Senator Barak Obama described his Washington reform agenda yesterday in a speech in Wisconsin. It was backed up with an 11-page list of fairly specific action steps. His agenda was divided into three parts – one on curbing lobbyist and special interest groups, one on government reform, and one addressing the need to modernize financial regulations to deal with the ongoing crisis in the financial markets. In the section dealing with curbing influence, he reiterated previous pledges such as conducting significant public business of agencies in public, archiving videos of these meetings on the web, and requiring cabinet officials to have periodic “21st Century Fireside Chats.”
In his speech, Obama said “we will use technology and lessons from the private sector to improve efficiency across every level of government — because we cannot meet twenty-first century challenges with a twentieth century bureaucracy.”
Following is a summary of the elements in the second part of his agenda, dealing with government reform:
Make Government More Effective
Create a new Chief Performance Officer who reports directly to the president. This person will work with agencies to set tough performance targets and hold managers accountable for progress. This person will be supported by a High Performance SWAT Team composed of top-performing and highly-trained government professionals. This person would: (1) lead a line-by-line review of the budget; (2) lead governmentwide and agency-by-agency performance target-setting and tracking; and (3) go into failing programs with the SWAT team to conduct a turn-around.
The president will meet regularly with cabinet officers to review the progress their agencies are making toward meeting performance improvement targets.
Reconfigure the OMB Program Assessment Review Tool (PART). “Barak Obama will fundamentally reconfigure PART. He will open up the insular performance measurement process to the public, Congress and outside experts.” He will “ensure that programs are not only (sic) measured in isolation, but are assessed in the context of other programs that are serving the same population or meeting the same goals.”
“Obama’s performance improvement effort will include cross-agency performance where service delivery requires coordination across federal agencies and multiple levels of government.”
Implement consequences for success and failure. For failing programs, Obama will “take steps like sending in performance teams to reform programs; replacing existing management; demanding improvement action plans; and cutting program budget or eliminating programs entirely.”
Move workers from bloated bureaucracies to the frontlines. There are too few workers on the front lines in local offices across the country. “Obama will thin the ranks of Washington middle managers.”
Eliminate wasteful redundancy. “Obama will conduct an immediate and periodic public inventory of administrative offices and functions and require agency leaders to work together to root out redundancy. Where consolidation is not the right strategy to improve efficiency, Obama will improve information sharing and use of common assets to minimize wasteful duplication.”
Streamline government procurement. Obama will implement GAO’s recommendations to reduce erroneous federal payments, reduce procurement costs with purchase cards, and better manage surplus federal property.
Protect whistleblowers. Obama will strengthen whistleblower laws to protect workers who expose waste, fraud, and abuse.
Increase the use of technology. Obama will appoint a Chief Technology Officer to “ensure that our government and all its agencies will have the right infrastructure, policies and services for the 21st century . . . Like he has in the campaign, Obama will employ innovate technologies, including blogs, wikis, social networking tools and other new strategies, to modernize internal, cross-agency, and public communications and information sharing.”
Cut Wasteful Spending
Line by line review of the budget. Conduct “an exhaustive line-by-line review of the federal budget and seek to eliminate government programs that are not performing and demand that new initiatives be selected on the basis of their merits.”
Slash earmarks. “Obama is committed to returning earmarks to less than $7.8 billion a year, the level they were before 1994,” from the $29 billion level in 2006.
Sunlight on corporate tax loopholes. “Obama will require any tax bill considered by Congress to include a Corporate Tax Impact Statement that would disclose which industries or specific companies would be expected to benefit from the new tax breaks.” He also said that he would create an agency “charged with identifying recipient of corporate subsidies” that would be charged with identifying “wasteful subsidies that should be eliminated.”
Fix Government Contracting
Cut federal spending on contractors by at least 10 percent. “Obama will reform federal contracting and reduce the number of contractors, saving $40 billion a year.”
Restore management and oversight capacity. Obama will “ensure that contract oversight remains within the federal government” and will “require audits of a quarter of large contracts each year, focusing in the first year on noncompetitive and cost-plus contractions. The audits will verify performance and cost savings. . . .”
End abusive no-bid contracts and minimize the use of cost-plus contracts. “Obama will require each federal agency to defend each of its noncompetitive contracts to the Office of Management and Budget.. . . Obama will encourage the use of fixed-cost or incentive-based contracts and where cost-plus contracts are necessary, force agencies to use mitigating procedures like incentives tied to performance goals and costs savings.”
No federal contracts for tax delinquent companies. Obama will prohibit seriously delinquent contractors from getting contracts for government work.
Tags: chief performance officer, chief technology officer, contractors, earmarks, fireside chats, no-bid contracts, OMB, oversight, PART, Programa Assessment Review Tool, SWAT Team, tax loopholes, wasteful spending, whistleblowers