Senate Hearing on Transition

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A Senate subcommittee held a hearing last week on what the executive branch is doing to prepare for the upcoming transition.  A House subcommittee plans a similar hearing next week, on the 24th. 

Here are highlights and links to the hearing held by Senator Daniel Akaka, chair of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee’s Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management, the Federal Workforce, and the District of Columbia.

OMB Deputy Director for Management.

Clay Johnson, who led President Bush’s transition into government, is also organizing Bush’s transition out.  He said their goal “is to do a better job than has ever been done before to help the next Administration prepare to govern.”  He outlined several actions:

** Guidance to agencies in July encouraging them to designate a career executive to be the point person during the transition.  He plans to convene these designated officials for the first time in a meeting on September 24th (before the planned House hearing) to discuss with them best practices and “ensure that these individuals understand the needs of the incoming and outgoing Administrations.”

** Work with the White House Office of Presidential Personnel (which he used to head) to develop roadmaps that the new Administration can follow so they can fill the top 100 jobs by April 1, 2009, and 400 by August 1st.  In the Bush Administration, only 29 of the top jobs had been filled by April 1, 2001.  According to Government Executive, Johnson said he has been in contact with both the Obama and McCain transition teams and “Both campaigns are really engaged and eager to tackle this assignment.”

** He has ensured there is a comprehensive foundation of performance information for the next Administration.  Under his leadership, OMB has updated its assessments of the performance of 1,017 government programs.  But in addition, OMB has created a “go to” website for agency performance information.  This includes their strategic plans, GAO high-risk programs, accountability reports, and FY 2009 budget justifications for each major agency.  This website will serve as a valuable tool for any incoming team.

He is also providing the transition teams his personal “lessons learned.” 

According to Federal Computer Week, Johnson says the next president “will not inherit an empty blackboard but a blackboard full of clear goals, lots of accountability, lots of specific ways forward.”

Acting Comptroller General.

Gene Dodaro outlined the actions his agency, the Government Accountability Office, plans to undertake during the transition.  He said his agency “will provide congressional and executive branch policymakers with a comprehensive snapshot of how things are working across government.” 

Dodaro says GAO will shortly unveil a new transition website “which will contain information on major challenges facing key departments and agencies.”  This will include un-implemented recommendations from relevant GAO reports, information on cross-cutting management issues, cross-cutting programmatic issues, and background information on the nation’s long-term fiscal challenges.

GAO will also release an updated list of high-risk programs in January.  The current list covers 28 areas, such as defense contracting and the 2010 decennial census.

In 2006, GAO provided Congress a list of 36 areas for oversight; many of these will likely be the foundation for this effort.  It plans to update this list for the next Congress.

In conclusion, Dodaro committed to updating GAO’s list of questions for use in Senate confirmation hearings for presidential appointees, which it developed for the 2000 transition.

Also testifying were the head of the Office of Government Ethics, Robert Cusick, and the transition lead for the General Services Administration, Gail Lovelace.  I’ll provide more on their testimony down the road.

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