Obama to Cabinet: I Expect Better Performance

President Barack Obama speaks to the media during a meeting with his cabinet members in the Cabinet Room of the White House. President Barack Obama speaks to the media during a meeting with his cabinet members in the Cabinet Room of the White House. Jacquelyn Martin/AP

In the midst of a series of high-profile management problems at agencies ranging from the Health and Human Services Department to the IRS to Veterans Affairs, President Obama provided another indication Tuesday that he is shifting priorities to focus on improving federal operations.

In remarks before a Cabinet meeting, Obama again made the case for vigorous executive branch action in areas where he believes Congress is falling short legislatively, from immigration to infrastructure. But he said a second priority would be simply making government work better.

“We’re going to be spending a lot of time talking about … how do we continue to improve the functioning of government to make it more customer-friendly,” Obama said. “This is something that we’ve been working on since [HHS Secretary] Sylvia [Mathews Burwell] was head of OMB.  This is something that [OMB nominee] Shaun [Donovan] will be prioritizing.  I expect every agency to look and see how can we get more bang for the buck in the agencies that we operate.”

Obama made it clear that touting past achievements was not enough. “I know that many of you can report some significant progress in reducing paperwork and bureaucracy and red tape for projects and initiatives around the country in education, in energy, in housing and in transportation.  But I think we can do even better.”

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