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Here's Our Chance to Fix Government Once and for All

Landmark legislation would provide the real power needed to cut waste.

The federal government is on an unsustainable fiscal path that threatens our national security and social safety net. While many cuts and changes have taken place, government has yet to address the effective management of programs that serve the American people.

Landmark bipartisan legislation introduced in June would provide Congress and the president with the tools and resources needed to transform government programs so they are efficient, effective and economical. On June 18, Reps. Cheri Bustos, D.-Ill., and Mike Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., introduced the Government Transformation Act (HR 2826), and soon it will be introduced in the Senate by Sens. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., and Joe Manchin, D-W.V.

Many federal programs are duplicative, fragmented, not meeting their intent, or just plain inefficient. For example, there are 15 different agencies that oversee food safety at a cost of $1.6 billion per year, 76 drug abuse programs costing $4.5 billion per year, and $1.7 billion is spent maintaining unused federal buildings. The newspaper is full of articles about hundreds of millions of dollars being spent on information technology programs that are later dropped or shown to be not achieving intended outcomes. Whether we are spending on military uniforms, catfish inspections, job training, or national security, the American people deserve programs that are efficiently and effectively managed. Freeing up scarce resources and money for vital government services can help.  

The purpose of this legislation is to establish an entity to assess, transform and report on government programs, as well as eliminate or fix programs that aren’t working. For those changes requiring legislative action, the office would be required to make specific and actionable recommendations and Congress would have to act with a guaranteed vote. Once efficiency and effectiveness measures have been taken, the office would report the results to Congress and the president. The legislation would ensure effective bipartisan governance, a complete systemic approach and transparency. It supports federal workers through training and would create efficiency champions throughout government. 

“Every year, think tanks, auditors, investigators and the [Government Accountability Office] crank out report after report concluding the same thing—too many federal government programs are inefficient, costly, ineffective, or all of the above,” Bustos said while introducing the bill. 

“And yet every year, these conclusions are largely ignored,” Fitzpatrick added. “Our common sense bipartisan bill attacks government waste and helps ensure government programs are more economical, efficient, and effective . . . giving us common ground to begin the larger discussion on reining in government programs and reducing our $18 trillion national debt.” 

Both representatives are members of No Labels and the Problem Solvers, whose mission is to “fix not fight” to get our government working right.

As someone who is apolitical and has been working in Washington on efficiency and effectiveness for well over 30 years, I regard this legislation as critical to not only stepping up the game but ensuring it gets done.  While Congress and the Office of Management and Budget have certain responsibilities in this area, they have few resources to get it done. With all the complaining that goes on in Washington about the ineffectiveness of government, this is the first piece of legislation that would finally have the teeth and provide the capacity to address this need. It not only ensures efficient and effective programs, it also supports federal employees with training and the tools to get the job done.

The resulting oversight entity must pay for itself, which frankly is a pretty easy task.  As the legislation is designed, this would not be a group that makes recommendations and hopes someone pays attention—it would see it through and transparently demonstrate real results.

I urge members of Congress to contact the sponsors of this legislation and learn more about it. Groups that want to get involved or learn more should contact Bob Understein, president of the Government Transformation Initiative, at bob.understein@gticoalition.org.

Improvement efforts have come before, including the National Performance Review, the Performance Appraisal Assessment Tool and the Government Performance and Results Modernization Act. It is time to harness the good work of these and other initiatives and for Congress to do something tangible that will result in a more effective government. The Government Transformation Act has the right purpose and the teeth to make it happen.        

Steve Goodrich is CEO of the Center for Organizational Excellence Inc., vice chair of the Government Transformation Initiative and chairman of the board for the Association of Management Consulting Firms.

(Image via Sergey Nivens/Shutterstock.com

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