Policies challenge the status quo

These 9 federal management directives are disruptive but necessary, officials say

This year has been memorable for policies that challenge the status quo and disrupt the old ways of doing things. We’ve identified nine policies — in no particular ranking — from among dozens that are forcing government leaders to think and manage differently. It’s no wonder that federal information technology officials are going back to the classroom to study organizational transformation, the newest curriculum at the National Defense University’s Information Resources Management College.

Standard accounting codes
If the federal government is to start behaving like one government, agencies must get the financial basics right by agreeing to use the same accounting codes. Later this year, the Financial Systems Integration Office will release new accounting codes that every agency will be required to use. Common accounting codes are important because, without them, the federal government cannot produce an accurate consolidated financial statement. And that, administration officials say, is unacceptable.

Portfolio management
Several departments and agencies adopted portfolio management policies, which meant that agencies could see, often for the first time, how much they were spending on knowledge management versus network management, for example. Portfolio management policies require agencies to lump similar programs into capability portfolios that help leaders make better informed and therefore, officials say they hope, better spending decisions. The Defense Department became a leader this year by relying on portfolio management insights as it was preparing its fiscal 2009 and 2010 IT budget requests.

Identity verification
Policies designed to verify the identities of federal employees and contractors have provoked anxiety and resistance from federal employee unions. Homeland Security Presidential Directive 12 requires that all federal employees undergo fresh background checks. Agencies also must verify the Social Security numbers of new federal hires against the Homeland Security Department’s e-Verify database. The 2001 terrorist attacks showed that the world has changed and that those policies are necessary, officials say.

Competitive sourcing
The Office of Management and Budget’s policy that requires agencies to hold public/ private job competitions for work that is inherently nongovernmental is, by its nature, disruptive. Known as competitive sourcing, the policy frequently applies to federal IT employees. Federal workers typically must downsize and reorganize their operations to win those competitions and preserve a reduced number of IT jobs for federal employees.

Lead systems integrators
Government policies are beginning to turn against lead systems integrators, large companies that have been the stewards of multi-year, multibillion-dollar information technology programs. The Defense Information Systems Agency has told industry leaders that the days of the big systems integrator are over. DISA says it expects to acquire new capabilities on a less risky basis in the future by buying managed services.

Professional certification
The White House Office of Federal Procurement Policy issued new certification requirements for program and project managers assigned to large federal acquisitions. The policy is to ensure that those managers have the necessary skills to negotiate contract terms, define contract requirements and measure contract performance.

Digital rights management
The National Archives and Records Administration issued a policy stating that it will not accept any electronic records that agencies have created using digital rights management software. Agencies must remove the DRM access controls, NARA said, while also reminding agencies that if the controls are left in place, the records will be unreadable.

Contracting data validation
The lack of relia le contracting data led the Office of Federal Procurement Policy to issue a new policy that makes agency chief acquisition officers responsible for the accuracy and timeliness of federal procurement data. OFPP said careless data entry clerks can no longer be blamed for the faulty information that agencies submit to the governmentwide database of record, the Federal Procurement Data System.

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