OMB details reform agenda

The Bush administration formally unveiled its anticipated management reforms to fix problem information technology programs and has asked agencies to operate more streamlined organizations that focus on serving the public.

The agenda, released last week, lists five specific management reform challenges and details nine related initiatives that underscore problems at particular agencies. The agenda pulls together the performance and management issues to which the administration is committed.

The five agenda items, which were widely anticipated, are workforce, competitive sourcing, financial management, electronic government and integrating performance measures into the budget process. President Bush was expected to discuss the agenda Aug. 25 during his weekly radio address.

Even the agency-specific initiatives mentioned — such as how the Department of Housing and Urban Development manages its workforce, IT resources and financial management systems — are applicable across government, said SeanO'Keefe, deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget.

This agenda will succeed, O'Keefe said, because "it is one the president has embraced. It's not derived from an external group." O'Keefe said the workforce goal is to shrink the distance between the people who make policy and those federal workers who deliver services in order to create a citizen-centric government. This does not necessarily involve an "increase or decrease" in personnel, but a reorganization, he said. In addition, agencies must address the impending wave of retirements and match workers' skills with the programs already in place. The Office of Personnel Management is expected to detail government personnel reforms today.

The administration also will push agencies to determine whether current government functions could be performed more efficiently by private industry,a practice known as competitive sourcing.

Competitive sourcing doesn't necessarily mean outsourcing, said Angela Styles, administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy. "Thec ompetition itself is the best way to force improved performance, improved efficiencies and improved cost savings," she said.

As for e-government, O'Keefe's objectives are to enable citizen-centric government and ease business-to-government and government-to-governmenttransactions. Agencies should get rid of legacy systems that are expensive to maintain. They should "modernize the systems and use them" to support those objectives, he said.

In addition to the agenda, O'Keefe detailed several pieces of legislation that will be introduced shortly. This includes a bill that would bring together workforce-related legislative authorities, such as pay-banding, and apply them governmentwide, and would also require agencies to budget the unit cost associated with an employee, including health care and retirement.

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