• Taking Contractor Accountability to the Next Level

    Since coming into office in 2009, President Obama has made great strides in making government more accountable to the American people, pursuing tough reforms to cut waste and act as responsible stewards of taxpayer dollars.  In the area of contracting, this Administration has slashed billions in spending and taken aggressive steps to hold contractors accountable and ensure that we don’t do business with those who seek to abuse or misuse Federal funds. 

    Last fall, former OMB Director Jack Lew reminded agencies of their ongoing responsibility to do business with contractors who place a premium on integrity, performance, and quality--and not do business with firms who are proven bad actors and put Americans’ hard-earned dollars at risk for waste, fraud, and abuse.  In a November 2011 memorandum to federal agencies, he called on agency heads to make sure they are fully equipped to suspend or debar contractors whenever necessary to keep federal missions out of harm’s way. The ability to debar or ban a certain company from doing business with the U.S. government is an important tool we have to protect taxpayer dollars from waste, fraud and abuse.  

    Today, a new report shows the results of the Administration’s stepped up accountability efforts. The new report from the Interagency Suspension and Debarment Committee (ISDC), a coordinating body of Federal representatives, found that in each of the past three years, agencies have collectively increased suspensions and debarments of companies that fail to play by the rules, going from just over 1900 in FY 2009 to more than 3000 in FY 2011.  While the vast majority of government contractors compete fairly to deliver the best value to the American people, it is critical that the government take a hard line against those who would defraud taxpayers. The report shows the Obama Administration has made significant progress in cracking down on bad actors.  Just as significant as the progress are the management actions that underlie it, and indicate an increased agency commitment to protecting taxpayer resources. 

    • All of the 24 major executive branch agencies  -- which account for more than 98 percent of federal procurement spending -- reported having a senior accountable official in place, as called for by last November’s memorandum, with responsibility for assessing the agency’s suspension and debarment program. 
    • These same agencies reported taking decisive steps to address resources, policies, or both, to ensure appropriate consideration of suspension and debarment when warranted.  Steps taken have ranged from formally establishing or reestablishing suspension and debarment programs -- such as at the Departments of Health and Human Services and Commerce, which together account for $22 billion in annual contract spending -- and increasing personnel resources for existing programs, to creating new internal monitoring mechanisms, to simplifying referrals for potential suspension or debarment, to implementing automatic referrals to the agency’s suspending and debarring official under certain circumstances.

    Through this increased management attention and building capability where it did not exist before, agencies are now better equipped to protect the public from wrongdoers before critical agency resources are unnecessarily wasted.  For instance:

    • As a result of completely revamping its debarment and suspension program in 2009, the Department of Interior was able to suspend a contractor within a week of learning from one of its contracting officers that the contractor – who was about to receive a federal contract for demolition and removal of water monitoring stations -- had been indicted in the State of Indiana on charges of attempting to bribe a state official to get state contracts.  Upon conviction, DOI imposed debarment on the contractor.
    • The United States Agency for International Development (USAID), which, as of 2011 now maintains a dedicated staff focused on suspension and debarment activities, debarred 16 people in 2012 for their participation in a scheme to submit fraudulent receipts for the administration of federal foreign assistance to support public health, food aid, and disaster assistance in Malawi.  By working with its recipient organization to assure that the unlawfully claimed funds were not reimbursed, USAID was able to avoid waste and abuse of taxpayer funds designed to provide vital assistance to a developing country. 

    Strengthening agency suspension and debarment capabilities is just one of a number of ways the Obama Administration has attacked waste and abuse to get better value from our contractors.  Restoring competition to its rightful place as the cornerstone of our acquisition system is another.  There is no greater every-day remedy than competition for curbing fraud, improving contractor performance and promoting accountability for results.  With concerted agency efforts, we have seen the amount of contract dollars competed over the last three years  rise to 64 percent, the highest average level of competition in Federal contracting we have seen over any three year period in the last quarter century and 8 percent higher than the average level of competition reported during the last Administration. 

    The Obama Administration’s intensified focus on contractor accountability will continue to drive even better results as agencies continue to build the skills of their workforce.  With more than one out of every six dollars of Federal government spending going to contractors, that is good news for America’s taxpayers.

    Joe Jordan is Administrator of OMB’s Office of Federal Procurement Policy

  • Eliminating Red Tape to Boost Trade & Economic Growth


    Today the Administration is publishing a joint U.S. and EU request for public input on how to promote greater transatlantic regulatory compatibility.  By eliminating unnecessary burdens to trade, we can promote economic growth and job creation here in the United States, while ensuring the protection of health, safety, welfare, and the environment.

    As has been noted by our EU colleagues, the American and EU economies together account for about half the world GDP and for nearly a third of world trade flows.  As Co-Chair of the U.S.–EU High Level Regulatory Cooperation Forum and a contributor to the Transatlantic Economic Council, OMB’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) is working to enhance regulatory cooperation with the EU.  Today’s joint letter seeks specific ideas from the public about how we should prioritize our cooperation efforts.
    Through this open letter, we hope to receive detailed input on differences between existing regulation in the United States and Europe that may impose unnecessary costs and burdens on American businesses, and on priority areas where we should cooperate on future regulations affecting new and innovative growth markets and technologies, particularly for small and medium sized businesses.
    The United States and Europe have a long history of cooperation, and we believe there is no better time than the present to refocus our efforts on reducing red tape in transatlantic trade.  We look forward to hearing from the American people, including our nation’s small and medium sized business owners, as we work to identify both systemic and sectoral challenges that we should tackle in partnership with our European colleagues.

    Send us your ideas at  You can also submit comments through  Comments sent to OIRA will be made public on

    See also

  • Spending Less, Spending Smarter

    Under the Administration’s Campaign to Cut Waste, we are scrutinizing every dollar of Federal spending to make sure that funds are spent efficiently and effectively.  As part of the campaign, last fall, in Executive Order 13589, “Promoting Efficient Spending,”the President charged Federal agencies with tightening their belts to find efficiencies and savings in areas such as printing, fleet, and travel.  That effort is paying off.  Federal agencies are hard at work executing on plans to achieve administrative cost savings in these areas. Agencies achieved over $2 billion in reduced costs in the first quarter of 2012 compared to the same period of time in 2010, and we’re announcing today that agencies achieved another $2 billion in savings in the second quarter.  That puts us at $4 billion dollars in savings – well on track to meet and exceed our goal of $8 billion by the end of FY 2013. 

    But perhaps just as important as the savings themselves is the fact that they are indicative of innovative management practices Federal agencies are implementing to get the most out of every dollar.  We are spending less money, and we’re spending it smarter in order to get the most bang for our buck.

    For instance, United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is consolidating its cell phone contracts.  An analysis of USDA’s cellular inventory showed that USDA had over 700 plans and about 36,000 lines of service.  The number of plans has been reduced considerably, and about 1,700 unused and obsolete lines have been discontinued, resulting in savings of approximately $4.7 million this year alone. 

  • Building-Blocks of a 21st Century Digital Government

    Today marks three months since we released the Digital Government Strategy (PDF/ HTML5) – as part of the President’s directive to build a 21st Century Government that delivers better services to the American people.

    Executing on this vision of government cannot happen alone. To provide the highest value of services, we must rethink from step one how government builds and provides services for the American people. We must unlock rich government data, information and services so that everyone from citizen developers and private sector entrepreneurs, to our very own Federal agencies can help provide the American people with the access to these services “anywhere, anytime, on any device.”

    Today agencies are making great strides towards putting a solid foundation for a 21st Century Digital Government in place.

    For example, the Census Bureau recently released its first mobile app, called “America’s Economy,” and just today released an iOS version. The app mashes up Census data with economic statistics from the Bureau of Economic Analysis and Bureau of Labor Statistics and provides the latest economic indicators that drive business hiring, sales, and production decisions throughout the nation in real time. Economists, planners, business owners, and the public can use the app to get a quick and easy snapshot of the health of the U.S. economy, look at trends, and receive notifications when indicators change. But as powerful as the app is, just as powerful is the way Census is releasing the underlying data through its first publicly available application programming interface (API).

    The Census API, which pulls from the American Community Survey and the 2010 Census, has yielded an unprecedented level of interest from citizen developers. Over 800 external developers have already accessed the API since its release, and users have generated over 24 million data requests. And as an indication of how valuable and accessible this data is, it took only 24 hours for the first third-party app to be developed and we are excited to see the many more applications that will be developed using this data.

    This is just one example of the power of unlocking rich government data sets and services to the public and is exactly what the Digital Government Strategy is trying to accomplish. But it is just the beginning.

  • Making Forms Simpler

    To fulfill its functions, the federal government asks people to fill out a lot of forms. To get permits and licenses, to pay taxes, and to qualify for benefits and grants, forms are often required. Too often, however, those forms are too confusing and complicated, especially for individuals and small businesses.  Today we are doing something about that problem.

    From now on, agencies will be asked to test complex or lengthy forms in advance, by seeing if people can actually understand them. Advance testing can take many forms. Agencies might use focus groups. They might use web-based experiments. They might try in-person observations of how users understand the forms.  From those tests, agencies will be better able to identify the likely burdens on members of the public and to find ways to increase simplification and ease of comprehension.

    Here’s an example from a closely related area: labeling. In 2011, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Transportation unveiled new and improved fuel economy labels. The new labels promote informed choices by telling consumers, clearly and simply, about annual fuel costs and about the likely five-year savings or costs of particular cars (compared to the average vehicle). The new labels followed an extensive process of testing, to see what really would be most useful for consumers. In the future, we will be engaging in similar testing for forms, increasing simplicity, reducing confusion, and saving time.

    In recent years, we have made a lot of progress in reducing red tape, increasing plain language, and eliminating complexity. Today’s action is a significant further step in this direction.


  • A Smarter Approach to Regulation

    Watch the White House white board here.

    Since taking office, President Obama has been committed to eliminating red tape and ensuring that when rules are issued to protect safety and health, they are sensitive to the economic situation and attuned to the importance of job creation and economic growth. 

    As this White House White Board shows, the net benefits, or the benefits minus the costs, of regulations issued through the third fiscal year of the Obama Administration have exceeded $91 billion. This amount, including not only monetary savings but also thousands of lives saved and tens of thousands of illnesses and injuries prevented,is over 25 times the net benefits through the third fiscal year of the previous Administration.  What are the ingredients of these benefits?

  • A Regulatory Reformer Leaves His Mark

    With regret and deep gratitude, I am announcing that Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs Administrator Cass Sunstein will be leaving OMB this month.  Having served in the Administration since the very start, and with the recent birth of a baby daughter and the coming of the new school year, Cass will be rejoining Harvard Law School as the Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law and Director of the new Program on Behavioral Economics and Public Policy. 

    We are grateful to Cass for his years of public service and for his leadership and dedication in assisting the President in overseeing the nation's regulatory program. Among other things, his emphasis on transparency and on innovative, low-cost regulatory tools contributed to the Administration's Open Government Initiative; to numerous efforts to promote clear, simple disclosure to inform consumers and investors; and to creative reforms to increase public participation in the regulatory process and to promote accountability to the American public.

    Cass also oversaw the historic government-wide regulatory "lookback," designed to streamline, improve, and sometimes eliminate existing rules -- helping businesses, consumers, and workers alike. That effort has already produced over $10 billion in five-year savings, along with the elimination of tens of millions of hours in annual paperwork burdens. Because the lookback has been institutionalized, and made a regular feature of American government, far greater savings are expected over time. His leadership in promoting disciplined consideration of costs and benefits, and selection of the least costly alternative, helped generate, to date, well over $100 billion in net benefits.  

    Cass has also played a leading role in the Administration's Smart Disclosure initiative, designed to use modern technologies to better inform consumers; in promoting consideration of cumulative burdens of rules; in recent efforts to simplify our regulatory system and to reduce reporting burdens; and in implementing the recommendations of the President's Jobs Council. He has also participated in the design of numerous rules that are, among other things, saving lives on the highways by making vehicles safer and reducing distracted driving; dramatically increasing the fuel economy of the nation’s cars and trucks; protecting public health by reducing air pollution; making our food supply safer; and protecting against discrimination on the basis of disability and sexual orientation.

    I can’t thank Cass enough for all he has done for OMB, for the Administration, and for the American people. 

    In Cass’s place, Boris Bershteyn, OMB’s General Counsel, will be stepping in to serve as Acting OIRA Administrator. Boris brings with him a tremendous knowledge of regulatory affairs, and currently serves on the Council of the Administrative Conference of the United States, an independent federal agency dedicated to improving the administrative process through consensus-driven applied research. Boris has served as OMB General Counsel since June 2011 and as the Deputy General Counsel from 2009 to 2010.  Between his tours at OMB, he served as Special Assistant to the President and Associate White House Counsel, with responsibility for legal issues in regulatory, economic, health, and environmental policy.  I know Boris will ensure a smooth transition as he picks up where Cass left off.  

  • Regulatory Cooperation in Action

    Today we are pleased to announce an important step forward for a joint effort launched by President Obama and Prime Minister Harper to cut unnecessary red tape for companies small and large that want to do business cross our shared border.  On December 7, 2011, President Obama and Prime Minister Harper announced the launch of theUnited States-Canada Regulatory Cooperation Council (RCC) Action Plan. We are pleased to announce that, as of this week, all of the work plans to implement the sectoral initiatives in the Action Plan have been finalized. They are available for viewing at

    The work plans set out a full range of activities to be undertaken by U.S. and Canadian regulators to achieve more effective and coordinated approaches to regulation. These approaches are aimed at reducing unnecessary regulatory differences and enhancing our joint economic competitiveness while continuing to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the American people.   

    What does this mean in practice?  We expect that by reducing unjustified disparities and needless red tape, these initiatives will have a positive impact on economic growth, given that over $835 billion dollars in goods, services, and investment flowed between our two countries in 2011. Easing these trade flows, while continuing to protect public health, safety, and our environment, will benefit Canadians and Americans alike.

    To hold ourselves accountable for producing results, the work plans have two-year timeframes and include clear milestones and timelines, mechanisms to promote ongoing regulatory alignment, and regular opportunities for public participation and stakeholder engagement.

    We believe that increasing regulatory cooperation and cutting red tape that hampers U.S. businesses will promote trade and lower costs for consumers by ensuring that cross-border transactions are simpler, more efficient, and more predictable.  If you have ideas about how to improve our implementation of the Action Plan or would like to propose new areas of cooperation, we ask that you contact us at

  • Mid-Session Review 2013

    Today, OMB released the Mid-Session Review (MSR), which updates the Administration’s estimates for outlays, receipts, and the deficit in light of economic, legislative, and other developments since the President’s 2013 Budget was released in February. As it does each year, the MSR shows the budget outlook under the Administration's policies, which for fiscal year 2013 include the full enactment of the President’s proposals promoting jobs and economic growth and balanced deficit reduction.

    Consistent with the February Budget, the MSR shows that under the President’s policies deficits will be reduced to below 3 percent of GDP by 2017 and remain below 3 percent through the rest of the decade.  As a result, debt held by the public as a percent of GDP will be stabilized by 2015 and then set on a downward trajectory through the rest of the decade.

    The MSR shows an improvement in the deficit in 2012 and over the following ten years (2013-2022) compared to February’s projections.  For 2012, the deficit is now projected to be $1.211 trillion, $116 billion lower than the $1.327 trillion deficit projected in February.  This reflects lower-than-expected spending, partially offset by lower-than-expected receipts.  As a percentage of GDP, the 2012 deficit is now projected to equal 7.8 percent, down from 8.5 percent projected in February. Cumulative deficits over the 2013-2022 period are project­ed to be $240 billion lower than forecast in February. 

    The MSR economic forecast, which was completed in June, makes only minor modifications to the economic forecast included in the President’s 2013 Budget.  As in the Budget, the MSR projects the economic recovery that began in 2009 will continue at a moderate rate and unemployment will gradually decline.

    The MSR notes that much of the improvement in the economic picture since late 2008, when we were in midst of the worst recession since the Great Depression, resulted from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (Recovery Act) and other growth-creating legislation promoted and signed into law by the President.  However, the MSR also notes the economy still faces significant headwinds that have held down growth and limited gains in employment. 

    Enactment of some of the President’s proposals to promote near-term economic and job growth in the face of such headwinds has been delayed by Republicans in Congress.  The MSR assumes these proposals, which have traditionally earned bipartisan support, will still be enacted. The delayed enactment shifts costs into later years, accounting for part of the expected drop in the 2012 deficit and some of the small increase in the 2013 deficit compared to the February projection.

    With the enactment of these measures, the MSR projects real GDP will grow at a rate of 2.3 percent in 2012 and 2.7 percent in 2013 (year over year).  The MSR then projects stronger growth for 2014 through 2018, as the economy absorbs unused capacity and returns to its potential. In the long run, the MSR projects real GDP growth to average 2.5 percent, which is unchanged from previous forecasts. 

    The MSR also reflects the Administration’s belief that Congress can and must enact a comprehensive and balanced deficit reduction package, along the lines of the President’s Budget that includes additional measures to strengthen the near-term economy and create jobs, and puts the Nation on a sound long-term fiscal course.  That package should avoid the sequestration scheduled to take effect on January 2, 2013.  The sequestration is, by design, bad policy that will have destructive effects on both defense and non-defense programs and services.  With more than five months remaining before the sequestration must be initiated, Congress has ample time to act.  The Administration stands ready to work with Congress to get the job done.  

    Jeffrey Zients is the Acting Director of the Office of Management and Budget. 

  • Advise the Advisor: Streamlining, Improving, and Simplifying Rules and Regulations

    Watch Cass Sunstein in Advise the Advisor here.

    How can we continue to streamline, simplify, and improve rules and regulations? Which rules should be eliminated, streamlined, or made more effective? How can we reduce reporting and paperwork burdens? What are the best ways to cut regulatory costs? We’re looking for your ideas.

    In January 2011, the President directed all executive agencies to undertake an unprecedented government-wide review of regulations on the books, in order to figure out what is working and what is not, and where appropriate, to streamline or eliminate ineffective, overly burdensome, and outdated rules. Over two dozen agencies responded with regulatory reform plans, listing more than 800 initiatives.

    We are already seeing big results. Just a small fraction of those initiatives, already finalized or formally proposed to the public, will save more than $10 billion over the next five years. Far more savings are expected as the plans are implemented and improved.

    This May, the President made regulatory reform a continuing responsibility of all executive agencies and departments. All agencies must engage with the public to obtain suggestions about which regulations should be reassessed, modified, improved, streamlined, or eliminated. All agencies must give priority to reforms that would produce significant quantifiable savings or big reductions in paperwork and reporting burdens. And all agencies must report regularly to the public on their progress.

    The next reports are due fairly soon – this fall. To improve our review, and to make it as ambitious as possible, we are announcing, today, an opportunity for members of the public to offer their ideas. Which rules are outdated? Which ones are imposing unjustified costs? Which ones can be improved or made more effective? Submit your ideas at They will be given careful consideration.

    Cass Sunstein is Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. 


  • Communications Update

    After three and a half years as a valued advisor and strategist and four budgets, OMB’s Associate Director for Communications and Strategic Planning and senior advisor Ken Baer departed last week.  Ken leaves a legacy that includes bringing OMB communications into the 21stcentury with the OMBlog and OMB’s twitter presence as he heads to the private sector by way of a long and well deserved family vacation.

    I am pleased to announce that Steven Posner is carrying on the torch and joining OMB this week as the Associate Director for Strategic Planning and Communications.  Steve brings a wealth of experience in both the legislative and executive branches to his role at OMB.  For the past eleven years, he has served as Communications Director and Deputy Communications Director for the Senate Budget Committee Democratic staff.  In that capacity, he helped develop and implement the communications strategy for the Committee and served as lead writer, drafting budget materials, speeches, and chart presentations for Chairman Kent Conrad (D-ND).  Prior to his role on the Budget Committee, Steve worked in the Clinton Administration’s Treasury Department as Senior Advisor to the Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs, where he was the Department’s spokesman for economic and tax policy issues.  He previously worked as an Account Executive and Research Analyst at the public affairs firm Powell Tate.  Steve holds a Master’s degree in Public Policy from Harvard University, JFK School of Government and a Bachelor’s degree in History from Colgate University.

    He will join spokeswoman and Deputy Associate Director Moira Mack who has taken an expanded leadership role in the Communications office, handling a wide range of Communication issues on both the Management and Budget side and has ensured that OMB’s press office has continued to operate to the highest standard. Moira will continue this expanded role under Steve's leadership.

    With Steven and Moira at the helm, I am confident OMB communications will continue to serve the Administration and the public well, building on the progress of the last three and a half years as we continue to move forward the President’s agenda. 

  • The 2012 SAVE Award


    Today, we launched the fourth annual SAVE Award (Securing Americans Value and Efficiency) – a competition for federal employees to submit ideas about how to cut waste, save taxpayer dollars, and make government more effective and efficient. 

    Over the past three years, Federal employees from every corner of the country have submitted more than 75,000 cost-cutting ideas through the SAVE Award. From shifting expensive magazines from print to online, to creating a tool “lending library” to cut down on duplicative purchases for flight projects – Federal workers have stepped up and thought creatively about how their agencies can do more with less.

    Already, we’ve begun to see how those ideas can make a difference. The President’s last three budgets included approximately 60 SAVE Award ideas that are helping to save millions of taxpayer dollars while delivering the American people efficient and effective government they deserve. That’s what the SAVE Award is all about -- enlisting the creativity and expertise of federal employees on the front lines to find ways to cut waste and make government work better. So if you’re a Federal employee with an idea about how to improve the way your agency does business, take a minute to submit your idea here. Submitting an idea is quick and easy, and the winner will get to present his or her idea directly to the President here at the White House. 

    We know that these ideas alone aren’t going to close the deficit of fix our fiscal situation overnight, but they are critical to making sure that the American people can have confidence that their government is a careful steward of their tax dollars.

    So if you’re a Federal employee, send us your idea. And everyone else: stay tuned. In the next few months, we’ll be looking to you to help pick this year’s winner!

  • New Progress, New Leadership at GATB

    The effort to create lasting, sustainable transparency and accountability across government is a long-term one, and one that the President and the Vice President are committed to seeing through. That’s why last June, the President created the Government Accountability and Transparency Board (GATB).Using the lessons learned from implementing the Recovery Act, the GATB was charged with recommending ways to improve the tracking and display of Federal spending data and broaden the use of cutting-edge fraud detection technologies. 

    Since then, the GATB has been working closely with the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board (Recovery Board), which established a new benchmark for how we should collect, display and oversee Federal spending data under the Recovery Act through and its innovative Recovery Operations Center. Together with the Recovery Board, Federal agencies, OMB and others, the GATB is a critical driver of continued progress in our forthcoming efforts to make Federal spending data more complete, more transparent, and more reliable.

    Last December, the GATB submitted to the President its initial report, containing key recommendations for concrete steps the government should take to enhance transparency and accountability. Today, the GATB provided the President with an update on its progress on the three steps they recommended taking.

    1. Leveraging cutting-edge technology to improve government-wide accountability.The GATB recommended expanding the use of cutting-edge tools that can help detect and prevent waste, fraud and abuse, and creating a centralized platform for ensuring accountability in spending across the government. To advance this cause, the Recovery Board has partnered with the GATB to initiate pilots with both agencies and Inspectors General on how best to deploy new forensic and analytical capabilities government-wide. In addition, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the Department of the Treasury (Treasury) launched the President’s Do Not Pay tool to help Federal agencies prevent the types of improper payments that have plagued government for too long – including pension payments to the deceased and payments to fraudulent contractors. In April 2012, OMB issued a memorandum directing agencies to use this tool. By next spring, we expect every major Federal agency will be leveraging the Do Not Pay solution to combat improper payments.  Collectively, these solutions are moving us closer to the GATB’s vision of a common platform for government-wide spending accountability, and the GATB will continue to drive us towards greater centralization over time.
    2. Streamline and integrate how we collect and display data.The GATB recommended working to create a single electronic collection system for grant related data to eliminate system redundancies, and reduce recipients’ burden of reporting to multiple agencies. To advance this idea, the Recovery Board is both exploring the use of as a template for displaying they type of spending data currently displayed on www.USAspending.govand also launching a pilot with selected grant recipients to see whether can be used as a centralized collection point for grant data. Further, the GATB is evaluating how existing system consolidation efforts, like the General Services Administration’s (GSA) System for Award Management, to integrate collection of spending data and create a single, cohesive source for these data across the Federal government. In addition, Federal agencies such as the Department of Defense and the Department of Health and Human Services are hard at work in developing new methods for standardizing Federal grant and contract data.
    3. Migrate to a universal ID system for all Federal awards.The GATB identified steps needed to move the government toward a universal award ID system to ensure uniformity and consistency of data and enhance transparency of government spending. This effort is critical to make sure that we aren’t just providing the public with more data, but rather data that is more reliable, easier to use, and more meaningful in tracking how Federal dollars are spent.  Accordingly, efforts are underway to assess the feasibility of implementing a universal award ID, as well as determining the “intelligent” components that would underpin it. In doing so, the GATB is engaging with other agencies, in particular Treasury, to assess the costs and benefits of a universal award ID, and determining how to move forward as expeditiously as possible.

    These first steps cannot – and won’t – be the last. Already, OMB is also developing a new Statement of Spending that will make transparent information about where and how Federal agencies spend tax dollars part of agencies’ annual audited financial statements. We will be piloting this new statement with a number of agencies in their financial reports that will be submitted in November of this year. 

    We will continue to work in close concert with Congress, Federal agencies, inspectors general, recipients of Federal funds, and other stakeholders to root out waste and drive efficiencies in Federal spending.  To help lead this effort, the President has announced his intent to name Richard (Dick) T. Ginman, Director of Defense Procurement and Acquisition Policy at the Department of Defense, to serve as the new Chairman of the GATB. Mr. Ginman has more than 37 years of experience in the areas of contracting and financial management, and has served as a vocal leader on the GATB in driving progress in Federal spending transparency and accountability. Under Mr. Ginman’s leadership, I am confident that the GATB will continue to serve as an indispensable voice in pushing the Federal government to function more efficiently, effectively, accountably for the American people. 

    And ultimately, creating this kind of government – one that is more transparent and accountable to the American people than ever before – is something that the President has been committed to since day one. 

  • Building Momentum

    As of this week, more than 100 public and private sector partners have come together through President Obama’s Better Buildings Challenge which supports job creation by catalyzing private sector investment in commercial and industrial building energy. Just yesterday, 36 new States, local governments, and school districts joined the growing list of partnerships that are proving how modernizing our country’s buildings to become more energy efficient creates jobs, cuts energy costs, and reduces pollution. Combined, these commitments bring the total square footage of buildings enrolled in this public-private partnership to 2 billion, the equivalent of more than 34,000 football fields.

    This announcement also adds $300 million in new estimated investments in building energy upgrades to the nearly $4 billion in public and private sector financial commitments that were announced in December 2011.

    Last year, commercial buildings consumed roughly 20 percent of all the energy used by the U.S. economy. With the help of former President Clinton and the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, President Obama’s Better Building’s Challenge will help make America’s buildings 20 percent more efficient over the next decade, while reducing energy costs for American businesses by nearly $40 billion.

    The Federal government is also committed to creating jobs and cutting costs by investing in energy efficiency in Federal buildings. Since President Obama signed a Presidential Memorandum last December directing Federal agencies to invest at least $2 billion in two years in building energy efficiency, agencies have identified $2.1 billion in such projects – all paid for with savings through energy savings performance contracts with no up-front cost to taxpayers.

  • Paper Cuts

    President Obama has made it a priority to reduce paperwork and reporting burdens on the American public. Recent reforms are eliminating tens of millions of burden-hours imposed on both businesses and individuals.

    Many of these reforms have been spurred by Executive Order 13563, which calls for a government-wide “lookback” at existing regulatory requirements. Building on that Executive Order, President Obama recently issued Executive Order 13610, which specifically directs agencies to prioritize “initiatives that will produce significant quantifiable monetary savings or significant quantifiable reductions in paperwork burdens.” Executive Order 13610 also requires agencies to focus on “cumulative burdens” and to “give priority to reforms that would make significant progress in reducing those burdens.”

    Today, in response to Executive Order 13610, we are taking action to promote additional burden reductions. A new guidance document directs agencies to take meaningful steps to decrease paperwork and reporting burdens on the American people, including small businesses. These steps include:

  • Hitting the Ground Running With the Digital Strategy

    Last month, the Obama Administration launched the Digital Government Strategy (PDF/ HTML5), a comprehensive roadmap aimed at building a 21st Century Digital Government that delivers better digital services to the American people. We’ve hit the ground running and are already hard at work driving the strategy forward.

    First, we’ve established the Digital Services Innovation Center to operationalize the principle of “build once, use many times” by serving as a virtual hub, supported by agencies across government, to incubate and accelerate innovative digital services. The Innovation Center has been gearing up with a small core team from within the General Services Administration, and will draw on a pool of experts and creative thinkers from across government using temporary staffing arrangements, multi-agency teams, and others with specialized expertise and skills to address rapid turnaround needs. Work is underway on initial tasks, including identifying and providing performance and customer satisfaction measurement tools to improve service delivery and more. This team will also be central in working with the forthcoming “MyGov” Presidential Innovation Fellows project.

    Second, on June 13, I convened a set of leaders from across government – including representatives from the Federal CIO Council (CIOC), Federal Web Managers Council (FWMC), and several agencies – for the first meeting of the Digital Services Advisory Group. The Advisory Group will help steer implementation of the Digital Government Strategy, prioritize Innovation Center activities, and recommend government-wide best practices, guidance, and standards. The Advisory Group has already begun to work with the CIOC and FWMC on two early deliverables: guidance and best practices on allowing employees to use their personal mobile devices for work (known as “bring-your-own-device”), as well as agency-wide governance models for digital services. 

    We’ve also tapped the deep reserve of citizen-innovators who want to help build a better government using the power of technology. There has been a groundswell of interest in the Presidential Innovation Fellows program, with 700 applicants for Fellows positions, and over 4,000 people in total expressing interest in following (and contributing to) their progress. These fellows will help the government take on critical challenges such as giving individuals access to their personal health records and “liberating” government data to fuel entrepreneurship. The numbers of applications are very encouraging, and US Chief Technology Officer (CTO) Todd Park and I are thrilled to see this type of enthusiasm for the program and the mission it represents.

    As we continue our work implementing the strategy, you can track our progress at Stay tuned – we’re just getting started.

    Steven VanRoekel is the Federal Chief Information Officer – for more information visit    

  • Greater Accountability and Faster Delivery Through Modular Contracting

    Last week, we highlighted a number of ways in which reform of Federal Information Technology Management is giving taxpayers more for their IT investments and improving the overall function and efficiency of government. Today, we mark yet another milestone in our march to improved fiscal and contractor accountability as we roll out Contracting Guidance to Support Modular IT Development

    For too long, Federal IT was marked by runaway information technology (IT) projects in Federal agencies that wasted billions of dollars and were years behind schedule. By the time some of these projects launched, if they launched at all, they were often over budget, late and/or obsolete.  In many cases, these failures can be traced back to lengthy acquisition and IT development efforts that aimed to deliver massive new systems over years, rather than providing new functionality in an incremental manner – as the private sector does.

  • Investing in What Works to Help Americans Get Back to Work

    The Obama Administration has consistently emphasized the need to evaluate programs and use evidence of what works to drive federal investment. It’s how we make sure that taxpayers are getting the most for their dollars. Today, we can see another example of what this means in practice with the announcement by Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis that approximately $150 million is being awarded to 26 states and local communities from the new Workforce Innovation Fund. This new Fund, proposed by the President and first funded by Congress last spring, will help spur the development of more effective ways to connect Americans with the training, education, and other services they need to succeed in the workforce.

    Thousands of Americans will benefit from these 26 grants, which are being made across the country, from Gainesville, Florida to Tacoma, Washington. A consortium of 10 cities and counties led by Baltimore County, Maryland will be developing accelerated programs for low-skilled workers that integrate basic education (including English language instruction) with specific training for health care jobs. In the state of Ohio, a Workforce Innovation Fund grant will be used to tie together the patchwork of existing programs into a streamlined, Internet-based system that workers can easily access. And in California, three counties are banding together to provide more effective services to disconnected youth, and connect them with the educational and employment opportunities they need to succeed in life. These initiatives will be evaluated carefully, to determine if the strategies they are using are indeed effective. Proven strategies will then be shared with other communities so they can be replicated and lead to better outcomes and use of public resources, including federal funds provided through the Workforce Investment Act.

    The Department of Labor also announced today that $20 million will be available in the coming months for cutting-edge “Pay for Success” strategies. Under this model, private-sector entities invest in programs with a strong evidence base, and agree in advance with their partner in government on the desired results, such as getting and keeping good jobs. If they deliver the results, the private sector is paid for that success. But if not, the private investors bear the cost of that failure, and taxpayers aren’t stuck with the bill. With this kind of “skin in the game,” the private sector has a powerful incentive to help make sure programs deliver results. And government is able to leverage private capital to invest in building the skills of American workers.

    A number of innovative cities and states already are exploring Pay for Success strategies. Congress is showing interest as well; the recently-released Senate Labor-HHS appropriations bill provides additional flexibility, requested in the President’s Budget, to support Pay for Success approaches to federal financing.

    It is initiatives like these that are developing evidence-based strategies to get Americans back to work with the skills they need to succeed that the Administration is supporting and investing in so that we have a government that works – and gets the job done efficiently and effectively.

    Martha Coven is Associate Director for Education, Income Maintenance, and Labor  

  • Shocking the System through IT Reform

    Washington, DC has never suffered from a lack of ambitious plans and strategies to tackle tough challenges. The sticking point, often, is execution. This is why in December of 2010, when we launched the 25 Point Plan to Reform Federal Information Technology Management, we committed to a focus on execution to tackle obstacles that get in the way of lasting reform.

    From day one, this Administration has recognized how critical that type of reform is. By cutting waste in IT across the Federal portfolio, we’re not only saving taxpayer dollars, but also improving the overall function and efficiency of the government.

    Over the last 18 months, the Administration has made great strides clearing obstacles in the way of reform, allowing agencies to leverage information technology to create a more efficient and effective Government. While the 25 points have not solved all Federal IT challenges, they addressed many of the most pressing, persistent challenges we face.  Most importantly, this plan established many wins that will drive our efforts well into the future.

    For example, the 25 Point Plan addressed some of the basics around the Federal Data Center Consolidation Initiative.  These include dedicating a senior program manager in charge of consolidation at each agency, establishing an interagency Task Force to drive consolidation and sharing of best practices, and launching a government-wide marketplace to promote the availability of data center space to other Federal offices.  We also recognized there is more we can do, so we expanded our data center consolidation efforts, increasing our goal by 50 percent from the original set in 2010.

    As of March, 267 data centers have been decommissioned across the Federal Government and by the end of 2012, we plan to have closed a total of 429. Additionally, on June 9, OMB and GSA will launch the data center marketplace inside government, which will help agencies better utilize spare capacity within operational data centers.

    Yesterday, we launched the Initial Operating Capability of the Federal Risk Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP).  FedRAMP will enable agencies to have confidence that their data will remain safe and secure when they deploy a cloud solution – without requiring each agency to reinvent the wheel each time they choose to shift to the cloud.   

    Under the 25 Point Plan we jumpstarted the adoption of cloud computing, shifting agency mindsets in the process.  Beginning in FY 2013, we expect cloud migrations to save agencies about $100 million a year, at that is for email alone. And while these savings are notable, cloud computing also enables agencies to improve service and produce business efficiencies that save even more.

    On May 2, 2012, OMB published the Shared Services Strategy, which required agencies to identify IT services to migrate to a shared service model by the end of 2012. Agencies identified 60 initiatives, totaling $34 million in annual cost savings and avoidance. These are just the tip of the iceberg as it pertains to shared services.  Through the PortfolioStat process this summer, we will begin to see great results and incorporate these savings and reinvestments into the FY 2014 President’s budget.

    In May 2011, OPM and OMB launched the IT Program Manager career path. Over the last year, agencies have designated over 1,000 IT Program Managers with the experience and know-how to hold agency and contractor staff accountable for substantial taxpayer investments. These individuals now manage major IT investments that for decades were plagued by mismanagement and poor governance.

    Without question, TechStat has been one of the major successes of the IT Reform Plan. To date, agencies have held over 300 TechStats and trained over 1,500 employees in the process, exponentially growing the work that started two years ago. As we drive TechStat into the bureaus and components of agencies, we are seeing positive shifts in accountability and management.

    The 25 Point Plan has without question served its purpose as a shock to the system. Prior to the plan’s launch, agencies were sporadically migrating to cloud solutions, major IT investments were managed by individuals with varying degrees of expertise and experience,  the acquisition process did not keep pace with the technology cycle, TechStat reviews were held only by OMB, and CIO authority within agencies was too often lacking.

    Fast-forward 18 months and now cloud migration is no longer an aspiration but a reality across the government, all major investments are led by a dedicated program manager, contracting guidance to support modular IT development will better align acquisition and technology cycles, the Federal Government has achieved cost savings of over $4 billion as a result of the TechStat process, and a majority of CIOs have formal authority to review and approve the major IT investments in their agency portfolio.

    We will continue to eliminate duplication wherever we find it and shift spending from the costly maintenance of outdated systems to more efficient technologies.By doing so, we can improve the delivery of mission critical services, as we work together with Congress to hold agency IT budgets in check and reduce the costs to the American people.

    Steven VanRoekel is the Federal Chief Information Officer – for more information visit   

  • Delivering Value with Small Business Contracting

    Before coming to OMB this past winter, I served as Associate Administrator for Government Contracting and Business Development at the Small Business Administration, where my primary responsibility was to maximize opportunities for small businesses, including small disadvantaged businesses, women-owned small businesses, service-disabled veteran owned small businesses and contractors in Historically Underutilized Business Zones. Both in my experiences at SBA and in the private sector, I was always impressed by the close connection between fostering greater small business participation in contracting and delivering better results and a better value for the American people. When you think about it, the connection is rather easy to explain: both require effective market research to find capable vendors and a well-trained acquisition workforce to negotiate contracts that offer the best value.

    It comes as no surprise that so many of the success stories connected with smarter contracting involve small businesses. As just one example, you may recall this past winter that the Department of Commerce announced a new contract with a small business contractor that will lower the Department’s costs for desktops and laptops by 40 percent and save taxpayers between $20-25 million over the next five years. The small business contractor is helping Commerce achieve these savings by eliminating hundreds of redundant contracts meeting the same requirements. This, in turn, will avoid thousands of employee hours that would otherwise be required to maintain hundreds of narrowly tailored contracts. That’s a win for our taxpayers and a win for small businesses. And it’s a win for the American people as those small businesses create jobs.

    One of my priorities as the newly confirmed OFPP Administrator is to continue these “win-wins” for our taxpayers and small businesses. Today, as my first official action as OFFP Administrator, I co-signed an important memorandum with SBA Administrator Mills directing agencies to take immediate actions to increase opportunities for small businesses in government contracting.