Posts Tagged ‘McCain’

An Arduous Transition

October 23, 2008

The Washington Post did a terrific front-page story this past Sunday on the upcoming presidential transition.   The article vividly describes the cross-pressure facing the candidates – dealing with the economic crisis, the Iraq and Afghan wars, the continuing resolution and 2010 budget, the thousands of people seeking appointments, and developing a policy agenda that addresses the demands of scores of interest groups who believe their agendas should be acted upon immediately.

David Axelrod, Obama’s chief political strategist, promised last week that if “we are successful, we will be ready to act quickly to put our plan in place.”  Those involved in planning a possible McCain transition say he is genuinely interested in bipartisan governing and would immediately reach out to the opposition.


David Espo, an AP reporter, focused a separate story on Obama’s Transition Team.  He describes a dozen individual teams already underway preparing for a possible transition.  He named Cassandra Butts, an Obama associate, as leading the personnel search effort.


Inventory of Blog Entries

October 22, 2008

This is my 100th blog entry!  Thanks to our many readers and contributors.  While few people post comments on our entries, we get lots of emails and phone calls.  Also, thanks to the Library of Congress for asking to preserve the site as part of its 2008 election coverage.  It’s been fun.


I looked back to see if there were any themes to all the stuff I’ve been writing and thought this would be a good point to come up with a rough index, which I’ll periodically update:


 (Last Updated: December 23, 2008)


Blogs on “The Big Picture” — Where Is Government Reform Going?

Blogs on What the Campaigns Have Been Saying About Government Reform


Blogs on the History of Transitions


Blogs on the 2008 Transition Process

 Blogs on The Bush Administration’s Transition-Out Activities

 Blogs on Management Ideas for the Next Administration

 Blogs on Advice for the New Team

Blogs on What Other Groups Are Doing


I’ll expand this list over time, so you might want to bookmark this page and return to it when you might be looking for something particular.


Also, I’m getting so much stuff, I’ll start blogging more frequently, with shorter blogs.  Would like to see how that works for you. Let me know. 

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?

The Ideal CEO

September 4, 2008

In the midst of the political conventions the past couple of weeks, a fun article appeared in Sunday’s Chicago Tribune, by Steven L. Katz.   Katz is a former fed and management author. In it, he looked at how head hunting firms go about helping major corporations hire their chief executives.

His “experiment:” What if we used the same approach in selecting the next President of the United States??

Katz says executive search firms help corporations write a job description, create selection criteria, solicit applications, review resumes, and then conduct interviews. He says the presidential process reverses this logic:

“Voters meet and “interview” the candidates first. Then they just keep doing that for months, in all the states and U.S. territories. Candidates tell the voters what criteria we should use to evaluate them. And as for qualifications, we let the candidates self-certify as well: “I’m the best-qualified candidate running for president.”

So what if we used the 2008 election for an experiment? Instead of voting, let’s say we hired an executive search firm to find the next president of the United States.

How might the headhunters work? Which qualities and qualifications, traits and experience would they deem crucial to this position as the most powerful of all CEOs?”

One executive search firm provided Katz with a checklist of competencies and personal qualities they help their clients look for, such as “teamwork and whether the candidates can lead, create, and play well on the best teams.” Other qualities include: global experience, drives positive change, thinks independently and challenges conventional wisdom, hunger to make things happen, ability to maintain focus, curiosity, candor, sense of humor, and commitment to family.

This list of qualities harkens back to the primaries when Senators Obama and Clinton debated what it takes to be president: being a visionary or a CEO.

Government Reform: Senator Obama

August 28, 2008

Sen. Barack Obama

Sen. Barack Obama


When I started this blog last year I never in my wildest dreams thought I’d be writing blogs from a wireless connection in an airport at 7 a.m.  But here I am in Sacramento, waiting for a jet plane. . . and blogging.


Tonight is the final night of the Democratic Convention in Denver.  Senator Obama will likely provide a stirring vision for the future.  But what about his vision for the government of the future?  That likely won’t be a theme! 

 What are Senator Obama’s and Senator McCain’s campaign agendas around government reform?  I understand the Wall Street Journal and Government Executive magazine will both be exploring this in more depth over the next few weeks, but I’d like to take a stab at it by reading what’s on their websites at the point of their parties’ conventions.


My initial impression is:  not much.  I’ll summarize what I’ve seen for Obama today, and provide a similar summary around the time of the Republican convention for Senator McCain. 


Based on a read of Senator Obama’s “Blueprint for America,” he offers several themes, but no grand vision of how he would govern.  The first theme touches on the importance of public trust in government to be honest and open.  The second touches on fiscal discipline.  The third theme touches on government’s ability to deliver specific services to specific target populations.  These are described in two documents:  His Blueprint for Change and a fact sheet:  Restoring Trust in America.


Honest and Open.  Under the first theme, Obama says he will:


·       Shine the light on federal contracts, tax breaks, and earmarks.  Obama says he will create a “contracts and influence” database to disclose how much federal contractors spend on lobbying, how much they get, and how well they are doing.  He also proposes ending the abuse of “no bid” contracts and shining the light on earmarks and pork barrel spending.  He also says he will make bills passed by Congress available for public review before he signs them.


·       Bring Americans back into their government.  He says he will hold “21st century fireside chats” by requiring his cabinet to have periodic on-line town hall meetings.  He will also make communications with the White House about regulatory policymaking publicly available and conduct regulatory agency business in public.


·       Free the executive branch from special interest influence.  Obama says he will not allow new appointees to work on regulations or contracts related to their prior employers and they will not be allowed to lobby the executive branch if they leave government during his term in office.  He says he will also appoint officials who are qualified for their jobs.


Fiscal Discipline.  Under the second theme, Obama says he will:


Reinstate PAYGO budgeting rules, which require that all new spending be offset with cuts elsewhere, or new revenues. 


End wasteful government spending.  He says he will stop funding wasteful obsolete federal programs, end subsidies for oil and gas companies, and eliminate subsidies to the student loan industry.  He also says he will tackle wasteful spending in the Medicare program.


Late-Breaking Addition: In his acceptance speech at the convention last night, Senator Obama said:

“I will also go through the federal budget line by line, eliminating programs that no longer work and making the ones we do need work better and cost less, because we cannot meet 21st-century challenges with a 20th-century bureaucracy.”

Fixing Broken Services.  Under the third theme, Senator Obama commits to focusing on several broken management processes. 


·       Electronic health information.  Obama will continue the 10-year commitment President Bush has made to make health records electronic, but Obama says he will invest $10 billion a year for five years to make it happen, along with making other health information electronic.


·       Veterans Benefits.  He commits to fixing the broken Veterans Benefits process.  Remember that VA Secretary Principi said, when he was confirmed seven years ago, that he felt his term in office could be judged a failure if he didn’t fix the broken VA benefits system.  So Obama’s made a tall commitment! 


·       Immigration Process.  He also commits to fixing the “dysfunctional” immigration bureaucracy. This was attempted under the Clinton Administration, with mixed results.


Other Sources of Campaign Commitments


Technology Advocate.  Beyond his website’s summary campaign documents, Senator Obama has addressed a number of other government management issues.  These are summarized on the Next Government website sponsored by the Fels Institute at the University of Pennsylvania.  These include the items described above, but also include a commitment to create a technology advocate, as part of his technology platform.  He says he will create a chief technology officer to ensure the government has the right technology infrastructure, policies, and services.  The technology officer’s specific focus will be on increasing transparency of government information and deploying new technologies to obtain citizen input.


Public Service.  While he did not made any campaign commitments in his address at the commencement ceremony at Wesleyan College this past spring, Senator Obama did advocate volunteerism and a call to public service, encouraging the graduates to “hitch your wagon to something larger than yourself.. . . “


Civil Service Issues.  In addition, Washington Post’s Joe Robinson recently interviewed the Obama campaign and noted that as president, Obama would:   “restore effective oversight of the government- contracting process and reduce our dependence on private contractors in sensitive or inherently governmental functions.. . “  He went on to say that Obama committed to “ensure our federal workforce is working effectively and with real accountability,” and “ensure that government compensation is fair and we can continue to attract and retain talented workers.”


If you are aware of other commitments, please add to this list!  I’ll develop a similar status report after the Republican convention for Senator John McCain.  Then we can wait and see what the WSJ and GovExec come up with!