Analysis: This could be government's finest hour


The nation’s fragile economy and fractured politics have put federal agencies in a difficult position. Reduced budgets are inevitable, yet missions haven’t diminished -- in some cases they have become more complex. Increased workloads have forced the government to search for ways to leverage limited resources and improve efficiency. But times of great change are also times of great opportunity.

It seems easiest to cut a designated percentage of spending across each program, as the federal government has done many times in the past. If agencies fail to evaluate budgets with a critical eye, however, they risk hollowing out essential capabilities. A decision to reduce spending evenly across an entire agency rests squarely on the assumption that resources already are correctly allocated. This approach doesn’t take into account conditions that may have changed since the last resource allocation. More important, it does nothing to protect critical resources. Government leaders who fail to align assets with priorities might meet cost-reduction goals in the short run, but they jeopardize many mission objectives in the long run.

Agencies must be strategic and conduct a critical assessment of their missions to realign spending.

Not all activities and capabilities are equal. The “peanut butter spread” approach, which simply reduces spending by the same percentage across the board, not only weakens each program but also the entire mission. Agencies should employ the business case analysis model used in the private sector. Data and risk analysis would identify the programs and resources that are most closely aligned with core missions. Then agencies can reallocate assets to priority operations and cut the least mission-critical portions of their budgets, such as in-house travel services or printing facilities. In simple terms, they should identify the 20 percent of their budget that drives 80 percent of their mission.

Agencies should determine where there is overlap in their organizations -- the same type of work being done in different locations with different infrastructure and processes. Consider, for example, President Obama’s proposed consolidation of six departments and agencies that oversee various aspects of industry, including the Commerce Department and Small Business Administration. Across those six organizations, it is likely there are multiple groups performing functions such as administrative support. If left alone, the resulting redundancy and fragmentation would translate into unnecessary complexity.

The same holds true for agencies with overlapping missions. Low-return services or programs with similar capabilities -- call centers, data centers and real estate operations, for example -- often are good candidates for consolidation. This can be an effective way to trim the fat and shift resources to the broader mission.

When private sector organizations share assets to conserve resources, they also harness the power of a collaborative environment. The same holds true for federal agencies. Consolidation within an agency and collaboration across agencies -- a shared help desk, for example -- can reduce budgets and boost efficiency. Agencies should reduce investments in capital assets where possible. Information technology is one area where agencies can offload maintenance of expensive equipment, applications and services. The Office of Management and Budget, for example, already is promoting collaboration with its “cloud first” policy, which requires every agency to spin off at least one IT function to a Web-based program by June.

Agencies will have to work smarter and work together to reach their savings goals. The choices are difficult, but dodging them would jeopardize the real work that needs to be done. Historically, when this nation faces great adversity, it responds by forging an even stronger foundation. This could be government’s finest hour.

Robin Lineberger is chief executive officer of Federal Government Services at Deloitte Consulting LLP, and John Powers is a leader in the firm’s Merger and Acquisition Consultative Services.



Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

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

  • Sponsored by Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.


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