Bush unveils plan for federal management reform

President Bush released a plan for putting in place his management reform agenda on Wednesday, reinstating the President's Management Council and directing agency heads to designate chief operating officers who will be responsible for overall management at each agency. The chief operating officers will be the equivalent of a deputy secretary at each agency, Bush said in a July 11 memorandum to agency heads. The chief operating officers will be responsible for implementing the President's management goals, developing strategic plans and improving general agency performance, according to the memorandum. Making such high-ranking officials responsible for management will heighten the profile of the President's management initiatives, according to an expert on public administration. "Putting the [chief operating officer] in such a high position within the department emphasizes how important management is," said Donald Kettl, a scholar at the La Follette School of Public Administration at the University of Wisconsin. But the officers need a say in the development of the management agenda to be effective, according to Paul Light, a scholar with the Brookings Institution. "Are the officers to be given any authority, for example, to reject or resist the arbitrary outsourcing targets being pressed by the Office of Management and Budget?" he said. "We've had various forms of the President's Management Council now dating back to the first Reagan administration, none of which has made the slightest difference in improving actual performance." The Bush memorandum resembles a memorandum issued by President Clinton in October 1993 that created the President's Management Council and directed agencies to name chief operating officers. The Clinton memorandum also specified that chief operating officers should be agency deputies with considerable authority. Similarities between the two directives pleased a veteran of the Clinton reinventing-government effort. "It shows that successful management initiatives are bipartisan," said John Kamensky, former deputy director of the National Partnership for Reinventing Government and current director of the managing for results practice at the PricewaterhouseCoopers Endowment for the Business of Government. As in the Clinton administration, the chief operating officers for each cabinet-level agency will sit on the President's Management Council. The council will be chaired by Sean O'Keefe, deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget, and will include additional members representing the President and Vice President. During the Clinton administration, the council was chaired by OMB's deputy director for management, a position the Bush administration has yet to fill. The absence of a top management official at OMB played a role in the administration's decision to tap O'Keefe to chair the council, according to Kettl. "I think that's a big part of it," he said. "In general [tapping O'Keefe] is a sign of the difficulties they have had in trying to get that management show going." But choosing O'Keefe to lead the council could also further the administration's effort to link agency budgets with performance targets, a goal O'Keefe has described as OMB's top management priority. Although O'Keefe has been central in the development of OMB's management agenda, as OMB deputy he also shoulders major budget responsibilities. This dual management and budget portfolio should help OMB's performance budgeting initiative, according to Carl DeMaio, director of government redesign at the Reason Public Policy Institute. "It's saying that the budget and management will be linked at the hip in this administration," said DeMaio.
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