White House taps four agencies to lead new shared services strategy
- By Chase Gunter
- Apr 26, 2019
The Trump administration rolled out a new shared services plan to try to reduce duplicative back office functions and prod agencies to adopt government-wide solutions.
An April 26 memo from acting Office of Management and Budget Director Russel Vought sets up identifies financial management, grants management, human resources and cybersecurity as shared services and named agencies to take the lead in each.
Treasury is taking over financial management, Health and Human Services gets grants management, the General Services Administration gets HR and cyber goes to the Department of Homeland Security.
Each of these agencies is being tabbed under the new policy as a Quality Service Management Office. Each QSMO will have to submit a five-year plan for managing that shared service.
Each of the agencies was selected based fit of their current missions and purview of responsibilities, said Federal CIO Suzette Kent at an April 26 press briefing hosted at GSA.
Within 30 days, agencies are required to designate a senior accountable point of contact to help develop shared services standards. Further, agencies seeking new tech or services will not be permitted to issue solicitations without the approval of a designated point person from that agency, the agency CIO, the QSMO, and OMB based on a "business case" proving a separate procurement is a better value.
Mike Hettinger, a former congressional staffer who lobbies on behalf of tech companies, said he was concerned that forcing agencies seeking to modernize their own services to get approval from a QSMO at another agency could result in agencies skipping needed upgrades.
"Once an agency is designated as QSMO, other agencies may be forced to halt planned or ongoing modernization. That's concerning. I want to make sure we're modernizing at a decent clip," Hettinger told FCW.
Across government agencies spend upwards of $25 billion annually on back office services. The White House is projecting the move to shared services will be a long-term cost-saver, but in the short term, Kent acknowledged there will be an early uptick in spending.
"Part of the reason the timing is now is we are aligning this planning with the budget cycles," she said, adding that the initial costs will appear in agency budget requests. "This kicks off the planning process."
Some of these projects may see more creative means of funding. GSA administrator Emily Murphy pointed to the NewPay system, a software-as-a-service program intended to fix federal payroll and scheduling, as a "first step."
"Our focus stretches beyond payroll and leave management," she said, adding that GSA's "longer-term" goal entails end-to-end solutions for civil human resource transaction services, and expanded use of data in personnel management.
The administration expects the plan to consolidate these services to have an effect on the federal workforce. Murphy insisted the shared services strategy "is not about reducing the size of the federal workforce."
To that end, Kent also said that the administration has a "very conscious focus on ensuring that we spend time with the workforce and understand what the impacts of some of these changes might be." She added the White House is working "directly" with OPM in accounting for the effects on personnel as a result of this modernization of systems and services.
"From a people standpoint, that is a critical part of the plan," she said.
Chase Gunter is a staff writer covering civilian agencies, workforce issues, health IT, open data and innovation.
Prior to joining FCW, Gunter reported for the C-Ville Weekly in Charlottesville, Va., and served as a college sports beat writer for the South Boston (Va.) News and Record. He started at FCW as an editorial fellow before joining the team full-time as a reporter.
Gunter is a graduate of the University of Virginia, where his emphases were English, history and media studies.
Click here for previous articles by Gunter, or connect with him on Twitter: @WChaseGunter