Budget Director Mick Mulvaney attends a cabinet meeting at the White House on Aug. 16.

Budget Director Mick Mulvaney attends a cabinet meeting at the White House on Aug. 16. Andrew Harnik/AP

White House Instructs Agencies to Stop Performing ‘Low Value’ Work

New OMB guidance aims to cut the burden on agencies, in part by rescinding previous presidents’ reporting requirements.

Building on the president’s management agenda, White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney on Monday sent agency heads new guidance on the cross-agency priority goal of “shifting from low-value to high-value work.”

The fleshed-out requirements are aimed at reducing the reporting burden on agencies as they comply with statutory and executive branch guidance, and they came with a lengthy list of past Office of Management and Budget guidance that is now rescinded.

The “high value” tasks that agencies are directed to shift to, however, resemble many of the initiatives launched during the Obama administration.

They include elimination of obsolete reports, greater use of shared services, and better use of automation to reduce duplicative administrative tasks that support financial management, travel, excess property disposal and procurement. The Trump effort would also ease recruitment to the Senior Executive Service.

Agencies are to designate a senior official as point of contact—most commonly its performance improvement officer. The Office of Personnel Management will then lead a review of current “statutorily-required reports and data-collection mandates, including those within OPM's administrative discretion, to assess the value of data collections from agencies and ensure that unnecessary collections are eliminated,” Mulvaney wrote.

Agencies are to report progress online at the end of the second and fourth quarters, and by the end of fiscal 2019, the memo said, OPM will assess “the need for data reports and frequency of collection...  and determine whether overly burdensome reporting requirements can be eliminated or streamlined.”

If proposed changes require congressional action, OPM will work with lawmakers.

The tasks being assigned in this memo, which was coordinated with the General Services Administration, “are not intended to be burdensome reporting requirements,” Mulvaney cautioned, “and agencies must use their discretion in terms of the types of activities, measurement methodologies, and reporting that best fits their strategies.”

When they can, the memo said, agencies should report progress in terms of full-time hours “shifted to high-value work.” If that’s not possible, agencies should instead report cost savings.

Among other things, the administration wants to create a streamlined alternative to the certification process by which Qualification Review Boards vet candidates for the Senior Executive Service. The current process is burdensome for both agencies and candidates and can delay the entry of qualified executives into federal service by months, Mulvaney wrote, hampering long-term recruiting.

Additionally, OMB has embraced a capital planning investment control reform effort, focusing on simplifying the reporting burdens of agencies’ information technology investment portfolio.

The memo includes a lengthy list of memos from the George W. Bush and Obama administrations that are now rescinded.