Posts Tagged ‘john McCain’

Transparency in Contracting

August 21, 2009

Government Executive’s Robert Brodsky says the Obama Administration plans to raise the bar on making more government contract information available in his article, “Administration Says It Is Committed to Posting Contracts Online.”

The public already has access to some details about government contract awards via, which is a database of federal grants and contracts.  Even more is on the way via, which tracks dollars associated with the implementation of the Recovery Act.  But rarely are the actual contracts available.

Then-candidates Barack Obama and John McCain had co-sponsored legislation last year, The Strengthening Transparency and Accountability in Federal Spending Act of 2008 (S.3077) that would have required agencies to publish more details about their contracts.  It did not go anywhere, and Brodsky reports that it will likely not be actively considered this year, either.  However, President Obama could administratively require agencies to do so.  

Contractors are concerned about potentially exposing proprietary information and agencies are concerned about the overwhelming administrative burdens of redacting such information.  For example, the Defense Logistics Agency alone signs 8,000 contracts a day.  Brodsky notes that it took the General Services Administration two weeks to release a redacted copy of the contract when requested.

Transparency and government watchdog groups are strongly supporting the potential move. . . .. It’ll be interesting to see how far transparency can go, and how this will change both business and oversight!


New Transition Executive Order

October 9, 2008

President Bush signed a new executive order this morning outlining how his Administration will facilitate the upcoming transition.  The executive order creates a Presidential Transition Coordinating Council, chaired by the President’s chief of staff, Josh Bolton.  The Council is charged with collecting information about past transitions and provide assistance to the major party candidates and the president-elect.

The General Services Administration is charged with coordinating these materials as well as preparing a Transition Directory.  “Transition agreements” will be entered into between the White House, executive agencies and “the transition teams for the major party candidates and the President-elect. . . “

Similar executive orders have been issued in the past, but generally after Election Day.  Also, this new Order seems to suggest that contacts between the government and transition teams are being encouraged in advance of the Election.  I’ll update with links to media stories that might explain further.

Interestingly, a recent Huffington Post story by Sam Stein provides an update on the Obama and McCain transition efforts underway.  The story says that the two efforts are “worlds apart” in their approach.  Stein says “Sen. Barack Obama has organized an elaborate well-staffed network to prepare for his possible ascension to the White House, while Sen. John McCain has all but put off such work until after the election.”  He notes that McCain’s own staff express concern over his lack of planning.

Government Reform: Senator McCain

September 2, 2008
Sen. John McCain

Sen. John McCain

The Republican Convention is underway and while there are many caught up in the hoopla and breathing a sigh of relief over how New Orleans received only a glancing blow from Hurricane Gustav, the question of how Senator John McCain would govern is being explored.

As of the time of the convention, he has laid out a series of proposals and made a number of statements that provide an outline.  Government Executive magazine has devoted its cover story this month to Senator McCain’s possible priorities in managing the government. His campaign website also has several specific statements, and his interview last month with the Washington Post’s Joe Davidson provides additional insights.

Government Executive’s article observes that “McCain’s penchant for reform likely would influence his management style.” Interviews with several observers conclude that he would likely turn away from the use of checklists and scorecards, which are prevalent under President Bush’s management approach. His top economic policy advisor, Douglas Holtz-Eakin, says that McCain’s promise to conduct a top-to-bottom review of all federal programs would be conducted in 6-8 months and be built off of OMB’s existing Program Assessment Rating Tool.

Ethics and Transparency

Like Senator Obama, Senator McCain offers a series of commitments related to ethics and transparency. These include:

Seal the Pork Barrel. Senator McCain says he “would shine the disinfecting light of public scrutiny on those who abuse the public purse,” and exercise the veto pen.

Stop the Revolving Door and Restore Ethics. Senator McCain will promote “greater transparency regarding the official activities of lobbyists,” and fight the “revolving door” when officials leave their posts and become lobbyists.

Campaign Finance Reform. Senator McCain wants to enforce prohibitions on corporate and union political contributions, set sensible limits, and foster greater disclosure of how campaigns are funded.

Fiscal Discipline

Senator McCain says he would institute “comprehensive spending controls” starting with a “one-year spending pause. Freeze non-defense, non-veterans discretionary spending for a year and use those savings for deficit reduction. A one-year pause in the growth of discretionary spending will be imposed to allow for a comprehensive review of all spending programs. After the completion of a comprehensive review of all programs, projects and activities of the federal government, we will propose a plan to modernize, streamline, consolidate, reprioritize and, where needed, terminate individual programs.”

He also vows to “take back earmark funds. The McCain Administration will reclaim billions of add-on spending from earmarks and add-ons in FY 2007 and 2008.”

Other Management Issues

In the Q-and-A interview with reporter Joe Davidson, of the Washington Post, Senator McCain offered several specifics:

Civil Service. “The civil service has strayed from its reformist roots and has mutated into a no-accountability zone, where employment is treated as an entitlement, good performance as an option, and accountability as someone else’s problem. Our current system isn’t fair to the many good federal workers who do not receive recognition for commitment and excellence and must pick up the slack of those who aren’t doing their jobs. We must identify excellence in civil service, reward and reward it appropriately.”

Contracting Reform. Senator McCain said: “I will expand the use of fixed-price contracts to enforce discipline in the procurement process and ensure that clearly defined requirements are fulfilled, realistic schedules are kept, and costs don’t exceed the promised price.”

He went on to say: “We must also limit sole-source contracting and make cost discipline a priority using market competition to keep costs down and innovation up.”

Political Appointees. According to the Government Executive article, McCain “has expressed his distaste for the growing number of political appointees in government. . . “ so he may be amenable to calls from outsiders, such as Dr. Paul Light, to reduce the number of political appointees. In his Washington Post interview, McCain added that he would “want to recruit some of them for an executive search leadership group to help my administration find the right people for the right executive jobs. . .”

If you are aware of other management reform commitments, please add to this list! Then we can wait and see what the Wall Street Journal comes up with!

Ready on Day One

February 12, 2008

Senator Hillary Clinton says she’ll “be ready on Day One.”  She’s referring to her experience.  But it could also refer to a well-organized transition process.  According to presidential scholars and other observers, the first six months of a new Administration are its period of greatest influence.  A poorly organized transition can result in missteps that can slow action on a new President’s agenda to the point that it will not have gotten organized until after that period of influence has passed.

Two things happened last week to quietly kick off the presidential transition effort that will be in high gear come November.  First, President Bush released his FY 2009 budget, which includes a $9 million funding request for the General Services Administration to operate the transition process. 



Second, the Republicans now have a presumptive candidate, Senator John McCain, who can now start to quietly build a transition effort in the coming months, if he has not already.

But what does this entail? 

It means effective pre-election planning for the 77-day post-election transition period.  Some academics, including Martha Kumar, describe the post-election transition period as a “freight train.”  Actions include:  picking top White House staff – not cabinet officials – first; avoiding any constraining commitments; learning from outgoing predecessors; creating a decision-making process for policy and personnel sections; and developing a strategic agenda for policy proposals.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll summarize the existing public records on presidential transitions, starting with the 1976 transition for President-elect Jimmy Carter.  The most descriptive reference is a 2000 book by John P. Burke, “Presidential Transitions: From Politics to Practice,” which he followed with an addendum on the George W. Bush transition.  There are also several other presidential transition efforts that some think tanks developed, as well.  I’ll conclude with a summary of some of the “lessons learned” which the campaigns, and ultimately the President-elect’s team, may find helpful. 

Any insights you might have are encouraged!

Presidential Campaign Update

January 30, 2008

John Kamensky, Senior Fellow, IBM Center for The Business of GovernmentWhen we started this blog back in April 2007, we thought that government management issues would not be a campaign issue until probably after the Democrats and Republicans had chosen their candidates.  We thought that would possibly be after the February 5th  “Super Tuesday” primaries.  At this point, that’s not clear, but there do seem to be a pair of candidates from each party and all four have addresses leadership style and management issues in their campaigns to date.  Thanks to two observers – Tom Shoop’s FedBlog on Government Executive’s website and Don Kettl’s NextGovernment website via the University of Pennsylvania’s Fels Institute of Government – we can put together a quick snapshot.

 Democrats Senator Barak Obama.  Senator Obama, during the Nevada primary, noted:  I’m not an operating officer. Some in this debate around experience seem to think the job of the president is to go in and run some bureaucracy. Well, that’s not my job. My job is to set a vision of ‘here’s where the bureaucracy needs to go.’” During the campaign, he has offered a set of proposals to “restore trust and transparency:”

  • Close the “revolving door” by restricting lobbying by former officials
  • End the abuse of “no bid” contracts by requiring competition on all contracts over $25,000
  • Restore “objectivity” to the executive branch by, among other things, banning an ideological litmus test for hiring career employees in the executive branch.
  • Shine light on lobbying by, among other things, creating a searchable database of lobbying reports and campaign finances.
  • Give government “back to the people” by, among other things, requiring cabinet officials to hold town meetings and more public meetings for regulatory agencies.

 Senator Hillary Clinton.  Senator Clinton in response to Senator Obama’s Nevada comments were:  I do think that being president is the chief executive officer. I respect what Barack said about setting the vision, setting the tone, bringing people together. But I think you have to be able to manage and run the bureaucracy. You’ve got to pick good people, certainly, but you have to hold them accountable every single day.” During her campaign, she devoted a speech to government reform, with a 10-point plan Her proposals include:

  • Creating a Public Service Academy
  • Restoring competitive bidding to government contracting
  • Reducing the number of government contractors by 500,000
  • Publishing budgets for every agency within 48 hours of their submission to Congress
  • Implementing a “Results America” initiative that would track government effectiveness
  • Tracking and eliminating “corporate welfare.”

 Republicans Senator John McCain.  In the recent Florida primary, Senator McCain was quoted as saying: “I think everybody knows the difference between leadership and management. . . You can hire managers all the time, people who do the mechanics, people who implement policies, people who are good with assets. Leadership is people who inspire… Leadership is people who have had hands on experience with patriotism and service to the nation… Leadership is the ability to inspire and the ability to make Americans serve causes greater than their self-interest.” During his campaign, he has mentioned a number of specific proposals, according to Kettl’s Fels Institute website:

  • Stop earmarked spending
  • Stop the “revolving door” and restore ethics
  • Reorganize the federal bureaucracy and subject federal employees to the pressures of the private sector
  • Attract the finest public servants and  equip them with the newest technology
  • Change government to make it smaller, less expensive, better skilled, and more dedicated to the national interest.
  • Make federal employees more accountable.

  Governor Mitt Romney.  As the only candidate of the top four who has executive experience in both government and the private sector, Governor Romney says, “I think Americans are looking for people who can get the job done and can do it in a setting where there are two parties. Governors know how to do that.”

During his campaign, he seems to have said very little about specific management-related proposals, according to Kettl’s Fels Institute website.  He advocates stronger consequences for unethical behavior, advocates allowing the President to spend up to 25 percent less than the Congress appropriates, and wants to “cut out the unnecessary and wasteful.”