OMBlog

  • Mid-Session Review 2012

    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 2012 Budget was released in February. 

    The MSR largely confirms what we already know and what the recent CBO analysis showed: we need to get back on a sustainable fiscal path and invest in long-term economic growth and job creation.

    As expected, the short-term deficit projection is down measurably due to a combination of high­er-than-previously-expected receipts and lower-than-expected outlays. The 2011 deficit is now projected to be $1.316 trillion, a $329 billion – or 20 percent – decrease from the $1.645 trillion deficit projected in February. As a percentage of GDP, the deficit is now projected to equal 8.8 percent, down from 10.9 percent projected in February. 

  • Progress on Wartime Contracting

    When the Administration took office, it was clear to us that for too long there was not adequate oversight of contractors, leading to wasted taxpayer dollars, repeated delivery delays, and unacceptable contractor performance. Nowhere has this been more apparent than in wartime contracting during the last decade. That’s why this Administration has focused on cutting waste in contracting, boosting oversight, and strengthening accountability of contractors. And more broadly, earlier this summer the White House launched the Campaign to Cut Waste, a government-wide drive to crack down on fraud, waste, and abuse.

    Today, the Commission on Wartime Contracting released a report on these challenges. We welcome the report and commend the Commission for shining a spotlight on waste in contracting, on the need to strengthen the contracting function at agencies, on the value of increasing competition in contracting, and on the importance of holding contractors accountable for their performance.

  • Improving Performance and Making Government More Accountable

    Today the Administration opened performance.gov, a site that provides a window into the Obama Administration's approach to improving Federal Government performance and ensuring accountability of senior officials for achieving results.

    Performance.gov tracks our progress on the Administration’s efforts to create a government that is more effective, efficient, and responsive. Importantly, the site is also a valuable tool for sharing best practices across the government – supporting learning and coordination across agencies.

    The Administration is strongly committed to investing in what works and fixing or cutting what does not. As part of this effort, the Administration is leading the “Campaign to Cut Waste,” a government-wide initiative to eliminate wasteful spending and get the most for the taxpayers’ dollars. 

  • 2013 Budget Guidance

    Yesterday, I sent to the heads of Cabinet and federal agencies budget guidance for FY 2013. The guidance reflects the President’s desire to live within our means so that we can invest in job creation and economic growth now and in the long term, and the realities of the Budget Control Act that he signed into law earlier this month. This legislation set ceilings on total discretionary spending and a target of $2.4 trillion in total deficit reduction over the next decade.

    In light of the tight limits on discretionary spending starting in 2012, we asked agencies for budget submissions that provide options to support the President's commitment to cut waste and re-order priorities to achieve deficit reduction while investing in those areas critical to job creation and economic growth. To meet this goal, we asked agencies to provide budgets based on two scenarios: a 5 percent cut and a 10 percent cut from the 2011 enacted discretionary level.

  • The Changing Role of Federal Chief Information Officers

    Today, the Office of Management and Budget issued a memorandum (PDF) that lays out key responsibilities and authorities for Agency Chief Information Officers (CIOs). These authorities will enable CIOs to reduce the number of wasteful duplicative systems, simplify services for the American people, and deliver more effective information technology [IT] to support their agency’s mission.

    This memo builds on the work the Administration has done under the 25 Point Plan to Reform Federal IT Management, now in its eighth month of implementation. These reforms were developed to remedy what had become routine in Washington: IT projects running over budget, falling behind schedule, or failing to deliver promised functionality, hampering agency missions and wasting taxpayer dollars.

    This situation is no longer commonplace. If you take a look at the achievements every CIO has already accomplished under the reform plan, they have fundamentally changed the way the federal government manages information technology. The memorandum will help CIOs deliver on key areas to drive results and yield an even greater impact.

  • Open Government and the National Plan

    Over the last two and a half years, President Obama has demonstrated a strong commitment to making government information more accessible to the public and to involving citizens in decisions that affect their lives. The resulting commitment to “Open Government” has spurred a wide range of initiatives. Most recently, the United States has worked with many other nations to create an Open Government Partnership that will promote that commitment around the world. 

    Since taking office, the President has directed his Administration to take significant steps to make the federal government more efficient and effective through three guiding principles: transparency, participation, and collaboration.  In his January 2009 Memorandum on Transparency and Open Government, the President instructed the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to issue an Open Government Directive requiring agencies to release data to the American people that they “can readily find and use.”  With the help of the public, agencies produced detailed Open Government Plans to take specific steps and to establish long-term goals to achieve greater openness and transparency.  These plans are located on agency home pages at [agency domain].gov/open.  With direct input from the American people, agency plans continue to evolve and improve.

    As agencies developed their Open Government Plans, we also made unprecedented amounts of information available to the public, in part through a centralized government platform, data.gov.  This platform now provides the public with access to hundreds of thousands of agency data sets on a broad range of issues -- from crime, air quality, and budgetary matters, to automobile safety seats, airline performance, weather patterns, and product recalls.

    The Administration’s Open Government efforts are now taking on an international flavor with the multi-national Open Government Partnership, which Secretary Clinton recently announced.  As Secretary Clinton stated, “We believe this new global effort to improve governance, accelerate economic growth, and empower citizens worldwide is exactly what we should all be doing together in the 21st century.”

  • Security Spending in the Deficit Agreement

    A key part of the recent deficit reduction agreement is that the approximately $1 trillion in discretionary cuts are spread across the security and non-security parts of the budget. Since this is a complex agreement with many moving parts, I want to drill down on part important part of this deal -- security spending -- to explain what will be and could be cut.

    To start, it’s important to understand the Administration’s approach to security spending. As the President has made clear on numerous occasions, as Commander-in-Chief, he has no greater responsibility than protecting our national security, and he will never accept cuts that compromise our ability to defend our homeland or America’s interests around the world.  In the President’s view, security encompasses not only the Department of Defense, but also funding that is used to protect America at the Departments of Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs, State and other international programs, and parts of the Department of Energy. In fact, “security” is a category that has been used in all the Administration’s budgets because it is important when allocating resources to recognize the roles that civilian and military agencies play and to be able to assess and balance all the national security tools they provide through one lens.

  • Transitions

    The President’s announcement today that Steven VanRoekel will be our nation’s next CIO comes at an important moment for our nation. As OMB works closely with the President and Vice President on the Campaign to Cut Waste, information technology (IT) is at the center of our efforts to save money, eliminate waste, and do more with less.

    Over the last two and a half years, the Administration has made unprecedented strides (PDF) in transforming how the government manages and uses information technology to deliver results for the American people. From moving to more efficient cloud solutions and shutting down hundreds of duplicative data centers to reducing planned IT spending by $3 billion and bringing unprecedented transparency to IT spending. That progress has been the direct result of having a President who recognizes the opportunity to harness advances in technology to make government work better and more efficiently for the American people. That’s why President Obama appointed the nation’s first Federal Chief Information Officer to implement the Administration’s technology reform agenda.

  • Thousands of Ways to SAVE

    Last Friday marked the end of the submission period for the President’s 2011 SAVE Award competition, and the final tallies are in.  

    This year, federal workers submitted an incredible 19,559 ideas about how to make government more efficient and effective, besting last year’s submissions by more than 1,000.  We want to thank everyone who participated in this year’s contest – both for your ideas and your commitment to cutting waste across the federal government.

  • SAVE Award 2011: Final Day

    It’s been a little more than two weeks since we launched the third annual SAVE Award competition – and federal employees have really answered the President’s call to help out in the Campaign to Cut Waste.  

    As of this morning, we’ve received 15,000 ideas about how to make government more efficient and effective.  More than 19,000 federal employees from across the country have weighed in, submitting ideas or casting some of the 72,000 votes in support of their favorite ideas.

    But we’re not done yet.

  • A New Step in Accountability and Fighting Fraud

    For too long the federal government allowed billions of taxpayer dollars to be wasted on things that are inefficient, unnecessary, or just plain dumb.  That’s why from day one, President Obama has been steadfast in his commitment to creating a government that is fully accountable to the citizens that it serves.  Through efforts such as the Campaign to Cut Waste, OMB and the federal agencies are changing the way Washington does business and aggressively hunting down and eliminating misspent tax dollars across the federal government.

    Today marks another important step in this pursuit, as we are announcing the launch of the new Government Accountability and Transparency Board (GATB). The President has named a group of the federal government’s top waste, fraud, and abuse watchdogs and other agency leaders to this Board. Starting with the first meeting this morning, these leaders are developing plans to enhance transparency in federal spending and root out and stop waste, fraud, and abuse in federal programs.  
     
    This new Board, established in last month’s Executive Order on “Delivering an Efficient, Effective and Accountable Government,” will draw on the lessons learned from our work to track stimulus spending under the Recovery Act.  The GATB will provide the strategic direction necessary to make the President’s vision for transparency and accountability in all Federal spending a reality.
     
    Under the tireless leadership of the Vice President, the Administration took this vision for transparency and accountability and applied it to the Recovery Act.  We got stimulus money out the door quickly yet responsibly.  We made sure that Recovery Act recipients reported back to the American people on how projects were progressing, and put this information up for all to see and scrutinize on Recovery.gov.  And we worked with the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board  to keep fraud and waste at historically low levels and make sure that funds went to the right people and for right purposes.  In doing so, we learned a number of indispensable lessons about how government should conduct its business in the 21st century.
     
    Our challenge now is to put these lessons to use across the federal government, and that is where the GATB comes in.  The Board will recommend a broad range of strategies to make spending data more reliable and accessible to the American people.  They will also make recommendations to broaden the Administration’s use of cutting edge technology to crack down on fraud, and focus on integrating data systems and using data for better decision-making.  In doing so, the Board will offer a comprehensive vision for the management of federal spending that will fundamentally change how government works.  And it will ensure that this vision is executed in the most cost-effective, efficient and logical manner.
     
    To make sure we get it right from day one, the President has tapped Earl Devaney, a driving force behind the success of the Recovery Act through his leadership at the Recovery Board, to be the interim chair of this new effort.  Today, Chairman Devaney and the members of the GATB sat down and began strategizing how to reform the way we collect, display and analyze government spending data.  This Administration has already made tremendous strides in making government more open and cracking down on wasteful or fraudulent spending, and now we’re kicking it into high gear.
     
    The President has designated the following individuals to serve on the GATB:
    •           Earl E. Devaney – Chairman, Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board

    •           Ashton B. Carter – Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology & Logistics, Department of Defense

    •           W. Scott Gould – Deputy Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Department of Veterans Affairs

    •           Allison C. Lerner – Inspector General, National Science Foundation

    •           Daniel R. Levinson – Inspector General, Department of Health and Human Services

    •           Ellen Murray – Assistant Secretary for Financial Resources and Chief Financial Officer, Department of Health and Human Services

    •           Calvin L. Scovel III – Inspector General, Department of Transportation

    •           Kathleen S. Tighe – Inspector General, Department of Education

    •           Daniel I. Werfel – Controller, Office of Management and Budget

    •           David C. Williams – Inspector General, United States Postal Service

    •           Neal S. Wolin – Deputy Secretary of the Treasury, Department of the Treasury

    Jeff Zients is the Deputy Director for Management and Chief Performance Officer.

  • Three Days Left for the SAVE Award

    With just three days left for federal employees to submit their cost-saving ideas as part of the third annual SAVE Award, White House Chief of Staff William Daley, sent the email below to all federal employees who've participated in the SAVE Award in previous years.

    If you're a federal employee, we want to hear from you!  Submit your cost saving ideas or tell us what you think of ideas submitted by your colleagues.  Get Started at WhiteHouse.gov/Save-Award.

  • Baseline Basics

    The CBO just released its analysis of the debt ceiling extension and deficit reduction plan that the House of Representatives is considering. We have been clear in our opposition to this bill, and the President explained why last night.

    While we disagree with the approach that Speaker Boehner chose to take in this bill, there is one thing that we all still agree on, and that is the size of the problem. Both the House Republican budget proposal unveiled by Congressman Ryan on April 5 and the President’s fiscal framework that he introduced on April 13, set as our goal deficit reduction of $4 trillion. Since both of these plans were introduced before the agreement on appropriations for FY 2011, the baseline used for them did not reflect the spending cuts enacted this year in that legislation. Indeed, throughout our weeks of talks, all parties have worked off a January baseline because we all recognized that we needed to start from the same place.

  • Next Step in Looking Back

    To promote economic growth and job creation, we are placing a high priority on streamlining our regulatory system and eliminating unnecessary regulatory costs. To that end, we’ve taken some big steps recently to ensure that Federal agencies revisit their existing rules and remove those that are out-of-date, too costly, or just plain dumb.

    In January, President Obama initiated an unprecedented and historic process for streamlining and eliminating outdated and unnecessary regulations. In a short time, a lot has happened. We have already undertaken reforms to remove tens of millions of hours in annual paperwork burdens for large and small businesses and over $1 billion in annual regulatory costs.

    Just last week, the President took this burden-reducing initiative a large step further by calling on independent regulatory agencies to follow the same requirements that other agencies now follow. This new Executive Order to independent agencies calls for retrospective regulatory review, reducing costs and streamlining requirements. More than that, it asks independent agencies to follow key principles for smart regulation going forward, including public participation and stakeholder engagement, simplification and harmonization of rules, flexibility, and burden reduction. This move has been strongly advocated by the business community and the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness – and it has been met with enthusiasm from inside and outside of government (including the independent agencies themselves).

  • Cutting Waste in Contracting

    Over the last two years, this Administration has focused on reducing waste in government spending in an effort to ensure that every tax dollar is spent wisely. One critical area of focus has been on contracting. During the last Administration, spending on contracting doubled—too often resulting in waste, fraud, and abuse.  The Obama Administration is committed to cracking down on this waste and strengthening accountability by both reducing and improving the use of contracts. As a result of an aggressive effort led by President Obama, contracting decreased for the first time in 13 years last year. In fact, agencies spent nearly $80 billion less than they would have spent had contract spending continued to grow at the same rate it had under the prior Administration.

    We are continuing our efforts to strengthen accountability in contracting as part of the Campaign to Cut Waste, the Administration’s effort to root out misspent tax dollars. During the recent White House Forum on Accountability in Federal Contracting, OMB announced a goal of reducing spending on management support service contracts by 15 percent by the end of FY 2012 – a reduction of $6 billion.

    Where the services are really needed and cuts might harm program or project performance, agencies must find ways to buy smarter, such as by negotiating lower rates or converting to fixed-price arrangements.

    Why the focus on management support services─ which include activities as varied as engineering and technical services, acquisition planning, information technology systems development, and program management? 

    First, these services are frequently cited as creating a potential risk of overreliance on contractors for critical activities related to agencies’ missions and operations.  That overreliance has long been a concern, and the President called for addressing it and rebalancing our relationship with contractors as early as his March 4, 2009 Memorandum on Government Contracting.

  • Shutting Down Duplicative Data Centers

    Just as our cell phones and computers have gotten progressively more efficient over the past decade, so too have data servers. However, the government has not taken advantage of the increasing efficiency of data storage. Rather than follow the private sector's lead of shrinking the size and number of the facilities used to house the computers that store their data, agencies have gone in the opposite direction.

    Between 1998 and 2010, the Federal government quadrupled the number of data centers we operate.  Moreover, on average these centers have been using only 27 percent of their computer power even though taxpayers are footing the bill for the entire infrastructure, real estate and energy costs. The need for backup power supplies, environmental controls (air conditioning, fire suppression, etc.) and special security devices mean that data centers can consume 200 times as much electricity as standard office spaces.

    While such inefficiency is unacceptable at anytime, cracking down on waste is particularly important in these challenging budgetary times. By shrinking our data center footprint we will save taxpayer dollars, cutting costs for infrastructure, real estate and energy. At the same time, moving to a more nimble 21st century model will strengthen our security and the ability to deliver services for less.

  • @OMBPress

    We deal with a lot of big numbers in our daily work here at OMB, but now we will start focusing on a small one: 140.

    Yes, OMB’s communications shop is joining the Twitterverse to give the American people insight into the work we do in 140 characters or less.

    We hope to use this outlet to bring attention both to the important budget and fiscal issues before us and to the full range of initiatives that OMB is involved with including regulations, information technology, Executive Orders and Presidential Memoranda, federal contracting, the management of the federal government, the President’s Campaign to Cut Waste, statements of Administration policy, and statistical standards and practices.

    I'll be the main person behind the account for now, and others from the OMB communications team will pitch in too.

    We look forward to joining the conversation about all these topics, and urge all OMBlog readers to follow us @OMBPress.

    Kenneth Baer is Senior Advisor and Associate Director for Communications and Strategic Planning at the White House Office of Management and Budget.

  • Cut Waste and SAVE

    Watch the video announcing the third annual SAVE Award here.

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

    Over the past two years, OMB has received more than 56,000 cost-cutting ideas through the SAVE Award from federal employees from across the country. The ideas range from stopping the overnight, express delivery of empty containers to allowing people to make appointments with their Social Security office online and ending the printing and shipping to employees across the country of thousands of Federal Register volumes that could be read online.

    These ideas have made a difference. The President’s last two budgets each included approximately 20 SAVE Award ideas.  Already, those submissions are saving hundreds of millions of dollars, rooting out redundancy and waste, and giving the American people a more accountable government. 

    Wasting taxpayer dollars is unacceptable at anytime, but particularly when we face huge budget deficits.  That’s why this year’s SAVE Award is a critical part of the recently launched Campaign to Cut Waste – an Administration-wide initiative to hunt down and eliminate wasted tax dollars in every agency and department across the federal government. 

    The idea behind the SAVE Award is the belief that federal employees on the front lines know better than anyone where there is waste to cut and how to make government more effective and efficient.  If you’re a federal employee, please take a minute and send us your idea. You will help your government, your fellow citizens, and if you win, will get to present your idea directly to the President. 

    Make no mistake: these ideas alone aren’t going to close the deficit of fix our fiscal situation, but they are critical to making sure that the American people can trust their government to treat every tax dollar with the same care and attention they do.

    So, if you’re a member of the federal workforce, please send us your idea, and for everyone else, stay tuned as we will ask your help in picking the winner.

    As Vice President Biden wrote in an Op-Ed today, “This effort involves more than just eliminating fraud and waste; it means instilling a new culture of efficiency, of responsiveness, of accountability. We're changing the way government does business. We're working to give the American people the government they expect - and deserve.”

    Kenneth Baer is Senior Advisor and Associate Director for Communications and Strategic Planning at the White House Office of Management and Budget.

  • Homecoming

    On Friday, I had the honor of speaking in New York at the Forest Hills High School 2011 graduation.

    A lot has changed since I graduated in 1972 from this high school in Queens, New York, but one thing has not: a stellar, public school education gave these graduates the opportunity of a lifetime.  To read the full remarks, click here.

  • Our Nation’s First Federal CIO

    Today, Vivek Kundra, our nation’s first federal Chief Information Officer (CIO) announced that later this summer he will be leaving the post for a fellowship at Harvard University.

     

    When President Obama appointed Vivek Kundra as the first U.S. CIO, he said, "Vivek Kundra will bring a depth of experience in the technology arena and a commitment to lowering the cost of government operations to this position. As Chief Information Officer, he will play a key role in making sure our government is running in the most secure, open, and efficient way possible."

     

    When he began at the White House, he brought with him the promise of good ideas and a hard-charging style focused on getting things done, necessary qualities to tackle the difficult issues facing Federal IT – an aging infrastructure with rising operating costs, too many major projects failing to deliver, and increasing vulnerability to outside threats. Two and a half years after joining the Administration, Vivek has delivered on that promise.  He has cracked down on wasteful IT spending, saved $3 billion in taxpayer dollars; moved the government to the cloud; strengthened the cybersecurity posture of the nation while making it more open, transparent, and participatory.  His work has been replicated across the world from 16 countries that have deployed the data.gov model to tap into the ingenuity of their people to multiple countries that have deployed the IT dashboard to save money.

     

    I want to congratulate him on his move to Harvard in mid-August to serve as a joint fellow at the Kennedy School and the Berkman Center for Internet and Society.  We are planning for a smooth transition, continuing these remarkable gains in changing the way the Federal government manages IT and Vivek’s impact on cutting waste and making government work better for the American people will continue to be felt well beyond his departure from Federal service.