Should There Be a New Federal Authority for Shared Services?

Partnership’s report stresses benefits of pooling IT, supply chain management.

Federal agencies are fairly adept at collaborating and sharing resources and services during emergencies, such as the Ebola epidemic in 2014 and Superstorm Sandy in 2012. Now a study released Tuesday by the nonprofit Partnership for Public Service recommends a governmentwide scale-up of shared services, such as payroll functions already centralized at the Treasury Department and elsewhere, which would allow agencies to take advantage of private-sector innovation and technology.

While a specialized agency such as the General Services Administration might be a local starting point for such an expansion, “further review and evaluation may lead to the government moving those responsibilities from that existing agency to a newly established office of federal shared services, maximizing independent oversight,” the report said.

“Building a Shared Services Marketplace” is the result of a year-long roundtable of industry consulting experts and officials from GSA, the Office of Management and Budget, the Federal Aviation Administration, the State, Interior and Veterans Affairs departments, the Office of Personnel Management Shared Services Center and NASA.

The space agency merited a case study sidebar in the report detailing its performance metrics offered internally by the NASA Shared Services Center, a fee-for-service entity that provides administrative support to 10 research, space and flight centers across the country.  

Today, more than 75 percent of Fortune 500 companies, national governments from Denmark to Dubai, and state and local governments the world over used a form of shared services in human resources, information technology and supply chain management, the report said. The key to implementation is focusing on innovation, scale and competition for efficiency, while prioritizing the largest agencies first.

The roundtable’s key recommendations include:

  • Create a new governance structure to guide strategy and management of federal shared services;
  • Create an effective market infrastructure and leverage innovative service acquisition models;
  • Establish a standardized performance assessment model; and
  • Implement an interactive government-wide catalog of services and providers.

“There is no doubt that implementing these recommendations will be a difficult task,” the report said. “However, the promise of improved operational efficiency and reduced costs will allow the federal government to free up resources for mission.” (A timeline shows that similar efforts date back to the early 1980s.)

(Image via Bacho/