Leaner Government


For the second week in a row, President Obama has devoted his weekly radio address to the topic of government reform.  Last week, he used his address to announce the appointment of a chief performance officer and a chief technology officer.  This week, he used his address to lay out a four-point approach to “fundamentally change the way we do business in Washington” and to lay the ground for “two trillion dollars in deficit reduction over the next decade” by:


  • Returning to PAYGO, or pay-as-you-go, in budgeting.
  • Creating incentives for agencies to cut costs and identify savings by allowing them to keep a portion of the savings
  • Soliciting ideas from government employees on how their agencies can save money and perform better
  • Hosting a forum to identify ways business use technology to save money.


Several of these ideas harken back to the days of “reinventing government,” which proposed shared savings as well (but these were scored by the Congressional Budget Office as “costs” under PAYGO so Congress didn’t go along).  Maybe the Obama initiative will be structured in such a way as to make it more palatable to Congress.


The reinventors also solicited ideas from employees and citizens and got over 50,000 letters.  Now with technology, maybe it’ll be easier to get more ideas and act on them more effectively.  The President said: “We’ll put the suggestions that work into practice.  And later this year, I will meet with those who come up with the best ideas to hear firsthand about how they would make your government more efficient and effective.”


Also, former Vice President Al Gore hosted a reinvention summit of business leaders to get the best ideas for improving government– at Constitution Hall in Philadelphia in June 1993.  If someone wants to repeat that experience, remember that the building’s not air conditioned and TV lights are hot! . . . It was a great learning experience though.  Business leaders shared their experiences and said some of the most important things they learned in turning around their organizations were to communicate frequently about direction, move quickly, and actively engage employees in the effort.


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