Web extra: Hot or not: A matter of authority

Agencies and lawmakers sought greater authority in key positions in their efforts to improve government performance

Not hot: Chief management officer
The Defense Department's decision to finally comply with the Government Accountability Office, the Defense Business Board and others' recommendations to name a chief management officer was more about form than substance.

That was the reaction of Comptroller General David Walker, head of GAO, to DOD's decision to give the additional title of CMO to Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon .

"We believe this action represents the continuation of the status quo," Walker said. "There is no question that Gordon England is a capable professional and can function as a chief management officer. However, there is institutional need that rises above the interest or abilities of any particular individual. GAO believes that the DOD needs a dedicated chief management officer at the right level in order to provide continuity of leadership both within and, in some cases, between administrations on key business transformation challenges."

GAO and other observers believe a CMO should be appointed to a seven-year term and have the clout to bring DOD's business transformation issues under control.

"There is not a human being on the planet who can effectively discharge deputy secretary of Defense and CMO duties at a time of war with the degree of transformational change necessary in the DOD," Walker added.

He said part of DOD's reasoning in creating a CMO might have been lawmakers' increased interest in including the requirement in legislation.

The fiscal 2008 authorization bill, which a conference committee passed last week, would require DOD to establish the deputy secretary of Defense as the CMO and create a full-time position of deputy CMO at the rank of undersecretary to ensure continuous top-level attention to management problems.

-- Jason Miller

Hot: IG authority
Investigations by inspectors general -- the agency watchdogs -- generated many high-profile stories and had the support of congressional leaders in 2007.

For example, an investigation by the General Services Administration's inspector general landed Lurita Doan, GSA's administrator, in front of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee for allegedly getting too involved in negotiations between GSA contracting officers and Sun Microsystems.

After the 2006 elections, agency officials knew they would face tough oversight, and their predictions came to fruition, to the point that a Bush administration official called IGs aggravating. Democrats, who took over Congress in 2006, said the Republicans had created a culture of corruption, and they planned to purge that culture.

It wasn't just Democrats, though. Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), who adamantly backed the GSA IG in the Sun Microsystems situation, said the IGs are on the front lines fighting abuses.

"Not just this year, but every day they are working to ensure that taxpayers aren't on the hook for $500 hammers and shoddy contracts," he said. "They are among the watchdogs who safeguard public confidence in our system of self-government."

-- Matthew Weigelt

Not hot: Privacy
Privacy and security are separate pieces of the same puzzle, but security issues, not privacy, grabbed top billing in 2007. Agencies, however, have quietly continued the yeoman's work to establish and manage privacy protections.

In the past two years, the Office of Management and Budget has issued several memos directing agencies to implement privacy and security requirements, such as reducing the unnecessary collection of personally identifiable information, said Karen Evans, OMB's administrator for e-government and information technology.

"While agencies have made great strides, further progress is needed for implementing the remaining requirements, such as the requirement to log and verify all computer-readable data extracts from databases holding sensitive information," she said.

From the privacy officer's perspective, agencies have focused on reducing the risks of identity theft and breaches of personally identifiable information, creating a notification-response team and achieving OMB targets, said Marc Groman, chief privacy officer at the Federal Trade Commission.

Although it flew under the radar in 2007, privacy is still a significant topic, he added. Notably, the Office of Personnel Management launched an effort to reduce the use of Social Security numbers governmentwide. The President's Identity Theft Task Force detailed recommendations in April to limit their use across agencies.

-- Mary Mosquera

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