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Jump Start 2018 panelists discuss the pursuit of deregulation

Since Day One, the Trump administration has focused on reducing government regulations. On the face of it, this quest will free up transportation, supply chain and other companies to more actively conduct business.

During the final day of the Jump Start 2018 supply chain conference, Blair Anderson, director of transportation public policy for Amazon, and James Burnley, a former Department of Transportation Secretary, joined moderator Randall Mullett, president of Mullett Strategies LLC, to talk about the current state of transportation politics.

Burnley began by telling the audience that the Trump administration truly is making it a priority to reduce regulations.

“This is the most serious administration-wide effort since Reagan,” said Burnley, who served as DOT Secretary under President Ronald Reagan. “We’re in a period where if you have a particular federal regulation you think is unduly burdensome or unjustified or simply obsolete, there’s an audience for you. There are various ways to teeup a regulation you’d like to see it repealed.”

Burnley predicted that significant regulatory unwinding will take place across a vast section of the government before Trump leaves office. Anderson said this process is not a simple undertaking; it’s more complicated than simply deciding to cut red tape and then signing a rule out of existence.

“It does take time, and it is a public process,” he said. Anderson added that this very deliberate process has progressed through a number of agencies. Officials in those agencies, he said, are striving to make sure that “the right regulations are in place.”

Technology is complicating this pace of deregulation, as agency heads know they need new regulations to address technological disruptors, but hesitate to enact new regulations too quickly. Anderson said these agency officials are simply looking to provide “a level of certainty” around these new technologies.

Any conversation about the Trump administration, or D.C. in general, almost can’t happen these days without a mention of the media’s reporting on internal White House strife. Apparently, this is all very familiar to Burnley.

“I sometimes think, looking at this past year, I’m in a time warp,” he said. “If you were to go back and read clippings from the Washington Post or the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal from 1981, you would find exactly the same set of themes.”

One thing Burnley would like to see is for the Trump administration to move a little bit faster in terms of nominating agency officials and enacting its agenda. Distractions are slowing things down, and officials have to be installed at their agencies in order to get things done. He noted that half of the positions at the DOT that need Senate approval were not filled at the end of Trump’s first year in office.

Amazon’s Anderson said that when these officials get in their positions, the best way for companies to bring about policy change that will positively affect their businesses is to give policy makers a call. Sending officials in D.C. an invitation to visit and spend the day exploring a business they don’t know much about pays dividends, he said.

“If you invite a staffer or a policy member from one of these agencies, they eat up that opportunity,” Anderson said. “For them, it’s kind of like unwrapping a present and getting to see something new and exciting.”

SMC³’s next supply chain conference takes place at The Greenbrier in June. Be among the first to hear about the thought-provoking sessions and networking events in store this summer, by signing up for Connections 2018 email notifications here.

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Categories: Supply Chain, Technology