Feds call on Bush to support interagency councils

Interagency councils are helping government leaders solve tough problems, but finding the funds to keep these efforts afloat is a huge challenge, according to current and former federal executives. During last week's annual Association of Government Accountants federal leadership conference in Washington, Jim Flyzik, chief information officer at the Treasury Department, said funding will be a big issue for interagency councils during the next few years. "We have to deal with the 'pass the hat' and 'dialing for dollars' system we have now," said Flyzik. "It is not a sustainable system, and we have to talk to the new administration about that." Interagency councils such as the Chief Information Officers Council and the Chief Financial Officers Council have helped push a series of management reform issues, including electronic government, balanced performance measures for senior executives, recruitment and retention efforts and the Government Performance and Results Act. The groups bring together agency leaders, such as chief information officers, chief financial officers and procurement executives, to share best practices, discuss common problems and push for initiatives aimed at improving government operations. Dennis Williams, deputy assistant secretary for budget at the Department of Health and Human Services, suggested interagency councils should be directly funded by Congress. He said allocating money for interagency councils and including it in the Office of Management and Budget's funds could encourage OMB to take a more activist role in supporting the councils. "OMB needs to take the lead more on issues that come out of these councils. It needs to take action on their advice, and take more responsibility for resourcing them," said Williams. However, making the councils part of the federal bureaucracy "will be the death of them," said G. Edward DeSeve, former deputy director for management at the Office of Management and Budget. "Yes, there need to be resources, but not institutional resources," said DeSeve. Flyzik agreed that councils need to be self-sustaining and make efficient use of their resources. He said the groups must find creative ways--such as setting up innovation funds or entering into partnerships with industry--to sustain themselves. "If we want to be successful about reinventing government and doing things better, we have to be able to think outside of the box," said Flyzik. The CIO Council, the CFO Council, the President's Management Council and other groups worked together on the government's successful Y2K transition and the creation of the online federal information portal FirstGov. Participants agreed that the efforts of interagency councils to produce results that customers crave are crucial. FirstGov would not have been possible without partnerships across agencies and between government and industry, said Flyzik. "There are certain things we are doing, such as FirstGov, that will live through any administration change because the public likes it," said Flyzik. "I think that we have finally come to realize that none of us is as smart as all of us collectively."
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