President Obama Signs Pre-Election Transition Bill

October 29, 2010 by

Based on lessons learned from the 2008 transition, Congress passed a bill providing additional transition planning time, money, and authorities. Public Law 111-283 (October 16, 2010).

Transition 2008-2009 Blog Index

September 1, 2009 by

This is the final entry to the IBM Center’s Presidential Transition 2008-2009 blog.  Following is an index of highlights from the 275 entries over the past two and a half years we’ve been writing.

But we’re not leaving!  The IBM Center for The Business of Government is expanding its blogging, post-presidential transition.  The new blog — The Business of Government Blog – will focus on the broader themes related to the management challenges of implementing President Obama’s agenda and the governance issues facing public sector leaders.  In coming weeks, we will be adding other bloggers, but for now, you can bookmark our new landing page and start reading today.  Share this new link with your friends!

Finally, thanks to our many readers and contributors who made over 95,000 visits to the Presidential Transition 2008-2009 blog!

Blogs on “The Big Picture” — Where Is Government Reform Going?

Blogs on What the Campaigns Said About Government Reform

Blogs on the History of Transitions

Blogs on the 2008 Transition:  Pre-Election

Blogs on the 2008-2009 Transition:  Post-Election

Blogs on The Bush Administration’s Transition-Out Activities

Blogs on the Obama Transition:  The First 100 Days

Post-100 Days:  Staff Transitions and Other Actions

Blogs on Recovery Act Implementation

Blogs on Open Government Implementation

Blogs on Other New Administration Management Initiatives

Blogs on FY 2011 Budget

Blogs on Management Ideas for the New Administration

a.  Getting Results/Governance

b.  Workforce

c.  Technology/Web 2.0

d.  Managing/Improving Performance

e.  Engaging People

f.  Government Contracting

Blogs on Advice for the New Team

Blogs on What Other Groups Are Doing

Where Is Waldo?

August 28, 2009 by

Everyone is familiar with the anonymous military aide who follows the President everywhere carrying the codes to launch nuclear missile attacks. Less known is the anonymous archivist from the National Archives who tracks the President’s minute-by-minute meetings and phone calls.

These records are typically available to historians years later.  Well, President Obama’s “greater transparency” initiative has resulting in some of this information being available on an almost real-time basis.  With this information, the Washington Post has launched “POTUS Tracker” (POTUS is the insider acronym for “President of the United States”).

The most valuable commodity of any President is how he uses his time.  This new website gives insight into how President Obama is spending his. It is a veritable “where is Waldo!”  It graphically depicts what kinds of issues he’s addressing, who he is meeting with, where he is having events around the country, and the kinds of meetings (press conference, rally, etc.).

For those who like to track statistics and are despairing of those of their favorite baseball team, this might be the antidote!

Performance Pay: Here to Stay?

August 27, 2009 by

Not unlike the recent public healthcare debates, the mention of performance-based pay generates much passion.  The continued rollout of the Defense Department’s version of performance pay was put on hold at the beginning of the Obama Administration, pending a study.  That study is now out.  It is short and clear:  continue the pause, rethink some of the initial premises put in place in 2004, engage employees in re-designing the system, and be sure to invest in training managers. While the report concludes” “Successful performance management systems have the potential to enhance organizations performance and drive effective results,” it pointed to several implementation actions taken in recent years that led to frustration by both managers and employees.

Media played up the unions’ disappointment that the system was not rejected outright.   But separately there were strong signals from John Berry, director of the Office of Personnel Management, that President Obama is committed to linking pay to performance as a condition of any broader governmentwide pay reform efforts.

What should be the focus of the “rethink?”  A coalition of good government groups, the Government Performance Coalition, outlined several “key drivers for enhancing the prospects of success:”

Focus first on instituting a proven performance management system.  Performance management must initially be separated from pay.  The system has to be tied to proven improvements in performance, and “an effective performance system must be recognized as benefiting employee motivation and engagement, as well as recruitment and retention, regardless of pay.”

Second, provide for the proper level of transparency.  Without the ability to understand one’s rating or the way in which the process functions, a major reason for the enhanced system is lost.”

And third, reinforce the value of constructive ongoing communications.  Employee-manager feedback and dialogue are important, but oftentimes difficult to achieve.  Training helps, but it is important for leaders to “sustain a workplace culture that values constructive communication.”

Interestingly, these elements were reflected several years ago in an assessment of the performance pay system implemented at the Government Accountability Office.   This isn’t a new topic.  This blog has highlighted several other related IBM Center reports on this topic, if you want to dig into some of the background.

Obama Appointees: Not Yet Halfway There

August 24, 2009 by

“Seven months into his presidency, fewer than half of his top appointees are in place advancing his agenda,” notes Peter Baker in a New York Times story, “Obama’s Team Is Lacking Most of Its Top Players.”

He goes on to say: “Of more than 500 senior policymaking positions requiring Senate confirmation, just 43 percent have been filled. . . . ”  He notes that Obama is trying to fix the financial markets but has no assistant secretary for financial markets.  He is fighting two wars but has no secretary of the Army, and is holding a summit on nuclear nonproliferation but has no assistant secretary of state for nonproliferation.

Dr. Terry Sullivan, executive director of the White House Transition Project, told Baker “If you are running G.M. without half your senior executives in place, are you worried? I’d say your stockholders would be going nuts.”

Baker also describes how there is more progress in putting officials in place than in other recent administrations and how the finger-pointing for the slow pace is “being freely passed around” between the executive and legislative branches.  The White House personnel office offers a higher count of appointees; other sources (such as the Washington Post’s Head Count website) offer lower counts, depending on what positions are included or excluded from the counting.

In a separate story, Chris Dorobek describes how the confirmation of Martha Johnson as administrator of the General Services Administration is being held up in the Senate.  He offers several reasons that are bipartisan in nature:  Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) is mad at GSA for discouraging government conferences in resort locations, like his home state city of Las Vegas, and Senator Kit Bond (R-MO) is blocking action because he wants a federal office building built in Kansas City. . . . meanwhile GSA has no top leader while the agency is facing an historic challenge to effectively manage  a 1,100 percent increase in its spending for the coming year under the Recovery Act.

Transparency in Contracting

August 21, 2009 by

Government Executive’s Robert Brodsky says the Obama Administration plans to raise the bar on making more government contract information available in his article, “Administration Says It Is Committed to Posting Contracts Online.”

The public already has access to some details about government contract awards via www.USASpending.gov, which is a database of federal grants and contracts.  Even more is on the way via www.Recovery.gov, which tracks dollars associated with the implementation of the Recovery Act.  But rarely are the actual contracts available.

Then-candidates Barack Obama and John McCain had co-sponsored legislation last year, The Strengthening Transparency and Accountability in Federal Spending Act of 2008 (S.3077) that would have required agencies to publish more details about their contracts.  It did not go anywhere, and Brodsky reports that it will likely not be actively considered this year, either.  However, President Obama could administratively require agencies to do so.  

Contractors are concerned about potentially exposing proprietary information and agencies are concerned about the overwhelming administrative burdens of redacting such information.  For example, the Defense Logistics Agency alone signs 8,000 contracts a day.  Brodsky notes that it took the General Services Administration two weeks to release a redacted copy of the Recovery.gov contract when requested.

Transparency and government watchdog groups are strongly supporting the potential move. . . .. It’ll be interesting to see how far transparency can go, and how this will change both business and oversight!

Update: The White House Transition Project

August 20, 2009 by

I had lunch yesterday with Martha Kumar, who helps run the White House Transition Project,  and she encouraged a visit to their website to see their “Six Month Review” of the Obama Administration’s transition.  You should visit also!

They’ve got a running tally of the status of presidential appointments as of the six-month point (55 percent identified or confirmed, of the top 542 positions).  They note the delay in confirmations tends to be on the White House side – not the Senate side — of the appointment process.

They have also drafted some essays on specific topics:  a review of Rahm Emanuel’s effectiveness on the job so far (a positive assessment), a review of Jim Jones’s role as national security advisor (still evolving), and a piece on presidential travel (Obama has earned lots of miles!).  Additional essays in production include a piece on the organization of the White House, and the interaction between the President and the press.

Recovery Act: Six Months Old

August 18, 2009 by

recovery1Yesterday’s USA Today cover story was bannered: “Poll: 57%  Don’t See Stimulus Working.”  People are so impatient! Today, it’s the Recovery Act’s 6-month birthday. And yesterday, Recovery Act recipients could start signing up so they can report their progress starting October 1st.  Maybe then, people will see what is really going on with their money!

According to Recovery.gov, as of today there are 25,897 ongoing Recovery Act projects worth a total of $91.1 billion – out of a total of $787 billion authorized to be spent over the next year or so.

In an interview with Barry Bosworth of the Brookings Institution, Federal News Radio’s Suzanne Kubota writes that that the transfer payment (e.g., unemployment insurance extension) and tax reduction elements of the bill got up and running quickly and the direct spending programs in the bill are taking a longer time to get monies out.  This is no real surprise to government watchers – transfer payments and tax rebates don’t require much in the way of program guidance and are largely check-writing operations!

As for the direct payment programs, though, there’s more guidance and reporting.  And there are many more players involved.  Much of the media has focused on transparency of the funding.  This is provided via sites from non-profits, the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board, individual federal agencies, and individual states.

However, how about information for those who have to implement the direct spending programs in federal agencies, states, and localities?  Interestingly, many helpful sites are springing up to aid those in government trying to get it right:

The Council of State Governments has created a Recovery Act website – StateRecovery.org — that aggregates useful information for state officials.

The National League of Cities has dedicated a webpage to Recovery Act news, organized by policy areas where dollars are available (e.g., public safety).

The Association for Government Accountants has created a Recovery Act webpage for its members who have to administer the funds.

Government Executive magazine has created a “Stimulus Checklist” to help feds keep up with what’s going on, along with a series of webinars and forums.

And of course, the Office of Management and Budget has a list of its guidance.

Do you have a favorite resource?  Feel free to add via the “comment” box!

FY 2011 Budget: Place-Based Policies

August 13, 2009 by

“All politics is local,” goes the saying.  And that is particularly true when the government says the population will increase by 140 million by 2050.  Where will they all live, work, shop, and play?

The White House is developing a plan.  A little-noticed memo on place-based policies for the Fiscal Year 2011 budget – co-signed by the heads of OMB, the Domestic Policy Council, National Economic Council and Office of Urban Affairs – promotes interagency coordination in place-based planning and spending.

The memo directs agencies in their budget preparation process for FY 2011 (to be submitted to OMB by September 14) to “identify the top three to five programs or initiatives that . . . show special promise for achieving better outcomes, whether a place-based approach is well established or is newly proposed.”  It also asks agencies to identify associated measurable outcomes, indicators of progress, and options for improving coordination and effectiveness.

As guidance, the memo offers agencies three principles to follow:

  • Use measurable goals. Clear, measurable and carefully evaluated goals should guide investment and regulation.  Goals should be transparent and widely and effectively shared in areas such as economic competitiveness, environmental sustainability, community health and access, and safety and security.
  • Be community-centric.  Change comes from the community level and often through partnership.  The Administration commits to “break down Federal ‘silos’ and invest in such as way that encourages similar coordination at the local level.”  Agencies should engage others as collaborators with ”shared agendas for action, strategies that are smart, success measures that make sense, and implementation focused on results.”
  • Be regional in approach.  Many important challenges demand a regional approach.  Federal investments should promote planning and collaboration across jurisdictional boundaries.

The memo notes that Vice President Biden is “already working to put these principles to work in the implementation of the Recovery Act” and that he has initiated a Community Impact program that brings agencies together to consider the place impact of Recovery Act investments.  It also notes that “Federal partners meet weekly to assess progress and consider next steps in spurring community progress.”

Efforts to Engage the Public

August 12, 2009 by

The healthcare reform debates raging across the country in townhalls and on-line, all show that Americans do want to actively engage in their government.  Obama’s Open Government Directive, which is still under development, intends to expand public involvement.  But various agencies are already jumping in.

The Environmental Protection Agency has long been a leader in engaging citizens.  They’ve developed extensive resources and networks that can be of help to others.  They are currently helping revamp the main website for public participation in e-rulemaking, regulations.gov.  Here, they are encouraging citizen involvement in redesigning the website.

The Office of Personnel Management has posted a draft version of its 2010 strategic plan on line and is asking for both employee and public comment.

The Department of Homeland Security has invited the public to participate in a statutorily required Quadrennial Review of its policies and priorities. Federal Computer Week’s Ben Bain notes that the review covers six areas, such as border security and disaster response.  The first on-line dialogue sponsored by this effort ended several days ago, with 10,000 participants.  The next dialogue will launch at the end of the month, followed by a third several weeks later.

Federal agencies aren’t the only ones getting excited about increasing citizen participation.  A conference held earlier this month brought together over 90 participants committed to “strengthening our nation’s democracy” via a range of efforts, including voting reforms, institutional changes to that way government engages citizens, as well as grassroots organizing.  Participants developed a draft set of action items for Obama’s White House as well as the broader democracy movement, which participant Sandy Heierbacher summarized in her blog:

1. Draft Statement of Principles (The preamble which will likely carry the definitions, values and ethics talked about during the conference)
2. Democracy Skill-Building Agenda (How to transfer knowledge and ability to do this work)
3. Health of Democracy Report (The state of this imperfect union)
4. National Demonstration Projects (To show the real world value of what was proposed)
5. Recognize and Support Engagement by Disenfranchised Communities (To ensure full inclusion)
6. Institutionalize Participatory and Collaborative Governance (Embed it in federal, state and local institutions)
7. Ensure Adequate Resources for Public Engagement (Paying for it)
8. Adopt and Electoral Reform Agenda (Self explanatory — more later)
9. Feedback on Consultation Efforts (Evaluation)
10. Mechanism for Sustaining Leadership (Ensuring that this doesn’t disappear in four years)
11. International Exchange (Learning from our global colleagues)

Details and the final report will be posted here where available.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.