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Obama seeking to shrink government after presiding over increase in headcount

President Barack Obama discusses his proposal to shrink the federal government.

President Barack Obama said Friday that he will ask Congress for authority to consolidate agencies that deal with international trade, business and patents. Those agencies are now within the Commerce Department, the Office of U.S. Trade Representative and other departments.

Obama said his goal was “a leaner government” and that he would “modernize and streamline” the bureaucracies. He told a White House audience that no private-sector business leader would tolerate the “duplication” and “unnecessary complexity” that now exist in the federal bureaucracies that deal with business and trade.

The Commerce Department now has about 47,600 employees, up from about 42,600 in 2008.

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Obama’s restructuring would result in the elimination of between 1,000 and 2,000 jobs and save $3 billion over ten years, according to an administration official who briefed The Associated Press.

During his three years in office Obama has presided over an increase in the federal executive branch work force, which has grown from 1,938,821 in September of 2008 to 2,130,289 as of September 2011, the most recent month for which the federal Office of Personnel Management has data. This is nearly a 10 percent increase in headcount from 2008 to 2011.

Right before Christmas, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee approved a bill sponsored by Rep. Mick Mulvaney, R- S.C., that would reduce the federal civilian workforce by 10 percent by fiscal year 2015. Only one Democrat on the committee voted for the bill as did 22 Republicans.

The Congressional Budget Office estimated that the bill would cut $35 billion in spending from 2012 to 2016.

But Democrats on the committee opposed the bill saying it “unfairly targets the federal workforce” and forces federal employees “to shoulder a disproportionate share of the burden of solving our fiscal problems.”