Posts Tagged ‘Office of Management and Budget’

Recovery Act: Six Months Old

August 18, 2009

recovery1Yesterday’s USA Today cover story was bannered: “Poll: 57%  Don’t See Stimulus Working.”  People are so impatient! Today, it’s the Recovery Act’s 6-month birthday. And yesterday, Recovery Act recipients could start signing up so they can report their progress starting October 1st.  Maybe then, people will see what is really going on with their money!

According to Recovery.gov, as of today there are 25,897 ongoing Recovery Act projects worth a total of $91.1 billion – out of a total of $787 billion authorized to be spent over the next year or so.

In an interview with Barry Bosworth of the Brookings Institution, Federal News Radio’s Suzanne Kubota writes that that the transfer payment (e.g., unemployment insurance extension) and tax reduction elements of the bill got up and running quickly and the direct spending programs in the bill are taking a longer time to get monies out.  This is no real surprise to government watchers – transfer payments and tax rebates don’t require much in the way of program guidance and are largely check-writing operations!

As for the direct payment programs, though, there’s more guidance and reporting.  And there are many more players involved.  Much of the media has focused on transparency of the funding.  This is provided via sites from non-profits, the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board, individual federal agencies, and individual states.

However, how about information for those who have to implement the direct spending programs in federal agencies, states, and localities?  Interestingly, many helpful sites are springing up to aid those in government trying to get it right:

The Council of State Governments has created a Recovery Act website – StateRecovery.org — that aggregates useful information for state officials.

The National League of Cities has dedicated a webpage to Recovery Act news, organized by policy areas where dollars are available (e.g., public safety).

The Association for Government Accountants has created a Recovery Act webpage for its members who have to administer the funds.

Government Executive magazine has created a “Stimulus Checklist” to help feds keep up with what’s going on, along with a series of webinars and forums.

And of course, the Office of Management and Budget has a list of its guidance.

Do you have a favorite resource?  Feel free to add via the “comment” box!

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Using MAX for Governmentwide Collaboration

April 23, 2009

Last week, I attended the spring conference of the American Association for Budget and Program Analysis.  There was a particularly intriguing session on a collaborative, online tool created a couple years ago by the Office of Management and Budget called the MAX Community.  It was named after the software agencies use to submit their budget information to OMB.  Initially, it was intended as a forum for agency budget officers to share guidance, best practices, etc.  Last year, for example, it was used to collect information from across agencies about congressional earmarks.  But it expanded quickly to include the finance and grants management communities.  Last year, there were about 5,000 users. Only federal employees and contractors with government email addresses can join.

This year, there are over 13,000 users and, reports Andy Schoenbach, the OMB executive sponsor of the network, it has expanded its scope beyond budgeting.  There’s a great article by Federal Time’s Gregg Carlstrom, “Agencies Save with OMB’s Online Tool,” that summarizes the evolution of the MAX Federal Community.  Carlstrom notes that Justice staff use it to track “questions for the record” that are submitted by Congress for the department to answer.  Homeland Security uses it to run training exercises online that used to require travel.  The White House staff developing guidance on transparency and open government are using the site as a place to collect ideas from government employees.

The MAX Community seems to be the first test bed for a cross-agency, governmentwide foundation for collaboration.  It is currently fairly small, but successful.  Will the Obama Administration build on this approach — which is largely a voluntary effort run on behalf of the budget community by the Department of Education — more broadly as its way of encouraging cross-agency collaboration?