Posts Tagged ‘GAO’

Performance Pay: Here to Stay?

August 27, 2009

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.


Performance Management Advice: Build on Foundation

July 10, 2009

Last week, another consortium of good government proponents released a report, “Building a Better Government Performance System: Recommendations to the Obama Administration.”  Sponsored by the Accenture Institute for Public Service Value, the Georgetown Public Policy Institute, and OMB Watch, the report reflects the results of a workshop they hosted last year as their public service contribution to the transition effort.

The resulting report has both principles and recommendations to the Obama Administration on how it might best move forward on its management initiative “Putting Performance First.”  Robert Brodsky, with Government Executive, characterized the bottom line of the report as “Groups Warn Against Reinventing the Wheel on Management Reform,” which is actually a big step forward!


  • Enhance the public’s right to know how well government programs work
  • Strengthen leadership and accountability from top to bottom
  • Modify, don’t trash, current systems
  • Re-balance the roles of OMB and federal agencies
  • Improve performance and accountability with positive reinforcement
  • Seek input from outside stakeholders


  • Reform the implementation of the OMB Program Assessment Rating Tool and the Government Performance and Results Act by “developing ownership throughout agencies over performance measurement and reporting.”
  • Promote leadership and accountability by having leader focus on results and ensuring federal employees buy into the performance system.
  • Foster policy innovation and ownership with the use of positive reinforcement and an emphasis on improvement, not punishment.
  • Balance the roles of OMB and federal agencies by engaging agencies, and agency performance improvement officers, in program assessments and making OMB’s performance activities more transparent.
  • Engage outside stakeholders in providing feedback on program performance as well as linking performance reviews to the congressional budget process.

Some of these recommendations had been made in earlier reports (see GAO and IBM Center), but the good news is that the Administration seems to be committed to taking action on a number of them.

Leadership Advice: Don’t Ignore Management 101

July 9, 2009

I attended an event yesterday evening billed as “What It Takes to Change Government.” Hosted by the Partnership for Public Service, it was the culmination of a nearly two-year research project supported by Booz Allen Hamilton as their public service contribution to the presidential transition effort.

Background.  The report, summarized by the Washington Post’s Joe Davidson in yesterday’s edition, set out to identify the methods and techniques of successful leaders.  The study was led by Harvard’s Steve Kelman, who studied 17 federal leaders, both successful and unsuccessful, to find out what they did different.  In the process, his research team interviewed these leaders.  In addition, they interviewed more than 250 others – public servants, OMB and GAO staffs, congressional staff, and other stakeholders — about these leaders’ performance.  The interview data were used to test 46 hypotheses (based on a review of the management literature) related to political management, leadership and internal capabilities, and strategy development.

Were successful leaders made or born?  Were external factors (e.g., luck) more important than leadership behaviors?  Is leadership more important than management?  See the academic version of the paper! 

What did they find?  The findings were not startling.  They found the basics work.  Successful leaders used similar techniques, and these techniques can be found in any Management 101 course: develop a strategic plan with a small number of goals, work proactively with stakeholders (including employees), use performance measures to assess progress and hold people accountable, and spend time managing your organization. Probably the most counter-intuitive point was:  reorganize when necessary.  Typically, public sector leaders avoid reorganizations because they are so divisive and time-consuming.

Unsuccessful leaders tended to not use these techniques.  For example, they might develop a strategic plan, but not engage employees or stakeholders.  The unanswered (and possibly unanswerable) question is:  if we know what works, why don’t people do it?

The event.  The Partnership event showcased Dr. Kelman and three former leaders interviewed during the project who were judged as “successful,” David Walker, former head of the Government Accountability Office, Adm. James Loy, former commandant of the Coast Guard, and Charles Rossetti, former commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service.   Interestingly, each headed agencies with few or no other political appointees and each had a fixed term of office. 

Each offered their insights on leadership elements, often overlapping with the findings of the report.  For example, Walker cited the importance of strategic planning, employee feedback, customer satisfaction, and quality of work.  Admiral Loy advised to look for people who are “damn good at those thinks you’re not so good at.  Whose opinion you value.  Whose counsel you trust.  Surround yourself, so to speak, with those elements that will not only strengthen your strengths, but strengthen your shortfalls.”

Interesting tidbits.  The report was well-summarized by the news media.  However, here are some interesting highlights from both the report and the event:

  • Successful agency heads had one-tenth the number of political appointees working for them than those judged as unsuccessful.
  • Unsuccessful leaders determined goals without substantial data regarding the external environment, internal capabilities, or the risks they faced.
  • The more time spent outside the agency, the less likely a leader is to succeed.  Successful leaders spent about one-half their time focused within their agency.
  • When using performance measures, unsuccessful leaders most often considered only cost and production.  Successful leaders more often added measures of customer satisfaction and quality, oftentimes based on measures developed outside their agency as a way of adding credibility.
  • Three-quarters of successful agency leaders reorganized their agencies – not because they wanted to do so, but because their agency’s existing structure hindered achieving goals.  For example, Rossetti said IRS had 16 different IT departments.  To create an interoperable IT system, he consolidated them into one.

Want more on the elements of Management 101?  Visit the IBM Center’s transition book on-line:  “The Operator’s Manual for the New Administration!”

Transparency and Open Government: Congress-Style

January 28, 2009

 The 647-page proposed economic stimulus bill (H.R. 1) not only contains the spending details for the $825 billion measure, it also includes a series of transparency and accountability provisions.  Some of these reinforce the Obama transparency directive; others may make it more difficult to implement.  For example, the increased funding for inspectors general  (which oftentimes tend to focus on enforcing existing procedures and hierarchy, even if antiquated) could run counter to Obama’s call for more cross-agency and cross-sector collaboration.  Strong leadership across the Inspector General (IG) community could overcome this potential impediment, however.   Here are some highlights:

  •  Designated IG offices get increased appropriations of nearly $250 million.  For example, the Agriculture IG gets an additional $22.5 million.  The Government Accountability Office receives an additional $25 million.  Now what would they audit?  Not just waste.  Here are some specific provisions they’ll have to ensure compliance with:
  • None of the monies can be “used for any casino or other gambling establishment, aquarium, zoo, golf course, or swimming pool.”  (these restrictions are examples of perceived past egregious behaviors; the bill, however, forgot to ban the construction of pyramids — an particularly spectacular economic development project that received a Golden Fleece Award in its time).
  • All iron and steel in stimulus projects has to be made in the USA.
  • All laborers and mechanics employed by contractors on projects funded by the economic stimulus bill have to be paid “prevailing wages.” (also known as Davis-Bacon Act wages).
  • All entities receiving stimulus bill funding have to participate in the E-verify program (so no illegal immigrants receive any funding).
  • Federal agencies have to publish a plan for how they will spend their monies on a new website: (is this the first time a web domain address has been legislated?)
  • Each contract or grant issued using funds from the stimulus bill has to be posted on the internet and linked to
  • Contracts, “to the maximum extent possible,” are to be fixed-price contracts, using competitive procedures.


To oversee these requirements, a Recovery Act Accountability and Transparency Board (RAAT-B? what an acronym!) will be established to coordinate oversight of federal spending under the stimulus bill “to prevent waste, fraud, and abuse.” There will be 7 members appointed by the president and it will be chaired by the Chief Performance Officer and provided a $14 million budget.  The board will issue both “flash reports” and quarterly reports, and annual reports.  It also runs the website.


The bill also establishes a 5-member independent advisory panel to advise the RAAT-B.  It would provide advice on how the Board can prevent waste, fraud, and abuse.

The Transition Out

January 13, 2009

There’s only a week left in the Bush Administration.  Some remaining appointees are probably feeling a bit left behind since it will be hard to find new jobs in this economy.  However, the departing team has received kudos from many in a number of areas as they try to have an effective transition process.  In fact, they seem to have read the January 2009 Harvard Business Review piece by Thomas Friel and Robert Duboff, “How to Ace Your Last 100 Days.”
Interagency Transition Councils.  Last week was the final meeting of the Presidential Transition Coordinating Council, an interagency group of high level Bush Administration officials meeting with top members of the 1,000-person Obama transition effort (which has over 100 teams!).  The coordinating council was created by executive order in October.
An interagency career-level transition council was also formed.  This seems to have been a “first” in transitions. Mid-summer, OMB asked agencies to designate a career senior executive who would be the point person for their agency during the transition.  These officials were convened as an interagency group several times to share best practices.
Tying Up Loose Ends.  The outgoing Bush Administration left some parting gifts that should help ease the incoming team’s transition by providing a baseline.  For example, last week it released two-page “performance snapshots” for each agency, which included their mission statement, organization, budget, and performance and financial results.  They’ve also tried to clean up some administrative loose ends, such as the memo attempting to streamline the security clearance process.
Accelerating Appointments.  The outgoing administration seems to be providing significant support to the incoming team in getting the incoming team cleared through administrative hurdles related to political appointments.  In 2001, only 29 officials had been confirmed and put in place after the first 100 days.  The joint goal in 2009 is to have 100 officials in place after the first 100 days.  The FBI, Office of Government Ethics, and staff in individual agencies seem to be helping.
Designating Acting Officials.  Agencies seem to be systematically designating career officials to serve in acting roles.  The agency with the best public track record to date is the Department of Homeland Security.
Practicing for the Worst.  The outgoing Administration also arranged a joint disaster exercise so the incoming officials could see what the current capacities are for handling disasters during the uncertain periods of a transition.  A major exercise was held this morning, according to the Washington Post.
Burrowing In.  The media has focused on some contentious issues such as cases where political appointees have “burrowed in” to the career civil service.  The Washington Post seems to be following this closely in a series of stories:  positions in the Interior Department were highlighted, as well as Commerce and Energy, but other positions were documented as well.
 However the instances they’ve uncovered seem to be at a lesser level than prior administrations, based on past GAO reports.
Midnight Regulations.  The White House chief of staff Josh Bolten publicly announced in mid-2008 that the Bush Administration would not issue any “midnight regulations,” at the last minute in the Administration.  Again, media reports suggest that there may have been some breaches to this policy in areas such as off-shore drilling, access to lands in the West, logging, and relaxing some consumer protection and environmental rules.  Some also lump last-minute executive orders in this category, such as Bush’s removal of certain agencies from the jurisdiction of the Federal Labor-Relations purview in December.  However, the instances of their use still seem less than in prior administrations.  Only the remaining week will tell, though!
Pardons.  President Bush has been historically parsimonious in his use of pardons.  His use has increased in recent months, but a recent snafu in examining candidates led to one person being pardoned who had his pardon rescinded the next day after there was a hint of possible impropriety in his release.  Again, there’s a week left, but it seems he has used this power sparingly.  Still, maybe he’ll pardon those in the Clinton Administration who removed the “W” keys from the White House computers during the last transition!
                                           * * * * *
When the history of the Obama Transition is written, likely much will be made of how organized it was and how it made effective use of its early days in office.  The outgoing team, though, will likely have a positive footnote in that history.  It would be a great step if some academics – or insiders from both the Bush and Obama teams — were to document the Obama transition effort to validate the impressions I’ve gotten, but more importantly to capture best practices that future presidents and transition teams might use.

Tough Jobs

January 1, 2009

The top cabinet picks are chosen.  But professor Paul Light in an article for the Washington Post,Low-Profile Jobs That Will Stay That Way, If Obama is Prudent,” highlights ten of the most challenging jobs in the federal government. Each of these positions is further described in the Council for Excellence in Government’s “Prune Book On-Line:”



The Prune Book summarizes over 100 key subcabinet jobs.  Not sure how many of these will be filled from the on-line jobs application (understand there are more than 400,000 applicants so far). 


Are there others you think would be more important than the ones selected by Dr. Light?  He touches on some of the key jobs dealing with healthcare, for example.  But he seems to focus on positions with traditional, longer-term management challenges raised by the Government Accountability Office and recent headlines, but not the seemingly more urgent positions that would deal with the economy, the bailout, or climate change/energy, which seem to be on the top of the Obama Transition agenda.

Getting Appointed: Part II

November 17, 2008
John Kamensky, Senior Fellow

John Kamensky, Senior Fellow

I’ve recently gotten plenty of calls, and had quite a number of lunch engagements, around the same topic:  “How do I get a political appointment in the Obama Administration?”  I can’t say I’m an expert on getting a job, but you should first know what you’re getting into!

First, you can express interest via the Obama Transition website. has a “Jobs” button where you can fill out a short form and if they’re interested, they’ll contact you for more information.  Of course this doesn’t substitute for knowing somebody high up in the transition team or the campaign or Congress, but it is one avenue.  Another is to be on the transition team; that’s a place to audition and be seen.  There’s also an interesting website that Avue (a technology company) created that provides some guidance.

Second, look at what kinds of jobs are actually available.  The 2008 Plum Book lists all the political positions.  But it’s just that, a list.  It doesn’t have any background as to what the positions actually entail.  I understand that the outgoing Bush Administration has crafted position descriptions for many key positions and shared that information with the Obama Transition Team.  Theoretically, these descriptions should help identify the kinds of skills and capabilities the transition team should be looking for when recruiting for specific positions.

The Council for Excellence in Government prepares something they call the “Prune Book,” – a play on the Plum Book (where a Prune is an experienced Plum).  The 2008 version is now on line and describes 114 of the toughest jobs in the government.  It provides some historical context and background for each of these positions so you can see if you’ve got the talent and interest to be considered.  Similarly, you can look at the transcripts for IBM Center Radio Shows of senior appointees, which are searchable by agency or job description.  These transcripts highlight the responsibilities of the job holders and the issues they are grappling with.  However, all these positions are not necessarily political positions.

Third, understand the pathway to an appointment.  The Council has also just released an interactive “roadmap” for people interested in a political appointment.  It lays out the steps for the various kinds of appointments:  a political appointment that requires Senate confirmation (about 1,100 positions), a political appointment that does not require confirmation, a non-career senior executive appointment, and a Schedule C appointment (which covers positions up to a GS-15 rank). The roadmap gives you insights into what the steps are and what to expect along each of these paths.  It’s worth going through this “self diagnosis” to see if a political appointment is right for you!

Fourth, if selected, you’ll face intense scrutiny.  The Transition Team/White House has a 63-question questionnaire you’ll have to fill out.  Look at it to see if you have the stomach for going further!  Some of the questions are likely to be impossible to answer, like: furnish all resumes issued by you in the past 10 years (#1) and provide copies or recordings of every speech you’ve ever given (#12).  Other questions include:  describe the most controversial matters you have been involved in during your career (#8) have you had a physical in the past year and are in good health (#60)?  And the wrap-up (#63): provide any other information, including information about your family, that could be embarrassing.

If you pass this screen, you’ll then likely face an FBI security clearance.  That requires filling out a Form SF86 or other equivalent form and interviews with the FBI and investigations into your background including questioning your neighbors and friends.  At the same time, you’ll have to fill out Form SF278 financial disclosure statement for the Office of Government Ethics and they will have to certify your not having any conflicts of interest.  You may need to divest yourself of stock, etc., that may be judged to be a potential conflict of interest (and in this market, that may be a tough decision).  And if you are pursuing a Senate confirmed position, each Senate Committee has its own questionnaire about your personal background – and at some point questions about your substantive knowledge regarding the policy area you would be pursuing (see GAO’s suggested questions in 2001; they’ll likely update this list for use in 2009).

Finally, part of the advice I give, is . . . if you are really interested in public service, look at a career position at!

GAO Transition Website Announced

November 6, 2008

gao_sealThe Government Accountability Office launched a new website filled with advice to the Obama Transition Team and the new Congress.  The site has a series of tabs that drill down into different issues:

The 13 “Urgent Issues” GAO identified based on its work that require urgent attention and continuing oversight to ensure the nation’s security and well-being are:
• Caring for Service Members
• Defense Readiness
• Defense Spending
• Food Safety
• Oversight of Financial Institutions and Markets
• Preparing for Large-Scale Health Emergencies
• Protecting the Homeland
• Public Diplomacy and International Broadcasting
• Retirement of the Space Shuttle
• Surface Transportation
• The 2010 Census
• Transition to Digital TV

In addition to the urgent issues, the new GAO Web site includes sections on:

Agency-by-Agency Issues.  Each agency faces a range of distinctive major challenges affecting its mission, budget, and programs. Here, GAO summarizes its work at 28 federal agencies. This section allows new appointees to quickly and easily review GAO’s findings and recommendations on challenges facing each particular agency.

Management Challenges Across the Government.  Agencies share a number of management challenges to improve operational efficiency and effectiveness and address current and emerging demands.

Major Cost-Saving Opportunities.  A number of opportunities exist to limit costs and reduce waste across agencies and programs, as well as increase collection of revenues already due the government. GAO discusses about 50 such opportunities.

Long-Term Fiscal Outlook. This section describes the federal government’s long-term fiscal challenges.

Examples of Upcoming GAO reports on Major National Issues. GAO’s forthcoming work focuses on a wide range of key federal policies and programs.

There’s even a video introduction by Acting Comptroller General Gene Dodaro!

P.S. — Thanks to Dan Coberly for flagging this new resource for us!

What Does a 21st Century Government Look Like?

October 14, 2008

Senator Obama says we need to move from a 20th century government to a 21st century government.  Like Senator McCain, he is calling for a program-by-program review of the existing government.  But neither of them paint a picture of what a 21st century government might look like.

They should look to what the states are doing.  A recently released IBM Center report, on what state governments are doing to transform themselves, might be a place to start seeing what a 21st century government might look like.  The report, “Four Strategies for Transforming State Governance,” by the late Dr. Keon Chi (a long-time researcher for the Council of State Governments) describes a range of very interesting ideas – already in practice in state government — that might inspire their government reform agendas.

Chi identified four transformation strategies that he felt could be acted upon in a relatively short period of time without investing a great deal of additional resources and without partisan debates.  They are based on an assumption that states can transform themselves by using best practices developed and tested by other states as starting points rather than attempting to reinvent the wheel or replicate federal or private-sector management practices.

The four strategies that he felt can transform state governance are:  (1) anticipatory governance, (2) results-focused governance, (3) collaborative governance, and (4) transparent governance.  

Anticipatory Governance:  Anticipatory governance aims to shift from short-term decision-making to long-term and strategic planning.  Individual agency plans and objectives are swapped for statewide plans with shared visions and goals.  Successful anticipatory government initiatives include:

Minnesota 2020 Caucus.  A bi-partisan legislative caucus that foresees the policy and demographic challenges the state will face in the coming decades.

Century Commission for a Sustainable Florida.  The Commission provides annual reports to the legislature and Governor on issues related to population growth, infrastructure, natural resources, and natural disasters.

Hawaii 2050 Sustainability Task Force.  The task force’s plan charts a visible and lasting course for the Islands over the next four decades.

Virginia Performs.  Governor Tim Kaine initiated this program to empower agency heads to embrace the state’s existing results-focused system and prioritize performance.

At the federal level, there is no similar effort.  GAO has long called for a government-wide strategic plan, but this is probably unlikely to happen.  However, there is a non-profit initiative that could serve as a foundation for making the federal government more “anticipatory,” The State of the USA, Inc., a non-profit that is developing a website of statistical information that will be a nonpartisan resource for citizens and policymakers to see how well the US is performing in economic, social, and environmental areas.  It’s launch is set for early 2009.

Results-Focused Governance:  Results-focused governance focuses its policy formulation, execution and adjudication on measurable performance.  By reducing the focus on rules and process-oriented management, state governments become more entrepreneurial, flexible, and innovative.  Successful results-focused governance initiatives include:

Government Management Accountability and Performance (GMAP).  This disciplined method of performance management enables Washington State’s governor and agency heads to make speedy decisions and achieve measurable results in selected service areas.

Iowa’s Charter Agencies. This approach allows volunteer state agency managers to waive administrative rules in order to be more creative and efficient, in exchange for results.

Maryland’s StateStat.  Similar to GMAP, governor O’Malley regularly convenes agency heads to focus on achieving specific results.

Again, there is no parallel federal effort.  The Obama campaign has called for a “chief performance officer” reporting to the president.  Several federal agencies, like the Environmental Protection Agency, have created an “EPA-Stat,” but far more could be done.  Federal efforts to create “charter agencies,” which at the federal level were called “performance-based organizations,” have not had much success in being replicated.

Collaborative Governance:  Collaborative governance focuses on replacing silo-based organizational culture with inter-agency and inter-sector collaboration.  Instead of agency-specific databases, for example, states develop integrated information management systems.  Instead of fragmented structures with turf protection states consolidate structures and shared services.  Successful collaborative governance initiatives include:

Illinois Shared Services Program.  This project is transforming agency silos (agencies having their own back-office functions) into an enterprise framework (agencies sharing back-office functions).

National Center for Interstate Compacts.  The Center supports states in developing durable and adaptive tools for promoting and ensuring cooperative action among the states while avoiding federal intervention and preemption.

At the federal level, there has been a significant move over the past few years to develop cross-agency shared services.  This has been done around mission support functions, such as personnel, technology, and finance.  These are collectively called “lines of business” and have been under development for the past 4-5 years.  They offer both savings and collaboration opportunities.  There have also been a number of collaborative efforts in mission-focused areas, such as the development of common standards for electronic health records or state fusion centers for homeland security, but these efforts tend to be more episodic rather than a standard way of doing the government’s work.

Transparent Governance: Transparent governance aims to transform closed and inward administrative processes and multi-layered bureaucracy into open government with clear public access and citizen-friendly and responsive mechanisms.  Successful transparent governance initiatives include:

Georgia’s “Office of Customer Service” – Charged by the Governor with developing a uniform, statewide system for measuring results for more than executive agencies.

AmericaSpeaks – A non-profit that engages citizens through town hall meetings in addressing local, state, and national issues that range from developing municipal budgets to social security reform.

DC Government’s Data Warehouse and CapStat.  The District of Columbia has opted for radical transparency in sharing its operational data and how it acts on it with its citizens and employees.  It makes raw, real-time data feeds available, allowing non-government groups to use it in “mash ups” and other forms of data visualization.

Again, at the federal level, there have been some efforts along these lines, but certainly not a comprehensive approach.  The federal government recently increased transparency in tracking federal spending and both Senators Obama and McCain both vow more transparency if they are elected president.

What would you add?

Senate Hearing on Transition

September 16, 2008

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.