Koskinen: Invest Now or Pay Later




n late November, John Koskinen, deputy director for management at the Office of Management and Budget, sat down with Government Executive editor and publisher Timothy B. Clark to talk over furloughs, the grim budget outlook, and how agency officials should prepare for lean years ahead. Koskinen warned that in downsizing, agencies-and Congress-might overlook the need for investments in training and information technology.

"You can't take a somebody who's performed work in a certain way and say, 'We are going to empower you, and give you more responsibility,' and then send them a letter and leave them alone," he said. You've got to provide people with the resources to be able to perform in that new function.

"On the other hand, historically in budget negotiations the easiest things to knock out are training and technology support. People don't see that as directly related to the program. When times get tight, you start to think, let's not travel as much, let's not train as much, you don't see the immediate impact of that. If you cut $100 out of student loans you know what that impact is. If you don't provide $100 worth of training, the impact of that takes longer to realize."

With respect to new technology, Koskinen argued, "We have to be smarter buyers of it and better users of it. One of the things we have to quit doing is thinking every agency can design its own state-of-the-art system meeting its own idiosyncratic needs. We don't have the resources nor the luxury to say everyone can have a different way of doing things.

"We ought to adjust our work process to meet real-world systems, rather than trying to get new systems to meet our unique work processes. Every time I say that, people stop and say, 'Gee we never thought of that.' "

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