GAO urges involving more partners in cross-cutting initiatives

The Government Accountability Office thinks the Obama administration has an opportunity to deal with government programs that are fragmented between agencies or carried out by multiple agencies, but the administration will need to involve more agencies in the goal-setting.

President Barack Obama’s 2013 budget proposal includes 14 interim crosscutting priority goals. Of these goals, nine involve policy areas, such as job training and small business, and five are goals to improve management, such as data center consolidation.

In a report issued on May 31, GAO said these goals are important steps to address the issues that come with programs spanning numerous departments. But there’s more to it than that. For one, GAO said, the administration needs to bring in strategic partners.

“If the federal government does not leverage all relevant parties, important opportunities for achieving these goals may be missed,” reads the report.

It recommended that the Office of Management and Budget include the more departments and programs that GAO believes should be a part of the performance plan.

For example, CIOs from 24 departments and agencies are on the Federal Data Center Consolidation Initiative, which aims to close at least 1,200 data centers by fiscal 2015. GAO recommended OMB expand the initiative to more members of the CIO Council, such as the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, and independent agencies, such as the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Similarly, the administration wants to have 95 percent use of critical cybersecurity capabilities, such as Trusted Internet Connections and strong authentication, on federal information systems by 2014.

GAO recommended adding the National Security Agency and the Cyber Command to the list of agencies identified on the performance, including the Homeland Security Department and the General Services Administration’s Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies.

OMB agreed to consider GAO’s suggestions in developing further crosscutting priorities.

“Using a collaborative interagency process, we are reviewing those suggestions carefully to inform and refine the action plan for each goal, a process GAO describes as a positive development,” Shelley Metzenbaum, associate director of performance and personnel management at OMB, wrote May 31 on the OMBlog.

The fiscal 2013 budget proposal laid out 14 Cross Agency Priority goals that cut across various departments, such as improper payments and sustainability. The goals tackle the one of the most difficult problem for government, which is solving national problems that more than one agency is responsible for.

These efforts need help from across government.

“In each of these 14 areas, success requires a synthesis of effort and investments among and across multiple federal agencies,” she wrote.

GAO’s report is the first in a series as it reviews how the administration institutes the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA) Modernization Act.

About the Author

Matthew Weigelt is a freelance journalist who writes about acquisition and procurement.

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