Washington Post -
There were this week's instructions to find ways to trim at least 5 percent from agency budgets. Officials bragged this week that the number of Freedom of Information Act dropped last year because Obama told agencies to post more information online. Last week President he ordered agencies to extend more employment benefits to the partners of gay federal workers. He's also mandated changes to the federal hiring process and there will be more later this week.
All of the changes have come through a series of memos -- not executive orders or legislation -- that the White House issued after months of review by lawyers and agency officials. (The budget memo with spending instructions comes every year, so it's not a huge surprise.) The orders appear to provide the White House with quick and easy ways to demonstrate change. (Remember how often we used to hear that word?)
By mandating budget cuts, Obama can get ahead of Republicans likely to push for deep government spending cuts and federal salary freezes as the midterm elections continue. Extending benefits to the gay partners of federal workers scores him points with liberals, gay rights activists and a generally supportive American public and helps meet his goal of making government a "cool" employer. Attempts to speed up the mundane federal hiring process also help achieve the "cool" goal and Obama's desire to attract a new wave of public servants.
But will any of this work? Depending on the mandate, we won't know for six months, a year, or more. Still -- amid an oil spill, two wars, a frustrating economy and tricky negotiations over Iran, these small changes may not score big headlines, but may one day help make big, fundamental changes to the government.