Here's yesterday's USDA press release about changes in the process for designating disaster process. One change is automatic designation for counties which are drought-affected for 8 weeks according to U.S. Drought Monitor, and the governors do not have to initiate the request.
That's one small step on the way to taking the life out of politics. In the good old days governors could make a big show of standing up for the home folks by bragging about his request for designation and blasting the Washington bureaucrats for delays in approving it. It's also a small step towards de-bureaucratization. In the bad old days the paper request from the state went to bureaucrats in the northwest corner of the South Building, the offices with the great view of the Mall, the Washington Monument, and the White House. There could be back and forth between the bureaucrats and the states, particularly when the governor's aides weren't familiar with the process. Then the paperwork would go up the line, some stopping at the Secretary's office, some going to the White House. Of course those offices could also grandstand about how they were acting to help needy, hardworking folks.
So, if I'm feeling cynical, the Obama administration cashed in a long term asset for politicians for maximal gain in this presidential election year. If I'm feeling idealistic, the administration rationalized the process and made the government more efficient and less bureaucratic. Take your pick.