Trouble looms for feds
- By Milt x_Zall
- Mar 18, 2001
Mitchell Daniels Jr., the new director at the Office of Management and Budget,
recently told agency heads that the "federal government's record on performance
needs to improve." How Daniels arrived at this assessment after less than
a month on the job is beyond me.
Daniels says in his Feb. 14 memorandum that he is attaching "the guidance
information we need to meet the legal obligation for the submittal of the
federal government's governmentwide performance plan." Daniels' wording
can use some improvement. It looks as if Daniels has succumbed to the malaise
he seems to think affects federal performance. He should bone up on his
English or maybe he's following President Bush's lead.
The guidance Daniels provides will send chills up your spine. He identifies
the following initiatives:
- "Delayering" management levels to streamline organizations.
- Reducing erroneous payments to beneficiaries and other recipients
of government funds.
- Making greater use of performance-based contracts.
- Expanding the application of online procurement and other e-government
services and information.
- Expanding A-76 competitions and creating more accurate 1998 Federal
Activities Inventory Reform Act inventories.
"The president envisions a government that has a citizen-based focus,
and is results-oriented and, where practicable, market-driven," Daniels
said. To underscore this emphasis, agencies are being asked to expand their
A-76 competition. Most of you know that OMB circular A-76 advocates the
outsourcing of federal jobs. With outsourcing, private firms and federal
workers compete for specific agency functions, with the work going to the
lowest bidder. The process could be rigged to favor private firms or feds,
depending on who's doing the rigging.
About 850,000 jobs could be subject to A-76 competitions, and while
campaigning, Bush said he would require A-76 competitions for up to half
of those jobs. What's not obvious is whether the competition will be rigged
to favor private firms. Virtually all of the Cabinet heads that Bush has
appointed came from the private sector and could favor the private sector.
That could mean bad news for feds you can't outsource government jobs
and "delayer" managerial ranks entirely through attrition. If Bush is serious
about this, reductions in force will be required, which spells trouble for
feds with a capital R.
The approach is like the early Reagan years, when federal heads were
placed on the chopping block in the name of efficiency. Never mind that
this crew ran up the largest budget deficits ever seen they knew what
they were doing; they were private-sector mavens. I'm hoping that the Bush
team is smarter than the Reagan crew or, for that matter, the private-sector
dot-com mavens of 1997 who are now out of work. Running the federal government
isn't easy let's hope the Bush team realizes that quickly.
Zall is a retired federal employee who since 1987 has written the Bureaucratus
column for Federal Computer Week. He can be reached at email@example.com.