“It will allow us to address the $200 billion in duplication in programs identified by the Government Accountability Office," Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., said.

“It will allow us to address the $200 billion in duplication in programs identified by the Government Accountability Office," Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., said. Susan Walsh/AP

Good-Government Gurus Embrace, Expand on Obama Management Agenda

Ex-OMB performance leader questions GOP plan for inventory of federal programs.

President Obama’s recently revitalized second-term management agenda earned a thumbs-up from a quartet of private and nonprofit reform advocates during a congressional hearing on Monday, though the good government experts had plenty of additional suggestions, ranging from focusing agencies on a few major problems to revamping the federal hiring process.

Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee ranking member Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., framed Monday’s discussion of performance-based management items in Obama’s fiscal 2015 budget around the Taxpayers Right to Know Act. The Republican-backed bill to require an inventory of federal programs passed the House in February and has 37 senator co-sponsors, Coburn noted. “It will allow us to address the $200 billion in duplication in programs identified by the Government Accountability Office, to give us a basic stat sheet for every agency so we know what we’re doing and what’s the plan.”

But Shelley Metzenbaum, former associate director for performance and personnel management at the Office of Management and Budget and now president of the nonprofit Volcker Alliance, cautioned that “before adding new data requirements, we should ask what question we are trying to answer.” The bill is worthy of consideration, she said, but she added she “fears it could exacerbate silos. If we make programs the primary unit of reporting, people will protect their turf. Are we talking about clean water or clean water in Delaware? Rulemaking or inspections? You really want it to be about clean water.”

Instead, Metzenbaum recommended that Congress and the administration together “shine a spotlight on a few mission areas and find out what is working and what is not.”

Overall, the past three administrations have made “noteworthy progress” on management, she said, but “too few agencies are using goals for refining priorities. We need to spend more time implementing -- using performance data to find ways to improve, to use goals to communicate priorities, rather than just completing reports.”

The government also needs to consult the state “laboratories of democracy” and find ways to more quickly tap private-sector expertise, she said. The federal hiring process, Metzenbaum added, “is seriously limited, [and] the intern process, just plain broken.”

Max Stier, president and CEO of the nonprofit Partnership for Public Service --which on Wednesday is unveiling a proposal for comprehensive civil service reform -- also stressed problems in hiring. Only 7 percent of federal employees are under age 30, compared with 23 percent in the private sector, he said. “We’re not diverse, and we’re not taking the best talent out of our universities.”

Among eight specific reform proposals, Stier suggested allowing agencies to work together on recruiting talent, noting that current rules prohibit, for example, the Homeland Security Department from interviewing 10 qualified cyber-security employees, hiring five and then sending the other five to another agency. “Instead the other agency has to start over,” he said.

Overall, Stier said, there’s not enough focus on management issues. “You won’t see change in agencies without long-term leadership being held accountable,” he said. Senior executives should be accountable for engaging their employees to improve morale, an approach put in place successfully at the Transportation Department by since-retired Secretary Ray LaHood, Stier said.

Other reforms should include “treating government as a single enterprise,” which means allowing more sharing of services and employees, such as detailing congressional staff to agencies, he said. He also recommended that Congress hold hearings on improving presidential transitions, reducing the number of federal jobs requiring Senate confirmation, and reforming compensation so that the government isn’t “paying a physicist the same as a physical therapist.”

Robert Shea, a principal at Grant Thorton LLP, detailed his work on management reforms such as agency “scorecards” at OMB during the George W. Bush administration. “Agencies made real progress during this period,” he said, “and today we have a new opportunity. But without clear metrics to gauge program performance, it will be difficult to tell what we actually achieve. We know far too little about which programs work best.”

Shea recommended focusing on programs GAO has identified as duplicative or high-risk. “If we can move just a fraction of the government's investments into more proven approaches, the results could be dramatic,” he said.

Tom Lee, a technical director at the Sunlight Foundation, backed the Taxpayer Right to Know Act as well as the also-pending Data Accountability and Transparency Act, which would centralize and standardize agencies’ data formats to make information more accessible to the public. He faulted the quality of data on USAspending.gov, noting a vast difference between what it reports and what his analysts concluded about welfare spending going directly to the Catalogue of Federal Domestic Assistance.

“The government’s failure to dedicate data to spending on private contractors leaves a high potential for waste,” he said, noting that it led to the initial inability to identify CGI Federal as the main contractor during the bungled rollout of the Healthcare.gov website run by the Health and Human Services Department. Existing websites “avoid transparency on contractor compensation rates to obfuscate,” he said.

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.