OMBlog

  • Building a 21st Century Government by Cutting Duplication, Fragmentation, and Waste

    Today, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a progress report on the work Congress and the Administration have done over the last year to tackle duplication and fragmentation and take advantage of cost-saving opportunities in the Federal government. In addition, it released a second report suggesting areas for future action. We appreciate GAO’s work in these important areas. Big problems require all of us – the Executive Branch and the Legislative Branch– to come together around big solutions.

    We have examined the GAO report, and our analysis of it is here. The key findings are:

    • Nearly 80 percent of the issue areas for which GAO recommended action last year, and more than three-quarters of the recommendations for Executive Branch actions associated with those areas (76 percent) were addressed in some way.
    • Congress addressed less than 40 percent of the GAO recommendations that required congressional action (39 percent) in some way.

    GAO found progress over the last year reducing duplication in areas as diverse as data center consolidation, food safety, interagency contracting, and arms control. It found cost-saving progress in areas as diverse as the management of DOD spare parts, government wide improper payments, strategic sourcing, and electronic filing of tax returns. 

  • Contracting Smarter, Saving More

    From the start of the Administration, President Obama has charged agencies to cut waste and give the American people a government that is not only more affordable, but also more efficient and effective. One critical area for those efforts has been contracting.  

    Last year at this time, we reported that agencies turned the tide on contract spending – cutting spending for the first time in 13 years. Collectively agencies spent a remarkable $80 billion less on contracting than would have occurred had growth continued at the same rate as under the prior Administration. Today, we are pleased to report that we sustained this new era of fiscally responsible contracting in FY 2011, maintaining the reduced spending level of $535 billion achieved in 2010 as we have continued our aggressive campaign to keep costs down and deliver better value for the American taxpayers.

    This marks the first time in almost two decades that spending has either declined or remained unchanged for two years in a row. In fact, had contract spending continued to grow at the same pace as it did in the last Administration, we would have spent $690 billion on contracts, or $155 billion more than agencies ended up spending in FY 2011. While there is much still to be done, we now can confirm what we’ve had good reason to believe for some time: that the promising results of FY 2010 demonstrated that we have moved in a sustainable way into an era of more accountable contract spending and getting a better return for every taxpayer dollar. 

  • Announcing the Business App Challenge

    Last week, the Administration took an important step forward in our effort to support and strengthen American businesses with the launch of BusinessUSA – a one stop online platform that will make it easier for businesses to access the information they need to grow, hire and export. Today, we’re announcing a challenge to the public to take this even further.

    Just a few hours ago, the U.S. Department of Commerce kicked off a $10,000 contest for application developers to come up with new ways to use Commerce and other government data to support American businesses and better connect them with available services and resources.

    This data is vast and rich, but often underutilized and difficult to access. This contest will help change that. By challenging developers to leverage government data in new and innovative ways, they’ll help businesses fund new activities, learn about and evaluate opportunities in the US and abroad, support education and training, and more.

    So do you have an idea for an app that could help businesses grow and create jobs?  If so, we want to put it to work. Submissions will be accepted beginning today through April 30, 2012, and I’ll be serving on a top-notch panel of judges that will evaluate and vote on them later this spring.

    Be sure to check out the contest rules and entry requirements here, and look through this list of developer-friendly data sets. To read more about the contest, click here.

    I’m looking forward to seeing your ideas soon.

    Steven VanRoekel is the Federal Chief Information Officer – for more information visit www.cio.gov

  • Regulations.gov: Remaking Public Participation

    On January 18, 2011, the President issued Executive Order 13563, in which he directed regulatory agencies to base regulations on an “open exchange of information and perspectives” and to promote public participation in Federal rulemaking.  The President identified Regulations.gov as the centralized portal for timely public access to regulatory content online. 

    In response to the President’s direction, Regulations.gov has launched a major redesign, including innovative new search tools, social media connections, and better access to regulatory data.  The result is a significantly improved website that will help members of the public to engage with agencies and ultimately to improve the content of rules.

    The redesign of Regulations.gov also fulfills the President’s commitment in The Open Government Partnership National Action Plan to “improve public services,” including to “expand public participation in the development of regulations.” This step is just one of many, consistent with the National Action Plan, designed to make our Federal Government more transparent, participatory, and collaborative.

    Application Programming Interfaces (APIs)
    Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) are technical interfaces/tools that allow people to pull regulatory content from Regulations.gov. For most of us, the addition of “APIs” on Regulations.gov doesn’t mean much, but for web managers and experts in the applications community, providing APIs will fundamentally change the way people will be able to interact with public federal regulatory data and content. 

  • Introducing BusinessUSA

    Today, as part of the Administration’s ongoing effort to support and strengthen American businesses, we officially launched BusinessUSA – a new online platform that will make it easier for businesses to access the services and information they need to help them grow, hire and export.

    BusinessUSA is specifically designed to help meet the President’s goal of streamlining business-related agencies to better meet the needs of America’s businesses in the 21st Century global economy.  For too long, entrepreneurs – and especially small business owners – have been forced to navigate a confusing maze of government agencies to get the support and resources they need. The President has made clear that this is unacceptable.  As he said in his State of the Union Address, we need to give U.S. businesses every opportunity and tool to succeed so that they can grow and hire right here in America – and that’s what today’s launch is all about.

    BusinessUSA isn’t just another website. It’s a virtual one stop shop that gives businesses access to the full range of resources they need at every stage of their development – providing assistance getting patents, loans to grow and hire, information on contracting opportunities, and help breaking into new markets overseas. The sitetakes a “No Wrong Door” approach that creates a common platform to match businesses with the services relevant to them, regardless of where the information is located or which agency’s website, call center, or office they go to for help. With a simple click of a mouse, BusinessUSA’s search function puts a wealth of valuable and relevant information at users’ fingertips.

  • Making It Easier to Do Business

    On Thursday, the President called on Congress to partner with him on reforming and consolidating the Federal government for the 21st century, to make it leaner, smarter, and work better for the American people and America’s businesses. The Administration sent Congress the Consolidating and Reforming Government Act of 2012 to reinstate the authority Presidents held for decades to put forward, for expedited consideration by Congress, plans to consolidate and reform the Federal government. And to guarantee the authority would only be used to make government more efficient, the President’s proposal adds a new requirement that any reorganization plan must save money or reduce the size of government.  

    As many of you know, the President announced last month that, if Congress gives him consolidation authority, his first action would be to make it easier for America’s job creators to access the services they need to grow and export. The President laid out a plan to bring together six agencies focused on business and trade and a handful of other related programs in a single more efficient and effective department with a laser-like focus on promoting American business, exports and competitiveness, while saving taxpayers $3 billion dollars.

  • Starting from the Right Place

    Yesterday in a hearing before the Senate Budget Committee, some Republican members made the charge that the President’s budget does not cut spending at all, but actually increases it by $1.5 trillion.

    As Acting Director Zients made clear in his testimony and as we have been saying repeatedly these past few days, the President’s Budget cuts the deficit by more than $4 trillion over the next 10 years – and more than two-thirds of this deficit reduction comes from spending cuts.

    So, what is going on here?

  • Maximizing our Return on IT

    From the President’s first days in office, this Administration has been committed to leveraging information technology (IT) to deliver the American people a more efficient and effective 21st Century government. We know that IT has the power to fundamentally transform the way government does business and the way we deliver services for to the American people.  In these tight budgetary times, we also know that we need to make IT investments in a fiscally responsible way. The technology spending proposed in the President’s Budget for Fiscal Year (FY) 2013 -- and during every year of this Administration -- reflects that recognition.

    This week, we released the details of the FY 2013 IT Budget request totaling $78.8 billion. This is a 0.75 percent decrease from the FY 2012 enacted level of $79.4 billion – and is noteworthy given the historical growth of Government IT spending. In fact, from FY 2001 through FY 2009, IT spending nearly doubled, growing at an annual rate of 7 percent.

  • The 2013 Budget

    Earlier today, the President sent to Congress his budget for the 2013 fiscal year. This year’s budget reflects the President’s firm belief that our country has always done best when everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same rules. It’s a document built around the recognition that this is a make or break moment for the middle class and those trying to reach it. What’s at stake is the very survival of the basic American promise that if you work hard, you can do well enough to raise a family, own a home, and put a little away for retirement. 

    The Budget continues our commitment to keeping that promise alive by creating an economy that’s built to last – with good jobs that pay well and security for the middle class.

    It’s a commitment that starts with jumpstarting job creation so that our economic recovery quickens and more Americans are able to get back to work. The Budget proposes more than $350 billion in short-term measures for job growth starting this year. These proposals include the extension of the payroll tax cut and unemployment insurance benefits for rest of 2012; an upfront investment of $50 billion from the surface transportation reauthorization bill for roads, rails, and runways to create thousands of quality jobs in the short term; continuing to allow businesses to write-off the full amount of new investments; and $30 billion to modernize at least 35,000 schools, and $30 billion to help states and localities retain and hire teachers and first responders.

    Building an economy that is built to last also requires that we transform our economy from one focused on speculating, spending, and borrowing to one constructed on the solid foundation of educating, innovating, and building. We need to make America the place with the highest-skilled, highest-educated workers; the most advanced transportation and communications networks; and cutting-edge research that will lead to the innovations and industries of tomorrow.  To get us there, the Budget targets resources to the areas critical to growing the economy and restoring middle-class security: education and skills for American workers, innovation and research and development, clean energy, and infrastructure.

  • OFPP News

    Today, President Obama nominated Joe Jordan to be the Administrator for Federal Procurement Policy. Joe brings to the role private sector management experience as well as public sector experience as Associate Administrator for Government Contracting and Business Development at the Small Business Administration. Having worked closely with former Administrator Dan Gordon and Acting Administrator Lesley Field, Joe has a keen understanding of the terrain. I look forward to working with him in this new role as we continue to build on the important work of the past three years to make sure our procurement system delivers for the American taxpayers.

    Jeff Zients is Acting Director of the Office of Management and Budget 

  • Ending the Overpayment of Federal Contractor Executives

    Last fall, the President called on Congress to scrap an outdated law that requires taxpayers to foot the bill for excessive payments to CEOs and other senior executives of companies that contract with the Government. Under certain Government contracts, the Government reimburses the contractor for its incurred costs – which includes salaries for employees. Congress put a cap on how much taxpayers would reimburse these executives in the 1990s, but that cap was tied to pay levels of the nation’s top private sector CEOs and other senior executives. As a result of skyrocketing CEO pay, the tab for taxpayers has soared to unreasonable heights in the intervening years. Unfortunately, Congress failed to reform the current reimbursement formula for contractor executives and, until it does, taxpayers will continue to foot a bill that is both unjustified and unnecessary.    

    Here are the facts: since 1995, the Government has been required by statute to reimburse senior executives under Federal contracts up to the annu­al compensation for the top executives at large publicly-traded companies. In 2010, this meant that the Government had to reimburse up to nearly $694,000 – more than 2 ½ times the $250,000 the Government paid when the cap was first instituted in 1995. As a result of this rapid growth of private sector executive compensation over the past 15 years, taxpayers are being forced to reimburse contractors at a rate which has outpaced the growth of inflation and the wages of most of America’s working families – as well as the growth of Federal salaries.

  • Regulatory Reform Progress

    To promote economic growth and job creation, we need cost-justified, evidence-based regulation. Which is why, almost exactly a year ago, President Obama issued an Executive Order calling for a government-wide review of regulations to reduce costs, to eliminate unnecessary burdens, and to get rid of what the President has called “absurd and unnecessary paperwork requirements that waste time and money.”  Twenty-six executive agencies produced final plans, spanning over 800 pages and offering more than 500 proposals. Sixteen independent agencies followed suit, responding to a historic request from the President to eliminate unjustified costs on their own.

    And today, agency updates on regulatory reform progress can be found here.

  • OMB Transitions

    Today, President Obama announced that following my departure from OMB next month to become his Chief of Staff, Jeff Zients will serve as Acting Director. With Jeff serving as Acting Director and Heather Higginbottom continuing her excellent work as Deputy Director, OMB will have strong continuity of leadership.

    Jeff returns to the role of Acting Director after serving ably in that role from July to November in 2010. In his nearly three years at OMB, Jeff has worked closely with agencies to cut waste and make government more efficient and effective for the American people, developing deep knowledge of the federal government, and applying lessons learned from his private sector experience to save taxpayer dollars.

    Having worked at the highest levels of policymaking in the legislative and executive branches for over a decade, Heather has been an invaluable addition to the team, working closely with me and the OMB staff on the budget these past months.

    With Jeff and Heather at the helm, I am confident OMB will continue to serve the President and the American taxpayers well. Departing OMB next month will be bittersweet. It has been a privilege to return to such a vital institution and serve beside such talented and dedicated public servants at a time when their expertise was called upon again and again. I am honored for the opportunity to continue to serve this President as his Chief of Staff, and I look forward to continuing to work closely with my colleagues at OMB in that role as we continue to move forward the President’s agenda.

    Jack Lew is Director of the Office of Management and Budget 

  • The Mobile Opportunity

    The mobile revolution is upon us. Not only do the American people go online to pay bills, buy tickets and stay connected to their friends, but they are also adopting smart mobile technology at an incredible rate. This is changing the way we interact, the way we consume and the way we work.

    To fundamentally change the way we do things in government, we need to seize on this mobile opportunity both in how we serve the public and in how government employees work.

    Many government services have gone mobile already. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) launched a mobile application (My TSA) which provides passengers with 24/7 access to the most commonly requested TSA information on their mobile device. This includes functions such as Airport Status, ‘What Can I Bring?’ information, a guide on travel tips, and an ability to share information with other passengers on security wait times. Many government websites, such as USA.gov and WhiteHouse.gov, have mobile-optimized versions. The Department of Veteran’s Affairs has a mobile website that allows Veterans to access key links quickly, such as facility locations. We need more agencies to make their services available to an increasingly mobile nation.

  • Super Duper Space Toolbox

    President Barack Obama and 2011 SAVE Award Winner Matthew Ritsko

    President Barack Obama talks with Matthew Ritsko, the winner of the 2011 Presidential Securing Americans' Value and Efficiency (SAVE) award, in the Oval Office, Jan. 9, 2012. Ritsko, a financial manager at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, proposed the space agency create a "lending library" where specialized space tools and hardware purchased by one NASA organization will be made available to other NASA programs and projects. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

    From the start of the Administration, President Obama has been committed to delivering the American people an efficient, effective government that cuts waste and uses taxpayer dollars wisely. Recognizing that frontline federal workers know best where the waste is, he has made federal employees an essential partner in that effort. 

    In 2009, the President launched the SAVE Award – an annual contest to enlist frontline Federal workers in the effort to cut waste and make government work better for the American people. This year, we received nearly 20,000 entries, and 48,000 votes were cast rating the ideas. Last November, the American people then voted on a final four of the best ideas, and the winner was Matthew Ritsko of Crofton, Maryland. Today, Matthew came to the Oval Office to discuss his idea with the President.

  • To the Point

    A longstanding complaint about Federal regulation, one that we encountered when President Obama first took office, is that many rules are just too complicated and hard to understand. The concern is bipartisan. It comes from small and large businesses, public interest groups, state and local governments, and countless individual citizens. So we set out to change that.

    Early last year, the President issued an Executive Order on regulation requiring rules to be “accessible, consistent, written in plain language, and easy to understand.” He also said that regulations “shall be adopted through a process that involves public participation,” including an “open exchange of information and perspectives.” That open exchange cannot occur if proposed rules, presented for public comment, are complex and obscure. And if people are being asked to comply with rules, they are entitled to have a clear sense of what they are being asked to do.

    This week the Administration took a major step in the direction of greater clarity and simplicity. Building on the President’s Executive Order, the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs has directed agencies to provide the public with brief, straightforward executive summaries of all complex and lengthy rules. These summaries will include separate descriptions of all key provisions and policy choices.  They will explain the need for the rule and offer a succinct statement of its legal basis. The summaries will also include a table describing the costs and benefits of the rule.

  • Expanding our Efforts on Data Centers

    The President has been clear that every Federal dollar spent must generate a positive return for the American people and that as we tackle our long term fiscal challenges, we must root out waste in government. One area that we know we can do better in is with the thousands of duplicative data centers that sprung up across the last decade. These data centers – some as big as a football field, others as small as a closet –  represent billions in wasted capital that could be better used to improve upon critical services for American taxpayers.By closing data centers, agencies are on track to save taxpayers billions of dollars by cutting spending on wasteful, underutilized hardware, software and operations as well as enhance our cybersecurity; shrink our energy and real estate footprints; and take advantage of transformational technologies like cloud computing to make government work better for our nation’s families. 

     
     

    Last year, we set an ambitious target of closing 800 data centers by the end of 2015. After a year of agencies working hard to develop plans and targets, we are not only on track – but exceeding that goal: 

    • Agencies plan to close 215 data centers in 2011;
    • Agencies plan to close 525 data centers by the end of 2012;
    • Agencies plan to close 1,080 data centers by the end of 2015.

  • Wastebook 2011

    Today, Senator Tom Coburn released a new report on government waste called Wastebook 2011. Senator Coburn has been a leader in looking for ways to cut unnecessary government spending – including collaborating with then-Senator Obama on the Coburn–Obama Transparency Act.

    We just started reviewing his latest report – but it looks like it includes many proposals the Administration has proposed before. And it is clear that we share the Senator’s commitment to cut waste and have been working on it since the start of the Administration.

    Upon taking office, the President asked his Administration to go line-by-line through the Budget to identify programs that are outdated, ineffective, or duplicative. In his first two budgets, the President identified more than 120 terminations, reductions, and savings, totaling approximately $20 billion in each year; in this year’s budget, he proposed 211 terminations, reductions, and savings measures that will save more than $33 billion in 2012 alone.

  • More Sunshine, Less Fraud

    From his first day in office, President Obama has been committed to making the federal government more transparent and accountable to the American people than ever before.  As dedicated stewards of the taxpayers’ dollars, we have a responsibility to provide information to the public on how Federal funds are being spent and do everything possible to root out and prevent waste, fraud, or abuse in Federal programs.  The American people expect nothing less from our government than rigorous accountability for every taxpayer dollar.

    Over the past three years, we have made tremendous strides towards the President’s goal of full transparency and accountability in Federal spending.  We have made progress on many fronts  including stepped up efforts to crack down on fraud that led to the recovery of billions of dollars last year alone; publicly posting budgets and status reports for Federal IT projects for the very first time; reductions in payment errors known as improper payments in programs like Medicare and Medicaid and making detailed information about spending available to citizens on-line  through USAspending.gov.  But there is more that we can, and must, do.

    That’s why the President created the Government Accountability and Transparency Board, comprised of senior leaders with proven records as fraud and waste watchdogs, back in June of this year as part of his commitment to cutting waste and making government more accountable to the American people.  The GATB was charged with recommending ways to improve the tracking and display of Federal spending data and broaden the use of cutting-edge forensic fraud detection technologies.  And the President directed the GATB to work in close concert with the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board, which established a new benchmark for how we should collect, display and oversee Federal spending data under the Recovery Act through Recovery.gov and its innovative Recovery Operations Center.

  • The Buck Stops Here

    Cabinet meeting on the Campaign to Cut Waste

    Vice President Joe Biden holds a cabinet meeting on the campaign to cut waste, in room 430 of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building at the White House, December 13, 2011. Pictured are (from left) Deputy Attorney General James Cole, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of the Treasury Tim Geithner, and OMB Director Jack Lew. (Official White House Photo by David Lienemann)

    When is the last time you used a dollar coin? If you’re like most Americans, it’s been a while.

    Back in 2005, Congress enacted the Presidential $1 Coin Act, which mandated that the US Mint issue new Presidential $1 Coins with the likeness of every deceased President. The only problem: nobody wants to use them. As a result, more than 40 percent (or 1.3 billion) of the Presidential coins that the US Mint has issued are sitting in storage at the Federal Reserve – enough to meet demand for more than a decade. And until today, the Mint was set to produce another 1.6 billion coins through 2016. That’s why Vice President Biden and Secretary Geithner announced at today’s Cabinet meeting that the Administration will stop the wasteful production of excess $1 coins for circulation, and will produce only a small number to be sold to collectors as required by law – but at no cost to taxpayers. Overall, this change will save at least $50 million annually over the next several years.