Management

House Oversight Panel looks beyond sequestration for savings

John Kamensky

IBM's John Kamensky warns that sequestration won't change inefficient operations, allowing waste to continue even after the budget cuts. (IBM photo)

Sequestration, if it happens, will cut billions of dollars from agencies' budgets. Yet it will do little to change the government operations where waste happens regularly.

John Kamensky, senior fellow at the IBM Center for The Business of Government, told members of Congress on Feb. 5 that strategies for streamlining government operations hinge on two things: decreasing mission-support costs, such as personnel and contracting, and spending less time on administration. Sequestration may trim those areas along with everything else, but it would not alter the ratios that are fundamentally inefficient, he said.

The government has historically spent some 30 percent of its total operating costs on mission-support efforts, Kamensky said in his testimony before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. In the private sector, on the other hand, these areas typically average about 15 percent of operating costs. Furthermore, he said, commercial companies believe reducing time spent in administrative process will "increase value to customers and reduce costs incurred by both the customers and the commercial business."

At the hearing, the committee asked experts to suggest ways the government could avoid wasting money. Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) said in 2011 the inspector general community identified potential savings through government reform totaling almost $100 billion. "We must move beyond political divisions and face our financial realities in order to truly fix what is clearly broken," Issa said.

Yet while would-be reformers have no shortage of savings strategies to suggest, Dan Blair, president of the National Academy of Public Administration, said lawmakers and the administration should move cautiously when considering reorganization.

"Because it can be so challenging to fundamentally restructure departments and agencies, or to create new ones," he said, "the use of interagency councils can help achieve a 'virtual reorganization' of overlapping programs that cut across existing departmental boundaries."

In fact, said Thomas Schatz, president of Citizens Against Government Waste, there are saving to be had by restraining change in government -- and there, he suggested, Congress has not done its part. As much as the executive branch engages in wasteful operations, he said, lawmakers in both chambers have failed to agree on rule changes that prevent the creation of duplicative and overlapping programs. Without such restrictions, he warned, the size and scope of government will continue to expand.

"It's Congress that doesn't put its foot down and say, 'no,'" he said. "It's a political will issue."

About the Author

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

The Fed 100

Save the date for 28th annual Federal 100 Awards Gala.

Featured

  • computer network

    How Einstein changes the way government does business

    The Department of Commerce is revising its confidentiality agreement for statistical data survey respondents to reflect the fact that the Department of Homeland Security could see some of that data if it is captured by the Einstein system.

  • Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. Army photo by Monica King. Jan. 26, 2017.

    Mattis mulls consolidation in IT, cyber

    In a Feb. 17 memo, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told senior leadership to establish teams to look for duplication across the armed services in business operations, including in IT and cybersecurity.

  • Image from Shutterstock.com

    DHS vague on rules for election aid, say states

    State election officials had more questions than answers after a Department of Homeland Security presentation on the designation of election systems as critical U.S. infrastructure.

  • Org Chart Stock Art - Shutterstock

    How the hiring freeze targets millennials

    The government desperately needs younger talent to replace an aging workforce, and experts say that a freeze on hiring doesn't help.

  • Shutterstock image: healthcare digital interface.

    VA moves ahead with homegrown scheduling IT

    The Department of Veterans Affairs will test an internally developed scheduling module at primary care sites nationwide to see if it's ready to service the entire agency.

  • Shutterstock images (honglouwawa & 0beron): Bitcoin image overlay replaced with a dollar sign on a hardware circuit.

    MGT Act poised for a comeback

    After missing in the last Congress, drafters of a bill to encourage cloud adoption are looking for a new plan.

Reader comments

Wed, Feb 6, 2013

I believe we should concentrate on abusive spending of government funds before we cut the hours of hard working government employees. While everything from gas, food, and utilites increased, we have not had a raise in salary for three years. Wy should us government employees be the only ones punished to balance the budget. We have obligations like every American citizen in the work force. Please continue to look futher into solving this issue without sequesting us dedicated hard working civilians.

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above

More from 1105 Public Sector Media Group