Obama forms private-sector board to improve agency operations

New advisory group will bring private sector lessions to public sector operations

President Barack Obama formed a new advisory board because he sees the federal government lagging behind the private sector when it comes to applying innovation to operations, according to a senior administration official.

“It used to be that a federal worker had more computing power and prowess at their desk than at home; now, they often have more power in their Blackberry or iPhone than at their desk,” Peter Orszag, director of the Office of Management and Budget, wrote on OMB’s blog on April 19.

For that reason, Obama established the President’s Management Advisory Board on April 19 to complement his advisory committee of federal officials. The attempt is to tap private-sector expertise and apply it to federal work.


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Obama issued an executive order for the advisory board to help his administration find the best ways to manage federal agencies’ operations. Although the board’s chairman is Jeffrey Zients, deputy director for management at OMB and chief performance officer, the remaining 17 members will be private-sector executives, Obama’s order states. The administration has yet to make any announcements about the 17 board members.

The administration is interested in proven techniques to improve productivity, apply technology usefully and enhance customer service, according to the president’s order.

“As the president has said time and again, the best ideas often come from outside Washington,” Orszag wrote.

The board builds on what the White House learned from its forum on modernizing government held in January, Orszag wrote.

During that event, more than 50 top industry executives converged on the White House. They sat through breakout sessions and interacted with government officials who are trying to find ways to spend money wisely and get the most returns.

"Coming out of that meeting, it became clear that the dialogue between senior private and public sector leaders was a fruitful one, and this new board will provide a venue to keep that conversation going," Orszag wrote.

Before the forum, Zients said the private sector has moved far ahead in the technology arena in recent decades while the government has remained relatively stagnant. “We wanted to find out how they did it,” he said.

About the Author

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

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