Posts Tagged ‘OMB’

FY 2011 Budget: Place-Based Policies

August 13, 2009

“All politics is local,” goes the saying.  And that is particularly true when the government says the population will increase by 140 million by 2050.  Where will they all live, work, shop, and play?

The White House is developing a plan.  A little-noticed memo on place-based policies for the Fiscal Year 2011 budget – co-signed by the heads of OMB, the Domestic Policy Council, National Economic Council and Office of Urban Affairs – promotes interagency coordination in place-based planning and spending.

The memo directs agencies in their budget preparation process for FY 2011 (to be submitted to OMB by September 14) to “identify the top three to five programs or initiatives that . . . show special promise for achieving better outcomes, whether a place-based approach is well established or is newly proposed.”  It also asks agencies to identify associated measurable outcomes, indicators of progress, and options for improving coordination and effectiveness.

As guidance, the memo offers agencies three principles to follow:

  • Use measurable goals. Clear, measurable and carefully evaluated goals should guide investment and regulation.  Goals should be transparent and widely and effectively shared in areas such as economic competitiveness, environmental sustainability, community health and access, and safety and security.
  • Be community-centric.  Change comes from the community level and often through partnership.  The Administration commits to “break down Federal ‘silos’ and invest in such as way that encourages similar coordination at the local level.”  Agencies should engage others as collaborators with ”shared agendas for action, strategies that are smart, success measures that make sense, and implementation focused on results.”
  • Be regional in approach.  Many important challenges demand a regional approach.  Federal investments should promote planning and collaboration across jurisdictional boundaries.

The memo notes that Vice President Biden is “already working to put these principles to work in the implementation of the Recovery Act” and that he has initiated a Community Impact program that brings agencies together to consider the place impact of Recovery Act investments.  It also notes that “Federal partners meet weekly to assess progress and consider next steps in spurring community progress.”


FY 2011 Budget: Obama Science Spending

August 11, 2009

Agencies got their budget marching instructions from the Office of Management and Budget back on June 11th, but the science agencies (NASA, National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, Office of Naval Research, etc.) have recently received additional guidance.

Ben Bain, in a Federal Computer Week story, “Agencies Told to Target Money for Tech Projects,” says that OMB director Peter Orzag, and John Holdren, director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, have sent out a joint memo to science agencies that, cumulatively, will spend nearly $150 billion this year:

That memo says that these agencies’ budget submissions, due September 14th, should focus on the following four priority areas:

  • Develop strategies that support economic growth
  • Promote technologies to reduce energy dependence and address climate change
  • Improve health
  • Protect troops, citizens, and national interests

These can be done by improving the productivity of research institutions (e.g., universities and labs); strengthening science, tech, and engineering education; improving infrastructure; and improving space capabilities.

Agencies will need to describe expected outcomes from their investments in relationship to the above priorities, and develop data sets to document their investments and make these datasets available to the public.

Particularly intriguing, the memo states:

“Agency budget submissions should also explain how the agency plans to take advantage of today’s open innovation model—in which the whole chain from research to application does not have to take place within a single lab, agency or firm—and become highly open to ideas from many players, at all stages. Agencies should empower their scientists to have ongoing contact with people who know what’s involved in making and using things, from cost and competitive factors to the many practical constraints and opportunities that can arise when turning ideas into reality.”

This implies a strong emphasis on applied vs. basic research.  It’ll be interesting to see how basic research agencies fair under this set of new expectations.

Obama’s Contracting Initiatives: An Update

July 29, 2009

President Obama’s 2008 election campaign made strong commitments to reduce the government’s dependence on the use of contractors. Now come the implementation details:

The Bush Administration had been a big promoter of the use of contractors, basically doubling spending on contracting to about $500 billion a year. Congress pushed back on some initiatives to outsource some government functions – even when the Republicans controlled the Congress.  It increased restrictions, embedded study requirements regarding the appropriate balance of government vs. private employees, required the Administration (in the Defense Department authorization bill) to develope a definition of what constitutes “inherently governmental” positions, and directed the Intelligence Community to conduct an assessment of its staffing mix between public and private resources, and the Intel Community is beginning to tilt its staffing mix toward more government hires.  Most recently, the Senate has proposed banning all outsourcing studies.

In his first 100 days, President Obama signed a memorandum on contracting reform directing a re-assessment of public vs. private sectors in providing governmental services.  The new deputy secretary of Defense issued internal guidance on how Defense agencies should address this, as well.  The presidential memo included several studies and deadlines.  Several of those have just been released, according to a story by Joe Davidson in today’s Washington Post, “OMB Moves to Cut Outside Contractors.”

According to the Post article, OMB has (or will) issue four guidance memos to agencies:

  • Improving Government Acquisition.  This memo set out guidance to agencies to review their existing contracts and buying practices in order to save $40 billion a year through better practices.  It requires them to:  (1)  develop plans to save 7 percent of contract spending over the next two years (3.5 percent in fiscal year 2010; 3.5 percent in fiscal year 2011); and (2) reduce by 10 percent next year the amount of dollars awarded under “high risk contracting authorities” such as non-competitive contracts, cost-reimbursement contracts, and time-and-material contracts.
  • Managing the Multi-Sector Workforce.  This memo sets out initial guidance to help agencies improve their management of their combined public sector and contractor workforces.  It requires agencies to (1) adopt a human capital planning framework that covers their multi-sector workforce, (2) pilot an analysis of at least one program where the agency has a concern about an over-reliance on contractors, and (3) develop guidelines for when to in-source work to government employees (along with an attachment based on earlier guidance developed by the Defense Department).
  • Improving the Use of Contractor Performance Information.   This memo, directed to agency procurement officers, requires them to submit an electronic record of contracting performance to a central governmentwide database.  It also directs them to develop internal procedures and designate individuals to be in charge of ensuring contracts are assessed. 
  • A third memo will be issued by OMB in the Fall covering competition, contract types, acquisition workforce, and when outsourcing is or is not appropriate.

The private sector, in an assessment by the research firm FedSources, seems to have already recognized that the growth in contract spending may be over.  In a story last month by Elise Castelli for Federal Times, “Contract Spending Expected to Flatten,” she wrote that the study “projects government contract spending to grow at a compound annual rate of 2 percent between 2008 and 2014.  That’s a sharp contrast to the 12 percent compound annual growth rate of the last six years.”

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!”

Performance Management: Obama Style

June 16, 2009

People have been asking me:  What’s the Obama performance management agenda?  I keep saying, “you’ll have to wait until his chief performance officer gets on board.”

Well, that may be true in some respects, but the agenda is steadily being fleshed out.  The President’s FY 2010 budget, according to Federal Times, laid out a set of specifics that agencies will have to develop in the coming months:

• Establish a comprehensive measurement system to link programs with agency and governmentwide performance goals.

• Reform program assessments to report on and explain performance trends, risks and improvement plans.

• Identify agency officials who will ensure performance improvement plans work.

• Revamp the Bush administration’s to make performance data agencies submit easily accessible to the public, Congress and other stakeholders.

• Launch a governmentwide research program to compare the effectiveness of different program strategies to ensure programs achieve their goals.

And last week, the Office of Management and Budget released guidance to agencies in developing their FY 2011 budget and performance plans.  There, it said “Over the next several months, OMB also will work with Congress, interagency management councils, experts in Federal management policy, Federal employees, and other key stakeholders to craft a broad management and performance framework” that will address both presidential priorities as well as long-standing management challenges.

The guidance went on to require agencies to identify, by July 31st, a set of “high-priority performance goals” where there will be “regular reviews of the progress agencies are making.”  The guidance offers criteria for what the goals should look like and directs the Performance Improvement Council to work together to develop a common template for their agencies to report their goals and measures of progress.

NOTE: It’s interesting how this OMB guidance memo was described by different media outlets.  The memo covered several topics and different media covered different aspects.  Government Executive’s Elizabeth Newell covered the performance element; Federal Times’ Stephen Losey focused on the budget element; the Washington Post’s Joe Davidson emphasized the hiring reform element; and Federal Computer Week’s Alice Lipowicz highlights the memo’s emphasis of IT investment goals around transparency and collaboration.

Chief Performance Officer Jeff Zients

June 12, 2009
Jeffrey Zeints

Jeffrey Zients

Earlier this week, the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs held a confirmation hearing for Jeff Zients, President Obama’s choice to be the first Chief Performance Officer and deputy director of management at the Office of Management and Budget.  Who is he and what did he say?

Who is he? Elise Castelli, Federal Times, profiled Zients a few weeks ago:  “From 1999 to 2004, Zients was chairman of Advisory Board, a successful health care consulting firm. From 2000 through 2001, he also was chairman of Advisory Board’s sister company, Corporate Executive Board. Under his leadership, the two management consulting firms went from making millions of dollars to making billions.”  She went on to note that he was seen by his peers as “very analytical” and developed a collaborative business model.  While he’s not had government experience, his approach may well be effective in a government environment.

What did he say? Here is Zient’s formal statement to the committee and some excerpts from media coverage of that hearing:

Rebecca Neal, Federal Times:

  • Zients said he is concerned the government doesn’t have hiring and succession plans in place to replace the large numbers of baby boomers who soon will be eligible to retire.
  • He pointed particularly to the need to expand and strengthen the acquisition workforce.
  • Zients said he will work to return inherently governmental work to civil servants but does not discount the value of contractors in certain fields.
  • Zients said improving federal Web sites and improving transparency is one of his priorities,
  • “I believe leadership starts with putting the right team together and measuring the goals for the organization,” he said.

Max Cacas, WFED Radio:

  • Zients’ management philosophy: “As a CEO, I’ve always focused on three areas: leadership, measurement and a motivated workforce. I believe leadership starts with putting the right team together, and articulating the right goals for the organization. Measurement means translating these goals into an operating plan with clear metrics. A motivated workforce means creating an environment to attract and keep the best talent. I believe these three are the keys to strong performance.”
  • Zients says he favors a more collaborative approach involving all stakeholders to create a better system than PART.
  • He supports President Obama’s call to redefine “inherently governmental work,” to determine what jobs need to be brought back into the federal service and which jobs are more appropriately outsourced to outside contractors.

Elizabeth Newell, Government Executive:

  • Zients “provided a long list of priorities he would address if he becomes deputy director for management at the Office of Management and Budget. These included developing a usable set of performance metrics, improving the effectiveness of government according to those measures, revitalizing the federal workforce, and increasing transparency and accountability across government.”
  • “The test of a performance management system is, is it being used to make important resource allocation and budget decisions,” Zients said during the hearing. “I’m looking forward, if confirmed, to taking a collaborative approach, working with all the stakeholders, to develop a system.”
  • “With Recovery Act reporting from recipients and subrecipients . . . .  we should be planning on a broader deployment of the recovery solution so that transparency of federal spending extends to all taxpayer dollars.”

Obama Tech Agenda

June 9, 2009

computer-chipThe 2008 Obama presidential campaign laid out a series of exciting ideas for the use of technology in government and proposed the creation of both a Chief Technology Officer and a cybersecurity czar.  This was accompanied by the campaign’s own successful use of technology.  During the Transition, the “Technology, Innovation, and Government Reform” working group had its own video.

The opening months of the new Administration has seen top talent being recruited to help lead these initiatives, including Vivek Kundra as the government’s chief information officer (CIO) and Aneesh Chopra as its chief technology officer (CTO).  Via the fiscal year 2010 budget and a series of speeches and initiatives, they’ve begun to lay out their priorities.  Here’s what I’ve gathered so far.  If there is more, feel free to add in the comment section:

FY 2010 Budget.  According to the NextGov blog, the budget proposes increases in the federal government’s technology investment by 7 percent, to nearly $76 billion.

CTO Chopra.  CTO Chopra laid out his priorities at last week’s Management of Change conference in Virginia Beach.  Here’s Federal News Radio and Federal Computer Week’s snapshots of Chopra four priorities:

  • Invest in technology-based innovation to transform the nation’s economy. This includes relooking at the federal research and development agenda and figuring out how to drive innovation through policy.
  • Use “innovation platforms” to bring game-changing ways to address the President’s priorities such as health care, climate change, energy, economic improvement and education. These include:  (1) creating a culture of open standards that can be shared and easily replicated so as to accelerate innovation; (2)  re-directing federal R&D investments to be more applied, and more toward the middle ground “south of procurement and north of R&D;” and (3) expand the use of “crowdsourcing” to gather new ideas and fuel innovation.
  • Deliver a reliable, resilient and trustworthy infrastructure. Chopra will focus on helping to develop a broadband plan by February 2010 and act on a cybersecurity initiative that will emphasize “game changing research and development, and collaboration with the private sector” to improve critical infrastructure and create bug-free software.
  • Create a culture of open and innovative government. Chopra says he will continue to work with federal chief information officer Vivek Kundra, the General Services Administration and others to “build capacity in the federal government for a culture of openness transparency,” to help advance the executive order Obama issued Jan. 21 that “commits the government to greater transparency, citizen participation and collaboration.”

Government Computer News also noted that Chopra “suggested one possibility of working with the General Services Administration to develop an ‘innovation sandbox’ where project ideas could be tested and shared across the government.”

CIO Kundra.  Vivek Kundra, in his maiden speech in March before the FOSE 2009 conference described the Administration’s “four pillars:” transparency via Web 2.0 tools; engaging citizens more effectively in their government; lowering the cost of government operations; and finding and exploiting innovations.

In addition, he has launched several initiatives:

  •  Kundra quickly moved to replicate an initiative he sponsored in the DC Government, which he has called “”  This entails posting raw government data on the internet and allowing it to be downloaded and used by citizens and businesses.  When it was launched on May 21st, there were under 100 data sets.  Kundra hopes to have 100,000 up by the end of this week.
  • IT Project Dashboards.  Another DC Government innovation was the monitoring of individual IT projects to ensure they were on track.  He says he will replicate that effort across the federal government and release a beta version of the dashboard by the end of June for the 25 largest federal agencies.
  • Cloud Computing.  The FY 2010 budget includes an ode to cloud computing (see section 9 of OMB’s Analytical Perspectives), lyrically noting:  “Cloud-computing is a convenient, on-demand model for network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (e.g., networks, servers, storage, applications, services) that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction.”

Currently, the General Services Administration has a “request for information” out to industry to help define the parameters of cloud computing, hopefully in more understandable terms!

Obama Workforce Agenda

May 20, 2009

PeopleA lot of people have been asking me – what is Obama’s human capital agenda?  I think it’s still evolving.  But in conversations over the past few weeks with friends and colleagues who are at the Office of Personnel Management, the Office of Management and Budget, and who are agency chief human capital officers – and reading the new budget proposals – I’m beginning to see an outline. 

This notional outline, though, was reinforced this morning when the Partnership for Public Service released its biennial “Best Places to Work” survey.  It got a good nod via a front page Washington Post article, as well: “Money’s Nice, But a Good Boss is Better,” by Steve Vogel.

The Partnership’s breakfast event featured OMB director Peter Orzag, who offered some brief, but significant, remarks.  First, he said that OMB will be expecting improvement plans from agencies that ranked low on the Partnership’s survey results.  And second, he said there are four things he thought would help achieve President Obama’s goal of “making government cool again.”  Those four include efforts to: revamp the hiring process; increase training and mentoring programs; emphasize that performance matters; and promote public service.

So what am I seeing as the outline of the Obama workforce agenda?  There seem to be four areas of emphasis.  They are not quite as direct as the Bush President’s Management Agenda’s “strategic management of human capital” emphasis, but they do build on the Obama commitment to make government “cool” again:

Succession planning.  In the Bush Agenda, this was called strategic human capital planning. Being strategic is important in defining an organization’s capabilities.  But the reality is that this will occur in the context of a huge demographic shift in the workforce over the course of the next four years.  The Partnership and others estimate that one-third of the workforce – about 600,000 — will turn over before the end of the first Obama administration.  This offers a chance to change the skill mix, but it also means there has to be a hand-off of institutional knowledge on a very large scale.

Streamlined hiring.  The federal hiring system is seen as largely deficient because it almost screens out top talent by being so slow.  Efforts, such as the Partnership’s “Extreme Hiring Makeovers” haven’t changed agency behaviors on a large scale.  Congressional frustration has led to legislative proposals to dictate what should be done administratively.  President Obama’s first budget proposes reform.  The new director of the Office of Personnel Management, John Berry, promises quick action.  Given all this high level focus, maybe something positive will happen.  The hiring of 600,000 new employees should be a good “burning platform” to prod action!  Best practices in places like the Border Patrol are worth examining.

Engaged employees.  Engaged federal employees, according to the Partnership, are 20 percent more productive than the average employee.  Engaged employees derive a sense of personal accomplishment from their work, believes their talent is well used and is given a chance to develop professionally.  The source of this is good agency leadership and good line managers, so there will need to be a concerted effort to undertake a number of specific actions related to their training and mentoring to reach this goal.  The budget proposes investment in training and management rotations to better develop leaders.

Collaborative workplaces.  The Millennial Generation expects to work collaboratively, and to leverage their social networks to get work done, often via Web 2.0 technologies.  To them, work is not a place but an attitude.  The Obama Administration says it wants to be increasingly collaborative.  It’s a different way of working.  A directive for how to do this is still under development.  But there are some interesting efforts already underway to develop the foundation for this, such as the

Obviously, there is potentially any number of other issues that could be on the agenda – performance pay is being reconsidered, the human resources management line-of-business seems to be quiet, and developing greater capacity among the HR workforce itself. But if new agency leaders and the chief human capital officers across the government focus on these four areas, they’d likely be well on the way toward making government cool!

Recovery Act Implementation: A State-Local View

May 19, 2009

recovery1A small group representing federal, state, and local governments met to discuss challenges associated with implementing the Recovery Act, largely from the perspective of states and localities.  The meeting was co-hosted by the National Academy of Public Administration and the IBM Center.

Background.  The Recovery Act injects about $280 billion into nearly 70 grant programs to states and localities. The majority of this funding is administered by 11 federal departments or agencies.   The Act includes a number of transparency and accountability provisions that include a number of reporting requirements that extend far beyond existing reporting requirements for existing grant, contract, and loan programs.  For example, it requires reporting from sub-grantees and sub-contractors on the number of jobs created.  The Act also requires its funding to be tracked separately from other funding sources, and provides $340 million in oversight monies, including the creation of a series of public websites where funding, projects, and performance information must be posted.  These efforts have led to what some fear as overly-high public expectations as to what can be expected in the first reports on the use of the funds, scheduled for October 10th.

Issues.  The group focused its discussion on three related issues:

  • Complying with the Recovery Act’s transparency, accountability, and reporting requirements
  • Finding ways to achieve measurable and lasting results with the monies spent
  • Managing conflicting expectations

Participants felt that OMB “gets it” in terms of understanding the challenge of implementing the complex reporting requirements.  OMB plans to conduct a dry run of the data collection and reporting system on July 10th in preparation for a statutorily-required first report from states and localities by October 10th.

At the onset of the conversation, it became clear that “no one has the answers” and “we’re not alone.”  They also saw these new reporting requirements as “the future.”  While the Recovery Act is temporary money, largely to be spent by the end of 2011, the new accountability and reporting system being developed to trace Recovery Act funds will likely become a permanent fixture that will be revolutionary in its impact on how government is run and how citizens interact with government.

In addition to reporting financial information, the Recovery Act also requires reporting on the progress of projects, the number of jobs created or saved, and the impact of the projects.  Federal agencies released their agency-wide and program-level spending plans yesterday.

In addition to increased reporting, the Recovery Act created a potential for a series of different expectations in what its results might be.  These tensions come from who is doing the looking and assessing.  For example, there are political tensions, tensions between different policy groups, and tensions between the approaches of different professional groups (IT, procurement, budget, finance, economists, auditors, etc.).  Somewhere in the Recovery Act ecosystem, someone needs to begin to moderate these differences (“break down the silos”), especially if this new transparency and accountability framework becomes the new way of doing business in the future.

Ideas for Going Forward.  Based on some of the insights offered, the group identified several ideas for going forward.  These included:

  • Use the July 10th Dry Run to “level expectations.”  Expectations from the public seem to be very high.  One way to begin managing expectations in terms of what the reporting system can produce is to use the opportunity of the July 10th “dry run” of the financial and performance reporting system to begin to show what might be reasonably expected when the October 10th reporting occurs. The dry run could also be used to identify best practices in data reporting.
  • Create a customer-centric, single face for reporting.  While federal agencies are meeting regularly among themselves, they aren’t necessarily synchronizing their reporting requirements from the perspective of the reporting entity.  Using the Recovery Act as a “burning platform” to force action, can the federal government work with states to come up with a “shared service” platform for financial and performance reporting/data sharing?
  • Create a common set of expectations.  Develop a shared way of seeing a problem.  While there will never be a single “right” answer, there needs to be a forum where stakeholders can communicate their perspectives and come to a shared understanding.
  • Allow different definitions of what constitutes “success.”  Right now, the key “interpreter” of success seems to be the auditors.  Allow multidisciplinary analyses of the data (e.g., universities, professional associations, as well as special interest groups).  “The more lenses, the better.”
  • Create a focal point for sharing best practices.  OMB should foster a cross-agency, and possibly cross-levels of government, communities or data to allow real-time sharing of what works and what does not.  It should then quickly disseminate best practices for replication. 

This dialogue is only one of many similar efforts underway.  In the past several weeks, I understand similar efforts were held by the Association of Government Accountants, the Annie Casey Foundation, and others.  If you attended any of those, it would be interesting to learn if there were similar themes and ideas coming out of those sessions.