By unanimous consent, the Senate on Thursday passed legislation (S. 806) to stabilize the funding and management of Federal Executive Boards, which coordinate the actions of federal offices outside the Washington area.
"President Kennedy showed great foresight when he called for the coordination of federal agencies' activities in 1961, and FEBs have done a good job since then in coordinating their work," said Sen. George Voinovich, R-Ohio, who sponsored the bill along with Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii. "These FEBs need a congressional charter and a set source of funding."
The Federal Executive Boards play a critical role in helping agencies ensure that they don't duplicate each others' efforts during emergencies, as they did during the collapse of a major commuter bridge in Minnesota in 2007. They also help maintain continuity of operations, through multiagency training exercises and coordinate agency emergency and disaster functions, such as the 2007 massive wildfires in Southern California.
Despite those critical roles, until recently FEBs were only loosely overseen by the Office of Personnel Management. Not all the boards had the same level of staff, and employees often were temporarily reassigned from agencies with a high concentration of workers in the boards' jurisdictions. They relied on voluntary contributions from agencies for their funding.
In 2008, then-Director Linda Springer announced that OPM would begin assessing agencies financial charges based on the number of employees they had in FEB jurisdictions. Those fees would provide a central funding pool for FEB activities, Springer said.
Voinovich and Akaka's bill would codify that funding change. But it goes further, requiring agencies to designate senior staff to serve on Federal Executive Boards, and mandating that the boards establish bylaws subject to approval to OPM. The legislation also would require the OPM director to report annually on the boards' activities to Congress and the agencies to ensure FEBs were fulfilling their outreach and coordination functions.
"Federal Executive Boards play a critical role facilitating federal communication and collaboration," Akaka said. "This important legislation will formally authorize Federal Executive Boards and provide a permanent funding mechanism, which will allow the boards to continue their good work."