Re-Designing Government


There have long been calls to reorganize the federal government and rethink its programs.  There is legislation proposed by several members of Congress requiring government-wide reviews of federal agencies and programs:   Jim Jordan (R-OH) (HR 477), Kevin Brady (R-TX) ( HR 393), and John Sullivan (R-OK) (HR 1023).  There is also legislation to be proposed on the Senate side by Kent Conrad and Judd Gregg, chair and ranking member of the Budget Committee.   Their proposal focuses more on the reform of entitlement programs like Social Security.  These were the focus of President Obama’s call for fiscal responsibility by reshaping Social Security and Medicare.  The battle cry seems to be for a new “Hoover Commission” with “base closure authority” (a no-amendment, up-or-down vote in Congress).


So it is refreshing to see a proposal for a different approach.  Deloitte Public Leadership Institute has released “Government Reform’s Next Wave,” which provides a roadmap for reforming the federal government to meet the challenges of the 21st century.  It reaches beyond other studies of how to approach government reform by taking a new tack.


First, the research effort started with a review of past reform commissions and concluded that none of those approaches would work in today’s environment.  The researchers then convened a group of experts who reached consensus on “the need to start with a few major national priorities such as breaking our dependence on foreign oil and then work backward to determine the structure and systems necessary to accomplish these ambitious goals.”  This is almost the opposite approach of past reform efforts.


Second, there was agreement that Congress had a key role in ensuring success, but required a new institutional mechanism to enable it to “act on national priorities in a concerted way.”  The study recommended a congressional performance resolution, which would be akin to the existing budget resolution, and would focus on broad national goals that would in turn be turned into a reconciliation bill that addresses the elements of these goals via the traditional committee structure.


Would this work?  The politics aren’t clear at this point, but the possibility of rethinking government without reorganizing is more conceivable, given the use of technology to work across organizational boundaries.  The Lipnack-Stamps “virtual organization chart of the federal government” is a great example of this (it takes a minute to load, but move your cursor over the different agencies!).


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