called “guidance documents” that function as de-facto regulations. The RSC plan gives Congress an expedited avenue to strike down initiatives that do not follow the CRA process.
  • Enact the Article I Restoration Act, which would require federal regulations to expire every three years if not specifically authorized. 

Of course, restoring the proper balance of power is only the first step in constraining runaway bureaucrats. Step two is reforming government practices with a special focus on eliminating waste. The report has many suggestions large and small for eliminating waste, including: 

  • Improving metrics for regulatory decision-making. In the private sector, managers do not make strategic decisions without evidence. The RSC plan would hold bureaucracy to the same standard and encourage Congress to modernize the government’s collection of metrics to ensure policymakers are informed by the best data available. 
  • Utilize excess federal office space. As of 2016, federal agencies own 3,120 vacant buildings and 7,859 underutilized buildings. The GEAR Task Force recommends that agencies sell unused buildings and lease office space (when appropriate) to like-minded organizations instead of letting the buildings waste taxpayer dollars for absolutely no reason. Citizens Against Government Waste projects that these reforms would save taxpayers $15 billion over the next five years. 
  • Stop paying dead people. In 2016, the Social Security Administration (SSA) paid out $37.7 million in benefits to 746 dead veterans. In 2015, the SSA Inspector General identified 6.5 million individuals listed as being 112 years of age or older without any recorded death information. Embarrassingly enough, the SSA has failed to curb these improper payments to deceased individuals. GEAR Task Force Chairman Rep. Greg Gianforte (Mont. – At Large) has introduced legislation that would provide a framework for SSA to partner with state and local agencies to collect and disseminate death data. 


Finally, the GEAR Task Force recommends that the federal government realign its personnel policies with those of the private sector. Namely, the report proposes: 

  • Modernizing the hiring process so that hiring managers can efficiently and effectively recruit highly qualified candidates to fill jobs. On average, it takes federal agencies three times longer than the private sector to hire employees. The RSC plan recommends that Congress focus on two goals in streamlining the hiring process –– empowering hiring managers to recruit outside of OPM recommendations, and automating human resource functions to more efficiently utilize taxpayer funds. 
  • Enact the MERIT Act so that managers can more easily remove toxic federal employees. Currently, it takes over 300 days to remove a bad employee due to the myriad red tape associated with the process. The MERIT Act offers a framework to realign firing procedures on the federal level with the efficient practices of the private sector. Additionally, the MERIT Act also limits retirement compensation and allows managers to recoup bonuses from employees who were later found to commit workplace violations. 
  • Provide mandatory removal of federal employees who commit crimes. In 2016, the VA demoted (but kept on staff) an individual who was convicted of assisting an armed robbery. This plan would fully empower agencies to terminate serious criminals. 
  • Ban taxpayer-funded union work. Under current law, federal employees are paid for engaging in union activity while on the job. The RSC plan would eliminate this and make it a fireable offense. 
  • Enact merit-based pay in federal agencies, which would allow managers to reward employees based on performance. Under current law, there is barely a merit-based component to the existing compensation system, and federal workers are paid based on seniority and demonstrating an “acceptable level of competence.” The RSC plan recommends moving towards a merit-based pay system that rewards exception and highly-skilled employees with appropriate compensation. 

The RSC GEAR Task Force report on commonsense government reform is a powerful plan of action for when Republicans take back the House majority in November. The plan is chock-full of reforms that will rein in runaway bureaucracy and leave the American people with a smaller, better, more efficient government.