Thompson delivers management jolt

Thompson government management report: Volume 1

Hoping to gain the attention of the administration and congressional leadership through "shock therapy," Sen. Fred Thompson (R-Tenn.) on Tuesday released a two-volume report on the top management challenges within the federal government.

Thompson released the report to the Office of Management and Budget the same day he yielded chairmanship of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee to Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.), as Senate control shifts to the Democrats.

But Thompson noted that the management challenges in the areas of information technology, workforce, financial accountability and program overlap and duplication are bipartisan issues that everyone needs to focus on to sustain efforts to improve government.

"It's all going to be undermined unless we have the people, the equipment and the leadership," he said.

The report, which Thompson handed directly to OMB Director Mitchell Daniels Jr., is a compilation of previous reports from the committee, the General Accounting Office and agency inspectors general.

It highlights the increasing lack of skilled and experienced federal employees, the growing number of failing IT systems and information security vulnerabilities, agencies' inability to account for where their funding is going, and the number of efforts covered by duplicative programs at multiple agencies.

While the information is not new, the fact that no governmentwide progress has been made in these areas shows that such problems are not getting the attention they need, Thompson said.

"Perhaps addressing this this way will provide a little shock therapy," he said.

Daniels restated OMB's commitment to emphasizing accountability at the agencies. "We've got to begin to get some traction in the effective measurement of output," he said.

But it will take work from the executive and legislative branches to be successful, he said. "You've got to be equally incensed" that these problems persist, he said. "This will have to be a joint effort...and one that is pursued consistently and even relentlessly."

Increased attention from OMB, which usually has been more focused on budget issues than management ones, should help move this effort forward, Thompson said. But the managers within agencies need to realize that they must continually advocate good management practices, even when the politicians are not paying attention.

"This is not today's headline, but we're undermining fundamentals," Thompson said.

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