When President Obama talks about being open to ideas, he's not just talking about those from Congress. In a video message released by the White House yesterday, the president solicited ideas for government reorganization and reform from federal workers themselves.
"We need to reorganize our government so as to best serve the goal of a more competitive America," he said in the message. "We're starting with the areas that handle exports, trade, and business competitiveness. And we need your help."
Reaching out to federal workers to solicit ideas has been part of the administration's strategy in the sweeping reform Obama called for in his State of the Union address. Earlier this month, Federal Chief Performance Officer Jeffrey Zients, who is overseeing the restructuring of 12 federal agencies responsible for trade and export, e-mailed federal workers with a similar request.
The tactic may have arisen out of a desire to maintain good relations with workers after Obama implemented a two-year pay freeze on civilian military and federal employee salaries to help cut spending. By inviting their ideas, the administration acknowledges the challenges they face and asks them to participate in the solution.
And as Zients discussed at a Brookings Institution conference on government reorganization last week, the plans for the restructuring are still in their infancy.
"Every day, you all strive to do your very best work for the American people," Obama told federal employees in his message. "But I know that sometimes, your best efforts are hindered by outdated technology, systems, or programs that don't always work as they should. Your ideas will be a critical part of this effort."
Employees are invited to visit WhiteHouse.gov/FederalVoices to share their ideas. The video and full text of Obama's remarks are below.
"Hello everybody. I want to take a moment to speak with all of you - our federal employees - about a new effort we're undertaking and how you can get involved.
"As public servants, you help to protect our environment and educate our children. You safeguard our public health, serve our veterans, and keep our nation secure. And as President, I'm grateful to you for your service you provide to our country.
"Every day, you all strive to do your very best work for the American people. But I know that sometimes, your best efforts are hindered by outdated technology, systems, or programs that don't always work as they should. The fact is, even as the world around us has changed, our government has much of the same basic structure as it did half a century ago.
"We all know that America can't win the future with a government of the past. We need a government that's more efficient and effective; that gets rid of waste and better harnesses the technologies that have already transformed our economy.
"That's why we started by going through the budget, line by line, making some difficult cuts - even to worthy programs we'd otherwise support. And we're spending smarter and reducing red tape. Because just as families have to make sacrifices in hard times to make ends meet, the government needs to do the same.
"But this isn't just about cutting costs. It's also about making government work better for the people we serve. And we know there are areas where we have room for improvement. For example, we've got a dozen different agencies dealing with trade and exports, and more than 50 federal programs to help entrepreneurs. Oftentimes, our businesses don't know where to turn. And those are just a couple examples.
"That's why we need to reorganize our government so as to best serve the goal of a more competitive America. We're starting with the areas that handle exports, trade and business competitiveness. And we need your help.
"You know what works and what doesn't. And you know why this is so important. So I'm asking you to go to WhiteHouse.gov/FederalVoices to share your thoughts about this project.
"Your ideas will be a critical part of this effort, and I look forward to hearing from all of you in the days ahead.
"Thanks so much."