Fedblog FedblogFedblog
Government Executive Editor in Chief Tom Shoop, along with other editors and staff correspondents, look at the federal bureaucracy from the outside in.

Lawmaker Puts Federal Zombies on Notice

ARCHIVES
Flickr user Mike Mozart

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., is a zombie hunter.

At least, she’s making full use of the zombie metaphor to push legislation to force Congress to reauthorize federal programs or watch them disappear into the sunset.

Late last week, McMorris Rodgers posted this video on YouTube:

It features spooky music and visuals, and a creepy voiceover:

Here in Washington, D.C. there are zombies living amongst us. The undead continuing to live on long after they were supposed to have vanished from this earth. These zombies are government programs. They’re well past their expiration date, yet Congress still lets them feast on government cash.

McMorris Rodgers borrowed the zombie concept (and, it appears, the voiceover, albeit in an altered state) from CNN’s Jake Tapper, who used the metaphor to characterize unauthorized federal programs in a report last month.

It’s true that billions of dollars in federal spending flows through agencies and programs that haven’t been reauthorized by Congress in years -- decades, in some instances. That includes operations as large as the National Weather Service and the Federal Election Commission.

In a report last year called America’s Most Wasted, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., identified almost $300 billion in spending on what he characterized as  “programs that are no longer authorized to receive funding due to Congress’s persistent unwillingness to pass authorization bills and oversee the spending that follows.”

McMorris Rodgers’ solution to the problem is the Unauthorized Spending Accountability (USA) Act. It would put all unauthorized programs on a path to sunset in three years unless Congress gives them its seal of approval. Under the measure, in the first year after a program expires, it would be subject to a 10 percent sequester. That would rise to 15 percent in the second year. If the program were reauthorized at any point in the three-year cycle, the sequester would be lifted.

Sequester and sunset may be a scary prospect for the federal managers who are responsible for running government’s programs, especially because they’re not to blame for the programs’ zombified state. It’s Congress’s job to periodically examine the operations of government and provide new authority for programs to carry on. Indeed, even without McMorris Rodgers’ bill, nothing is stopping lawmakers from conducting regular oversight and subjecting programs and agencies to reauthorization.

Also, while many large operations have spent a long time in authorization limbo, they’re not exactly the undead. It’s a little odd to characterize the National Weather Service, for example, as a “zombie” that should have “vanished from this earth.” Government’s weather predictors seem very much alive and well -- and in charge of a critical operation virtually every American relies on.

Photo: Flickr user Mike Mozart

Tom Shoop is vice president and editor in chief at Government Executive Media Group, where he oversees both print and online editorial operations. He started as associate editor of Government Executive magazine in 1989; launched the company’s flagship website, GovExec.com, in 1996; and was named editor in chief in 2007.

FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

    Download
  • The Big Data Campaign Trail

    With everyone so focused on security following recent breaches at federal, state and local government and education institutions, there has been little emphasis on the need for better operations. This report breaks down some of the biggest operational challenges in IT management and provides insight into how agencies and leaders can successfully solve some of the biggest lingering government IT issues.

    Download
  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

    Download
  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

    Download
  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.