OMBlog

  • What Policy Simultaneously Improves Performance, Transparency, and Oversight for Federal Awards?

    On December 26, 2013, OMB published final guidance in 2 C.F.R 200 titled Uniform Administrative Requirements, Cost Principles, and Audit Requirements for Federal Awards to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of Federal financial assistance.  This guidance delivers on President Obama’s second term management agenda and his first term directives under Executive Order 13520, the February 28, 2011 Presidential Memorandum, and the objectives laid out in OMB Memorandum M-13-17 to better target financial risks and better direct resources to achieve evidence-based outcomes. The policy simultaneously improves performance, transparency, and oversight for Federal awards.

    But the next question is, “By how much?”

    To answer this question, today OMB is issuing new metrics to measure the impact of the Uniform Guidance.  We will use data collected annually in the Federal Audit Clearinghouse as well as information from Federal agencies and other partners to measure these policies against key benchmarks, and evaluate the need for future reforms. 

    Since the Uniform Guidance was published this past December, we have reached out to stakeholders through webcasts, Frequently Asked Questions, and numerous conversations, all while working closely with Federal agencies to develop their implementing regulations.  From this engagement, we believe the Uniform Guidance could transform the landscape of the more than $600 billion awarded annually in Federal financial assistance.

    We believe these new policies could save the Federal government more than $50 million per year in audit expenses, allow recipients to end burdensome and obsolete reporting practices, and allow previously administrative dollars to be re-programed to support better program performance.

    For example:

    • For universities, this could mean more dollars to put towards the basic research that underpins innovation throughout the world.
    • For small nonprofits, the simplifications could remove barriers to entry and open competition for Federal awards to more new entrants than ever before.
    • For state, local, and tribal governments, this could mean more flexibility to develop efficient, evidence-based programs that best provide citizens with the services they most need.  

    Further, this policy could improve oversight of these awards by increasing transparency through publication of audit reports, requiring recipients to have strong internal controls, and requiring Federal agencies to review risk prior to making an award.

    This reform delivers on the President’s directives to reduce both improper payments and administrative burden.  Most importantly of all, we think the Council on Financial Assistance Reform's process was inclusive of all stakeholders and responsive to their suggestions. The metrics we are issuing today will allow us to gather hard data to measure these impacts.

    The Uniform Guidance will become effective on December 26, 2014 upon publication of Federal agency implementing regulations, but we are not going to wait until then to begin the conversation. Please join Deputy Director for Management Beth Cobert, myself, the COFAR and partners as we discuss the potential impact of the reform with non-Federal stakeholders during our upcoming webcast this Thursday October 2nd, from 1:00-3:00pm, accessible with no RSVP necessary at www.cfo.gov/COFAR.

    To learn more about the Uniform Guidance, please visit the Council on Financial Assistance Reform's website, and check out the most recent Frequently Asked Questions Document.

    David Mader is the Controller at the Office of Management and Budget.

  • OMB Director Shaun Donovan on the Passage of HJ Res 124, Continuing Resolution, 2015

    Today, Congress took an important step in ensuring that critical government functions continue to operate without interruption and that we avoid a damaging government shutdown. As the President said, we are pleased that Congress — a majority of Democrats and a majority of Republicans, in both the House and the Senate — have voted to support a key element of our strategy: our plan to train and equip the moderate opposition in Syria. We are also pleased that Congress supported our efforts to address the Ebola epidemic.

    However, this Continuing Resolution is only a temporary solution. Congress must pass a long-term extension of the Export-Import Bank that would help American companies create and support jobs here at home. And there is more work to be done when Congress returns to pass comprehensive full-year appropriations legislation that appropriately funds both national security requirements and critical domestic priorities that promote economic growth, opportunity, and innovation.

  • Progress on Security and Suitability

    Today marks one year since the senseless acts of violence at Washington Navy Yard. After the events last fall, the President directed the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to conduct a 120-day review of Federal employee suitability and contractor fitness determinations as well as security clearance procedures. As Deputy Director for Management, and chair of the inter-agency Suitability and Security Clearance Performance Accountability Council, taking the lead on these efforts was one of the first things I did upon arriving at OMB. The inter-agency team, comprised of members from across the Federal spectrum, engaged in an intensive review effort to assess risks and vulnerabilities inherent in current security, suitability, and credentialing processes, and identified actionable solutions.

    The 120-Day Suitability and Security Report laid out a set of 13 key recommendations to improve how the Government performs suitability determinations and security clearances. The report’s recommendations built upon DOD’s Navy Yard Reviews, and ongoing work by OPM, Office of the Director of National Intelligence, DoD and other agencies. We have a lot of work to do, but over the past year we’ve made meaningful and impactful progress, and are continuing to work and coordinate across the whole of government to accelerate this progress.     

    Here are some key points on our efforts to date:

    • Continuous Evaluation. The Administration has launched several pilots that are currently underway to assess Continuous Evaluation (CE) capability. These pilots have already successfully demonstrated the effectiveness of more frequent investigations of cleared personnel and a comprehensive CE program is scheduled to have initial operating capability for the most sensitive populations by the end of this year, and fully implemented for these populations in FY 2016. 
    • Frequent Background Checks. The Suitability and Security Executive Agents revised the Federal Investigative Standards (FIS) to establish a five-year reinvestigation requirement for all individuals with a security clearance, regardless the level of access.  This is a change from the prior practice of conducting background reevaluations every five and ten years for those with top-secret and secret clearances, respectively.
    • Improved Access to Law Enforcement Records.  In accordance with the FY 2014 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), the inter-agency Records Access Task Force examined the relevant policies that determine the level of access that background investigators have to public records.  The NDAA Task Force report provided recommendations for improving information sharing between State, Local, and Federal Law Enforcement entities when conducting background investigations.
    • Enhancing the Quality of Background Investigations. The Security and Suitability Executive Agents jointly released Executive branch guidance for the implementation of National Training Standards (NTS) for Background Investigators, National Security Adjudicators and Suitability Adjudicators.  The NTS will enhance the quality of background investigations and adjudications through standardized policies, processes and training.
    • Access to Classified Information. The Director of National Intelligence (DNI) issued a government-wide requirement for all agencies to review and validate whether each individual within their agency identified as eligible for access to classified information still required eligibility.  To date, agencies have responded with significant reduction of clearances across their agency population. By the end of CY 2014, our objective is to reduce the total number of individuals identified as having an active security clearance by at least 10 %.
    • Cross-Agency Priority (CAP) Goal. The Administration also established the Cross-Agency Priority (CAP) Goal on Insider Threat and Security Clearance Reform that serves as the 120-Day implementation plan and focuses on eight sub-goals that support insider threat, suitability and security clearance reform activities. This CAP Action Plan is publicly available at Performance.gov and is updated quarterly to monitor progress and hold agencies accountable for success.

    We’ve made progress, but there is more work to be done. We will continue to work aggressively to ensure rigorous oversight and accountability mechanisms are in place throughout government, thereby ensuring the safety of Federal workers and the protection of our nation’s most sensitive information.

    Beth Cobert is the Deputy Director for Management at the Office of Management and Budget and Chair of the Suitability and Security Clearance Performance Accountability Council

  • Improving Performance and Delivering Impact

    Early on in the Administration, we laid out an ambitious goal of ending veterans’ homelessness in 2015. Announcing the goal was the easy part.  However, to truly make sustained progress on this goal and drive on-the-ground results, we recognized the need to put in place rigorous management practices that would help the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and providers of care improve services for veterans and their families.  

    In 2009, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) launched the Agency Priority Goals and the Cross-Agency Priority (CAP) Goals initiatives that established a series of clear, measurable benchmarks to help agencies deliver on their missions and drive better outcomes for citizens. VA and HUD’s efforts are prime examples of what the Priority Goals are all about. Each quarter, OMB tracks progress on Performance.gov to provide accountability and allow the public to see how we are doing, what is working well and what is not. Today, the Administration is posting performance results for Priority Goals on Performance.gov for the 3rd Quarter of 2014. The agency reports show significant progress across the Federal government in delivering results, which includes the President’s recent announcement of a 33 percent decline in veteran homelessness since 2010.

    Here are some highlights:

    • Veteran Homelessness.  Over the last four years, the Administration has reduced veteran homelessness by one-third (or by more than 24,800 people). To do this, the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of Veterans Affairs collaborated to identify the biggest cause of homelessness and the most effective measures to reduce and prevent homelessness. As a part of the overall reduction in veterans’ homelessness, 35,000 homeless veterans have moved into permanent housing through VA-funded residential and rapid rehousing programs and the HUD-VA Supportive Housing program (HUD-VASH) through Q3.
    • Renewable Energy.  As part of cross-agency efforts to expand the development of clean, domestic sources of energy, the Department of Interior has greatly expanded permitting for renewable energy on Interior-managed, approving over 14,100 megawatts of renewable energy capacity over the past 4 years which, when built, would help power approximately 4.8 million homes.
    • Disaster Loans.  By implementing a new process for issuing applications to disaster survivors, the Small Business Administration has increased the proportion of its disaster loan applications returned by those who request them in each quarter in FY 2014. In Q3, the return rate increased to 80%, as compared with 50% and 62% in Q1 and Q2 respectively. This higher application return rate means more disaster survivors will receive much needed Federal disaster assistance, and SBA will improve the efficiency of its operations. This new approach also improves customer service by adding multiple touch points with disaster survivors and allowing them to more easily apply for assistance.
    • Federal Real Estate Footprint.  GSA is working proactively with agency customers to refine their leasing requirements and consolidate where economically and financially appropriate. In doing this, GSA is helping agencies minimize operations, maintenance, and investment costs. By the end of FY15, GSA expects to have reduced the amount of leased space by 5% on replacement leases. Though FY14 data is not yet available, GSA helped reduce the Federal real estate footprint by 1.4% in FY13.

    When I was Secretary of HUD, we used the Agency Priority Goal framework to take concrete actions that would advance our goal to end homelessness and set intermediate annual targets to significantly reduce the number of homeless veterans.  I led regular data-driven reviews with VA’s Deputy Secretary (a.k.a. HUD STAT) and our respective teams to see what was working and remove any roadblocks.  For example, by analyzing data reported from field offices, we could identify and work with cities that were not using a “housing first” approach, which removes barriers to help veterans obtain permanent housing as quickly as possible, with fewer prerequisites. By using the APGs the Administration has made significant progress on our goal to end veterans’ homelessness – going from aspirations to practical steps we could implement across the country to improve outcomes.  And now as OMB Director, I am pleased to help enable these types of performance improvement efforts across agencies on a range of issues. 

    The Agency and Cross-Agency Priority Goals are an opportunity for senior policy officials, career executives, managers, front line employees, and providers to come together to accelerate progress on the government’s bottom line outcomes.  By using a data-driven, implementation-focused approach, agencies are achieving significant gains in their respective missions to accelerate economic growth and expand opportunity for the American people.

    For more information on the Administration’s performance improvement efforts, please visit Performance.gov.

    Shaun Donovan is the Director of the Office of Management and Budget

  • Moving Forward on International Regulatory Cooperation

    As part of President Obama’s effort to achieve smarter and more effective approaches to international regulation, today I am pleased to announce the release of the U.S.-Canada Regulatory Cooperation Council (RCC) Joint Forward Plan. The Forward Plan represents a significant pivot point for our regulatory cooperation relationships with Canada, and outlines new federal agency-level partnership arrangements to help institutionalize the way our regulators work together. 

    The Forward Plan will remove duplicative requirements, develop common standards, and identify potential areas where future regulation may unnecessarily differ. This kind of international cooperation on regulations between the United States and Canada will help eliminate barriers to doing business in the United States or with U.S. companies, grow the economy, and create jobs.

    Regulatory cooperation has to mean more than just “aligning” specific rules across the border; such a rule-by-rule approach is neither practical nor scalable enough to meet our ever-changing regulatory environments. We need to think more broadly and creatively on how to build cooperative frameworks to achieve our economic and regulatory policy goals in a more dynamic manner.

    That is why the Forward Plan identifies 24 areas of cooperation that the United States and Canada will work together to implement over the next three to five years in order to modernize our thinking around international regulatory cooperation and develop a toolbox of strategies to address international regulatory issues as they arise. 

  • Hello, from the Digital Service

    It’s been nearly three weeks since I started my job as the Administrator of the new Digital Service team at OMB, and it’s been an exciting few weeks. For those who don’t know, the Digital Service is a unit comprised of some of the country’s best and brightest tech talent that was launched with one core mission in mind – to improve and simplify the digital experience that people and businesses have with their government.

    I had my first adventure in public service last fall, when I came on as part of the team to fix HealthCare.gov. The experience was life-changing. I’ve worked on a variety of major projects in my life, but nothing compares to having a direct, positive impact on countless lives. And when I got the call to be part of a team that would scale government-wide the same proven approach that ultimately enabled millions of Americans to sign up for quality health insurance, I couldn’t resist.

    The amount of enthusiasm and support we’ve received – from our partners at the agencies, members of the tech community, and the American people (including a colleague’s grandmother and many others who advised me to iron my shirts) – is truly inspiring. Over the last few weeks we’ve been able to bring onboard great talent to help drive this work. Like Jennifer Anastasoff, who founded a social-sector startup that provided a pathway for some of the nation’s top minds in business and entrepreneurship to join state and local governments; Erie Meyer, who served as a senior advisor to the U.S. Chief Technology Officer, helped launch the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s technology team, and was named to Forbes 2014 “30 under 30” list for technology; Brian Lefler, a software engineer with years of experience working in large and complex server-oriented architecture; Vivian Graubard, who led tech efforts on a Presidential Task Force that resulted in the launch of NotAlone.gov, and was named one of Time’s 30 People under 30 Who Are Changing the World; and Haley Van Dyck, who, as a technology advisor to the U.S. Chief Information Officer, was a driving force behind key Administration initiatives such as the Digital Government Strategy, U.S. Open Data Policy, and the President's Open Data Executive Order.

    This is an exceptionally talented bunch, and we are fortunate to be joining an equally talented team already in place in OMB’s E-government office (or “E-gov” as it’s known).  The strong foundation that E-gov has built has allowed the Digital Service team to get off to a great start.  Their expertise and knowledge about IT delivery within Government has really helped us hit the ground running, and we’re excited to continue to work closely together as we stand up the Digital Service. We are continuing to build a team of tech experts that have mastered a variety of disciplines, including design, procurement, human resources, and finance. The Digital Service team and OMB will work in collaboration with agencies to improve and simplify government digital services. 

    The first step in making these fixes has just been taken; on my first day, we released for public comment the Digital Services Playbook and the TechFAR Handbook. These are two crucial components in our growing IT toolkit that will enable agencies to do their best work. We’ve been getting great feedback on everything from typos to major substantive edits, but we can always use more; we encourage you to take a look and we welcome the input.

    Our work is driven by a fundamental belief in the skill and dedication of public servants. Government is filled with talented individuals who are uniformly dedicated to improving the lives of Americans. That’s why the Digital Service is not about doing IT work for agencies, but rather making sure that everyone is in a position to do their best possible work. In the weeks and months ahead, I look forward to helping Government Information Technology evolve into the kind of force for good governance I know it can be.

    Stay informed -- sign up here to monitor the latest news from the Digital Service.

     

    Mikey Dickerson is the Administrator of the Digital Service.

  • Buying What Works: Case Studies in Innovative Contracting

    Last week, the White House announced the launch of the U.S. Digital Service (USDS), a new team of America’s best digital experts dedicated to improving and simplifying the digital experience that people and businesses have with their government.  The USDS team has already begun to make progress by releasing the TechFAR Handbook, a guide that helps explain how Federal agencies can take advantage of existing procurement authorities to execute key plays in the Digital Services Playbook.

    The Federal Government has long used its buying power as one of the world’s largest customers to accelerate well-known innovations, from the first microchips to the Global Positioning System (GPS).  Today, Federal agencies continue to leverage innovative procurement practices that spur the private sector to develop advanced technologies to better serve the American people – and to pay only for successful results, not just best efforts.

    Today, the Office of Science Technology Policy (OSTP) and the Office of Management and Budget are pleased to release the first version of Innovative Contracting Case Studies, an iterative, evolving document that describes a number of ways Federal agencies are getting more innovation per taxpayer dollar – all under existing laws and regulations. For example, NASA has used milestone-based payments to promote private sector competition for the next generation of astronaut transportation services and moon exploration robots.  The Department of Veterans Affairs issued an invitation for short concept papers that lowered barriers for non-traditional government contractors, which led to the discovery of powerful new technologies in mobile health and trauma care.  The Department of Defense has used head-to-head competitions in realistic environments to identify new robot and vehicle designs that will protect soldiers on the battlefield.

    We encourage both private sector stakeholders and public servants to engage in a sustained public discussion, identifying new case studies and improving this document’s usefulness in future iterations.  At the same time, Federal government employees can join a community of practice around innovative contracting by signing up for the new “Buyers Club” email group (open to all .gov and .mil email addresses).  This “Buyers Club” group should provide a useful forum for troubleshooting and sharing best practices across the Federal government, serving everyone from contracting officers with deep expertise in the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) to program managers looking for new ways to achieve their agencies’ missions.

    All of these innovative contracting efforts are aligned with President Obama’s management agenda to deliver a 21st century government that is more effective, efficient, and supportive of economic growth, including specific cross-agency initiatives on Smarter IT deliverystrategic sourcing, and shared services.  We encourage readers to join thepublic discussion of Innovative Contracting Case Studies, or sign up for the Feds-only “Buyers Club” email group.  We look forward to raising awareness about the many ways that the Federal Government can use the power of the purse to deliver powerful and cost-effective technology solutions for the American people.

    Tom Kalil is Deputy Director for Technology and Innovation at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

    Lesley Field is the Deputy Administrator for Federal Procurement Policy at the White House Office of Management and Budget.

  • Skyrocketing Fire Costs

    Over the past twenty years, a changing climate, population growth near forests and rangelands, and the buildup of brush and other fuels have dramatically increased the severity of wildfires and the damage that they cause to our natural lands and communities. Year after year, fire seasons grow longer and longer, destroying homes, threatening critical infrastructure and the watersheds that provide clean drinking water to millions of people. Between 1980 and 2011, the average annual number of fires on Federal land more than doubled, and the total area burned annually tripled. Even as fire seasons have grown, the way we pay to fight these fires remains unchanged – and fundamentally broken.

    The Forest Service’s firefighting appropriation has rapidly increased as a proportion of the Forest Service’s overall budget, increasing from 16 percent in 1995 to 42 percent today. As the costs of wildfires have spiraled out of control, it has shrunk the budget of other Forest Service programs, taking millions of dollars from other critical forest health and land management priorities in order to pay for them. What’s more, often the programs we are forced to divert funds from are the very programs which help to mitigate the impact of wildfires.

    Today, the Department of Agriculture is releasing the Fire Transfer Impact Trends report detailing in clear terms just what this broken practice has cost us over the past twenty years – and what it will continue to cost us in the future if we don’t tackle this problem now.

    These spiraling fire costs have left the government unable to sufficiently invest in critical forest and rangeland priorities, including:

    • restoration projects designed specifically to reduce the  risk of catastrophic wildfire while restoring forests to be healthier and more resilient;
    • public access and tourism on public forests that stimulates local economies;
    • capital investments and maintenance to improve access and infrastructure on our Federal lands; and,
    • research and development to continue to improve the science behind our forest restoration, conservation and fire prevention and firefighting decisions.

    On top of the budget reductions outlined in the new report, the Forest Service’s non-fire program budgets are affected by “fire borrowing.”  Funds spent on fire suppression have exceeded the allocated amount in all but four years since 2000.  In these cases, the shortfall is covered through transferring, or “borrowing” additional funds from Forest Service programs that have already been cut over the last 20 years.

    The Forest Service recently released a state-by-state report providing examples of how funding for local wildfire preparedness, forest restoration, and other activities in nearly every state across the country has been used to instead fight fires, due to shortfalls in wildfire suppression budgets.

    Unless we act, the problem is going to keep getting worse.

    The President has put forward a common-sense plan to address this problem, modeled on congressional proposals with broad bipartisan support in both houses of Congress. This proposed reform would change the way we fund the most catastrophic wildfires, treating them the same as other natural disasters. This approach would provide certainty in fighting wildfires and investing in other areas that promote healthier and more resilient forests. And it would do so in a fiscally responsible way that lives within the overall funding levels already authorized by Congress.

    This is not merely a concern for future generations; it will hurt us right now, this year. If we see the kind of severe fire activity that we currently project, the Forest Service will soon run out of money and will be forced to transfer hundreds of millions of dollars from other programs in order to put out the fires.  A fix is needed, and needed urgently. The current system is untenable, dangerous, and simply irresponsible.  We urge Congress to act on this bipartisan proposal without delay.  

    Tom Vilsack is the Secretary of the United States Department of Agriculture.

    Shaun Donovan is the Director of the Office of Management and Budget.

  • Delivering a Customer-Focused Government Through Smarter IT

    As technology changes, government must change with it to address new challenges and take advantage of new opportunities. This Administration has made important strides in modernizing government so that it serves its constituents more effectively and efficiently, but we know there is much more to do.

    Last year, a group of digital and technology experts from the private sector helped us fix HealthCare.gov – a turnaround that enabled millions of Americans to sign up for quality health insurance. This effort also reminded us why the President’s commitment to bringing more of the nation’s top information technology (IT) talent into government is so critical to delivering the best possible results for our customers – the American people.

    A core part of the President’s Management Agenda is improving the value we deliver to citizens through Federal IT. That’s why, today, the Administration is formally launching the U.S. Digital Service. The Digital Service will be a small team made up of our country’s brightest digital talent that will work with agencies to remove barriers to exceptional service delivery and help remake the digital experience that people and businesses have with their government.

    We are excited that Mikey Dickerson will serve as the Administrator of the U.S. Digital Service and Deputy Federal Chief Information Officer. Mikey was part of the team that helped fix HealthCare.gov last fall and will lead the Digital Service team on efforts to apply technology in smarter, more effective ways that improve the delivery of federal services, information, and benefits.

  • Freezing the Federal Footprint

    From the beginning of the Administration, Federal agencies have worked to increase the quality and efficiency of their core administrative functions to enhance productivity.  As part of that commitment, one of the key pillars of the President’s Management Agenda is continued emphasis on the efficiency of government operations.

    In that vein, today we are pleased to announce that the Federal government has made significant progress toward implementing the Administration’s “Freeze the Footprint” policy for Federal real estate. At the close of FY 2013, the office and warehouse space in the inventory of the 24 Chief Financial Officer (CFO) agencies was reduced by roughly 10.2 million square feet.  

    Through this policy direction and utilizing existing administrative authorities, agencies are taking significant and creative steps to manage their real estate inventories by freezing growth in the portfolio, measuring the cost and utilization of real property to support more efficient use, and identifying opportunities to reduce the portfolio through asset disposal.

    Under the guidance to implement the Administration’s “Freeze the Footprint” policy, agencies developed three-year plans to restrict the growth in their office and warehouse inventories.  This policy requires that agencies freeze the growth in their office and warehouse inventory or offset any new acquisitions with a corresponding reduction.

    Agencies also developed internal controls to facilitate increased communication between agency Chief Financial Officer and Real Property Management offices. The Freeze the Footprint policy is just one step which supports the Federal government’s efforts to improve the quality of data on the real estate inventory to support greater consolidation and improved real estate management policies going forward. Through efforts like these, we will create a Government that will make a significant, tangible, and positive difference in the lives of the American people and the economy, and drive lasting change in how government works.

    To ensure accountability and transparency on agency efforts toward meeting their individual “Freeze the Footprint” baseline, agency baseline and FY13 office and warehouse space inventory numbers have been posted on Performance.gov

    Beth Cobert is the Deputy Director for Management at the Office of Management and Budget

  • Mid-Session Review 2015

    OMB today released the 2015 Mid-Session Review (MSR), which updates the Administration’s estimates for outlays, receipts, and the deficit in light of economic, legislative, and other developments that occurred since the release of the President’s 2015 Budget in March. 

    Under the President’s leadership, the deficit has been cut by more than half as a share of the economy, representing the most rapid sustained deficit reduction since World War II, and it continues to fall.  The MSR projects a $583 billion deficit in 2014, which is 3.4 percent of GDP, nearly $100 billion less than last year’s deficit and $66 billion lower than the Budget projection.  Looking ahead, the MSR estimates that deficits under the President’s proposed policies will fall to below 3 percent of GDP in 2015 and reach 2.1 percent of GDP by 2024.   

    At the same time, our economy is moving forward and businesses are creating jobs.  Businesses have added nearly 10 million new jobs over the past 52 months.  The housing market is rebounding, with rising home prices lifting four million borrowers above water on their mortgages in 2013 alone.  Americans are purchasing vehicles at a faster pace over the last two quarters than in any quarter since the first half of 2007.  The manufacturing sector has experienced stronger job growth over the last four and a half years than over any comparable period since the mid-1990s.  

    But the President believes more can be done, and our top priority must remain accelerating growth while expanding opportunity for all Americans.  The Budget provides a roadmap for making investments to accelerate economic growth, expand opportunity for all hard-working Americans, and ensure our national security, while continuing to improve the Nation's long-term fiscal outlook.  At the same time, the Budget takes key steps to both continue and enhance the Administration's efforts to deliver a government that is more effective, efficient, and supportive of economic growth. 

    By investing in our infrastructure and manufacturing, simplifying the tax code for businesses, reforming our skills and job training programs, and fixing our broken immigration system, we can create jobs and achieve stronger and more inclusive economic growth.  By rewarding hard work with fair wages, equipping all children with a high-quality education to prepare them for a good job in the future, making sure a secure retirement is within reach, and ensuring health care is affordable and reliable, we can expand opportunity for all Americans.  By eliminating wasteful tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans and making common sense reforms to Government programs, we can manage our Government more efficiently and effectively, and continue to cut the deficit in a balanced way.

    Brian Deese is the Acting Director of the Office of Management and Budget

  • Agencies Release Action Plans for Implementing New Performance Goals

    As part of the Administration’s effort to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the Federal government, agencies have been setting clear, measurable goals to drive better outcomes for the American people.  In March, building on our prior goals, the Administration announced new two-year Agency Priority Goals (APG) and new longer-term Cross-Agency Priority (CAP) Goals. The new goals were selected based on their importance in accelerating economic growth, expanding opportunity, increasing the efficiency of the Federal government, and ensuring the nation’s long-term fiscal strength. 

    To further this effort, today the Administration is releasing detailed action plans for the fifteen CAP goals – eight of which make up the core of the President’s Management Agenda.  These plans are focused on implementation and include strategies, specific milestones, timelines, and indicators to improve cross-agency coordination and measure success in key areas. CAP Goal teams are being co-led by leadership from the Executive Office of the President and Federal agencies, allowing for more broad-based ownership of cross-agency initiatives that is key to long-term success.

    As we have done in the past, we will provide updates on our progress in achieving milestones for both Agency and Cross-Agency Priority Goals each quarter on Performance.gov, providing accountability on these important efforts to improve government performance.  

    Beth Cobert is Deputy Director for Management at the Office of Management and Budget.

  • Calling on Congress to Eliminate Outdated and Duplicative Reporting Requirements

    Every year, Congress requires Federal agencies to produce thousands of written reports and plans on far ranging topics.  While these reports and plans often provide useful information for legislative decision-making, oversight, and public transparency, some reports and plans that were once useful have become outdated or duplicative, and needlessly divert time and resources away from critical agency mission activities.

    To help address this problem, in 2012, the Administration released an initial list of more than 350 outdated or duplicative reports and plans that Federal agencies recommended for elimination or consolidation.  Today, the Administration is releasing a new list that identifies 74 additional reports and plans recommended for elimination or consolidation.  This action represents another step in the President’s Management Agenda and overall effort to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the Federal government.  As required by the Government Performance and Results Modernization Act of 2010, these lists have been posted on Performance.gov, the Administration’s online tool for tracking government performance.  

    In many of these cases, reporting requirements have long outlived their need. Since 2000, for example, the Department of Homeland Security has been required to prepare an annual report to Congress on violations of the Dog and Cat Fur Protection Act.  For quite some time, however, there has been very little to report, with only one violation found in the past seven years.  Other reporting requirements remain on the books even though the particular program the report is focused on no longer exists.  For example, the Department of the Interior has a requirement from the Energy Policy Act of 2005 to prepare a report every year on the Royalty-in-Kind program that was discontinued in 2009. 

    We have already seen some progress in culling unnecessary reports and plans. With the passage of the National Defense Authorization Act in 2011, Congress agreed to streamline about half of the over 150 reports and plans the Defense Department recommended for modification that year.  And Congress did act to eliminate or modify some of the reports and plans included in the Administration’s initial 2012 list.  But most importantly, there is clear movement in Congress to address this problem even further, with legislation currently residing in both the House and Senate that would potentially eliminate or consolidate hundreds of additional reports and plans now required of Federal agencies.

    From the day the President took office, he has been committed to improving the openness and transparency of government, and increasing the amount and quality of information made available to the public and to Congress, through websites such as Data.gov, USAspending.gov, and Performance.gov.  We can continue that openness and transparency while eliminating unnecessary reporting requirements that waste limited taxpayer resources.  The Administration looks forward to working closely with Congress as we continue to make progress in this area in the months and years ahead.

    Beth Cobert is the Deputy Director for Management at the Office of Management and Budget

  • Reducing Costs and Burdens: Further Progress in Regulatory Lookback Effort

    Over the last few years, Federal agencies have been implementing the President’s call for a government-wide review of existing regulations, identifying rules to be changed or removed because they are out-of-date, unnecessary, or overly burdensome.  As part of this retrospective review, or “regulatory lookback,” agencies across the Federal government have identified hundreds of initiatives to reduce burdens and save taxpayer dollars. In fact, the retrospective review effort to date includes actions that will save more than $13 billion dollars in the near term, with more savings on the way.

    Today, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid services (CMS) issued a final rule to reform regulations that the agency found to be unnecessary, obsolete, or excessively burdensome on hospitals and other health care providers.  This final rule streamlines health and safety standards that health care providers must meet in order to participate in Medicare and Medicaid.  One key provision in the final rule will specifically reduce burdens on small critical access hospitals and rural health clinics. CMS projects that the rule changes it is issuing today will save more than $3 billion over the next five years for the American health care system.  

    Today’s CMS action is just the latest example of an agency eliminating requirements it has determined are no longer necessary.  Another example of recent agency action includes the Department of Transportation’s proposed rule issued last summer to streamline requirements for truck drivers and motor carriers that would ensure drivers only have to file inspection reports when they identify vehicle problems or have reason to believe problems might exist. When finalized, this change is estimated to save tens of millions of hours in paperwork burden each year, resulting in more than $1 billion in annual paperwork time savings.

    Ensuring regulatory flexibility for businesses and reducing unnecessary regulatory burdens through the retrospective review process are top priorities for the President and the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs.  And the retrospective review is a critical part of the Administration's regulatory efforts to promote economic growth and opportunity while protecting the health, safety, and welfare of the American people.  We will continue to work with our colleagues at Federal agencies on this effort and on ways to further institutionalize retrospective review as an essential component of government regulatory policy. 

    Howard Shelanski is Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs at the Office of Management and Budget.

  • Reducing Costs and Improving Efficiency Through Federal Shared Service Providers for Financial Management

    As part of the President’s Management Agenda, the Administration is pursuing initiatives to streamline the way government delivers services internally, with a particular focus on the core administrative functions that are common across the government.  One of our key initiatives in this effort is to expand the use of high-quality, high-value shared services among Federal agencies.

    Today, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the U.S. Department of the Treasury are announcing the designation of four shared service providers for financial management to provide core accounting and other services to Federal agencies. 

    Following today’s announcement, offices from the Departments of Agriculture, Treasury, Interior, and Transportation will lead the administration’s efforts to use shared services for future financial management systems modernizations across the government. These shared services designations are another step in the implementation of OMB’s March 2013 Memorandum to Federal agencies (M-13-08 “Improving Financial Systems through Shared Services).

    As agencies migrate to the four providers, the government will achieve economies of scale and standardization. Using a financial management shared service provider will help agencies reduce the risk of new system implementations, allow for faster and less expensive technological innovation, provide long-term cost savings, and meet government-wide requirements and deadlines.  As a result of these improvements, agencies will be able to focus more of their resources and leadership attention on mission-based programs.

    With the designation of the four providers, more agencies can begin the process of migrating their financial systems.  The Department of Agriculture’s National Finance Center, the Department of the Interior’s Interior Business Center, the Department of Transportation’s Enterprise Services Center, and Treasury’s Administrative Resource Center are ready to support agencies for financial systems modernizations. 

    Treasury and OMB designated these organizations after a comprehensive application process that included leadership commitments, system evaluations, reviews of plans for scaling operations, and determinations that the providers have the capabilities to address the requirements of cabinet level agencies. Additional providers or product offerings may be designated in the coming years as more agencies look to move to shared services and lessons are learned from the initial four providers.

    Beth Cobert is the Deputy Director for Management at the Office of Management and Budget

    Dick Gregg is Fiscal Assistant Secretary at the U.S. Department of the Treasury

  • Creating a 21st Century Government: Enhancing Productivity and Achieving Cost Savings by Reducing Fragmentation, Duplication, and Overlap

    Today, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released its fourth annual report identifying opportunities for Congress and the Executive Branch to reduce fragmentation, duplication, and overlap, and achieve cost savings across the Federal government.  In addition, GAO provided a progress report on its previous recommendations. 

    We appreciate the valuable work GAO continues to do on this important topic. Since the beginning of the Administration, the President has made it a priority to identify and eliminate inefficient, unnecessary, or duplicative spending. 

    GAO’s findings recognize the progress that has been made in addressing the recommendations previously identified in its reports. For example:

    • GAO found that Congress and the Executive Branch have made progress on addressing 130 of the 162 (80 percent) broad areas needing attention.
    • GAO found that the Executive Branch addressed or partially addressed 267 of the 323 (83 percent) recommended actions directed to the Executive Branch.
    • GAO found that Congress addressed or partially addressed 28 of the 66 (42 percent) recommended actions directed to Congress.

    Many of GAO’s recommendations deal with some of the most complex and challenging areas across the Federal government. Fully addressing them is a long-term process that in many cases will take years to implement – a fact that GAO recognizes.

    The Administration is committed to continuing to make progress in this important area through the President’s Second Term Management Agenda, building on efforts to reduce administrative overhead, cut improper payments, reduce real estate costs, reform military acquisition, and consolidate data centers. 

    The Administration is also continuing efforts to reorganize and consolidate Federal programs to reduce duplication and improve efficiency; and the President is again asking Congress to revive an authority that Presidents had for almost the entire period from 1932 through 1984 – the ability to submit proposals to reorganize the Executive Branch via a fast-track procedure. 

    The President’s FY 2015 Budget included a number of specific proposals to address duplication and overlap in the Federal government, such as:

    • Streamline Farm Service Agency (FSA) Operations.  The FSA is focused on ensuring that it has the right workforce in the right places to deliver the best customer service possible.  FSA has conducted a review of 2,100 field offices, and in an effort to modernize its field structure proposes closing or consolidating 250 offices as part of streamlining efforts that will save an estimated total of $39 million in 2015.
    • Reorganizing STEM Education Programs.  The President’s FY 2015 Budget proposes a fresh Government-wide reorganization of science, technol­ogy, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) edu­cation programs designed to enable more strategic investment in STEM education and more critical evaluation of outcomes. In 2012, there were more than 200 STEM education programs across Gov­ernment. Already, a substantial number of program consolidations and eliminations have been imple­mented or will be completed this year largely through administrative action. The Budget continues to reduce STEM fragmenta­tion by proposing 33 additional program consolida­tions or eliminations, and focuses ongoing efforts around the five key areas identified by the Federal STEM Education 5-Year Strategic Plan.
    • Expanding Use of Strategic Sourcing.  The Administration’s efforts to leverage the Government’s buying power through the use of strategic sourcing has saved over $300 million since 2010 on commonly purchased goods and services. Creation of central procurement vehicles that can be used by all Federal agencies has reduced contract duplication and reduced prices for some common office supplies by over 65 percent.

    In each of the President’s first three Budgets, the Administration identified, on average, more than 150 terminations, reductions, and savings proposals, totaling nearly $25 billion each year. In the 2013 and 2014 Budgets, the Administration detailed more than 200 cuts, consolidations, and savings proposals, again totaling roughly $25 billion each year. The President’s FY 2015 Budget included 136 cuts, consolidations, and savings proposals, which are projected to save nearly $17 billion in 2015.  The cuts, consolidations, and savings proposals this year reflect the deep spending reductions that occurred in 2013, some of which have continued in 2014, and the fact that many of the Administration’s previous cuts, consolidations, and savings proposals have now been implemented. 

    The Administration looks forward to continuing to work with GAO and Congress to maximize the value of every taxpayer dollar while increasing the productivity and quality of Government services.

    For a Fact Sheet on the GAO Duplication Report, please click HERE

    Beth Cobert is the Deputy Director for Management at the Office of Management and Budget

  • House Republican Budget Resolution Would Harm Economy, Seniors, the Middle Class, and Those Most in Need

    House Republicans today released a budget resolution for fiscal year (FY) 2015 that would harm the economy, seniors, the middle class, and those most in need, while not using any savings from ending inefficient tax breaks to help reduce the nation’s deficits.  The proposal stands in stark contrast to the President’s FY 2015 Budget, which would accelerate economic growth and expand opportunity for all Americans, while continuing to improve the nation’s long-term fiscal outlook.

    The President’s Budget provides a roadmap for ensuring the country reaches its full potential.  It accelerates growth and creates jobs by investing in infrastructure, research, and manufacturing.  It expands opportunity by ensuring health care is affordable and reliable, investing in job training and preschool, and providing pro-work tax cuts.  It ensures our long-term fiscal strength by fixing our broken immigration system and addressing the primary drivers of long-term debt and deficits, health care cost growth and inadequate revenues to meet the needs of our aging population.  And it supports efforts to make our government more efficient, effective, and supportive of economic growth.

    Unfortunately, the House Republican Budget pursues a different course.  Rather than advancing policies that accelerate economic growth both now and in the future, such as investing in infrastructure, research, and education, it sets out a path to cut these investments well below the already untenable levels resulting from sequestration. Rather than promoting economic opportunity, it would undermine the hard work of those struggling to put food on the table and keep their families healthy by cutting food stamps and Medicaid.  Rather than strengthening Medicare for seniors while improving accountability, it would end Medicare as we know it, turning it into a voucher program and risking a death spiral in traditional Medicare.  Rather than asking the wealthiest to contribute to reducing our deficits, it would raise taxes on middle class families with children by an average of at least $2,000 while refusing to use any revenue from ending wasteful tax loopholes to help reduce the deficit.  

    And rather than expanding health coverage for all Americans and making it more affordable, it would repeal the Affordable Care Act, raising health care costs on families and businesses and eliminating coverage for the 3 million young adults who have gained coverage by staying on their parent’s plan, the millions of people who have already signed up for private insurance plans through the Marketplaces, and millions more who can continue to gain coverage through Medicaid.  It would also wipe out other progress already made under the Affordable Care Act.  For example it would:

    • repeal the closure of the donut hole in prescription drug coverage, which saved the typical Medicare beneficiary who hit the donut hole roughly $900 on prescription drugs in 2013;
    • allow insurance companies to raise premiums and deny coverage because of a pre-existing condition and charge women higher rates;
    • allow insurance companies to reinstate lifetime dollar limits on plans;
    • no longer require insurance companies to allow parents to keep their children up to age 26 on their insurance plans; and
    • no longer require insurance companies to cover recommended preventive services at no cost under new plans. 

    Although the House Republican Budget adheres to the 2015 discretionary funding levels agreed to in the Bipartisan Budget Act, it proposes to drastically reduce non-defense discretionary funding in 2016 and beyond, reaching below sequester-level amounts.  Although the resolution does not specify what it would cut to reach those levels, we know that if the cuts were distributed equally across Budget, it would result in reductions of 15 percent or more below the levels the President has identified as needed to help our economy reach its full potential.  If those impacts were felt today, some of the results would be:

    • Head Start, which provides comprehensive early learning and development services, would serve about 170,000 fewer of the nation's most vulnerable children.
    • Title I, which helps ensure students receive support to meet challenging academic standards, would be unable to support the equivalent of roughly 8,000 schools and 3.4 million disadvantaged students, potentially resulting in 29,000 fewer teachers and aides with jobs.
    • The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), which provides critical food assistance to pregnant and postpartum women, infants and children would be able to assist more than 200,000 fewer postpartum women and children.
    • TIGER grants, which fund critical highway, transit, rail and port projects, would be reduced by the equivalent of $90 million from 2014, despite the high need for the program that was only able to award 4 percent of requested funding in the most recent round of grants and is an important part of investing in growth and jobs.
    • Job Training – More than 3.5 million fewer individuals would receive employment and training services through Department of Labor job training programs.
    • The National Institutes of Health could be forced to reduce the number of new NIH grants awarded by about 1,400, slowing research that could lead to new treatments and cures for diseases such as cancer, Alzheimer's, and diabetes.
    • The National Science Foundation could be forced to issue thousands of fewer research awards, affecting tens of thousands of researchers, students, and technicians.
    • Customs and Border Protection – 3,300 fewer Customs and Border Protection Officers (CBPOs) would be funded, impacting travel and trade at our nation's air, land, and sea ports of entry.  A decrease in CBPOs of this magnitude could lead to job and GDP losses, and tens of thousands fewer enforcement actions taken.
    • Criminal Justice – Over 3,500 fewer Federal agents would be funded to combat violent crime, pursue financial crimes, and ensure national security, as well as more than 3,100 fewer prison guards to maintain the safe and secure confinement of inmates in Federal prisons. 

    Moreover, the House Republican Budget fails to tackle some of the most fundamental issues that hold the key to further economic growth and job creation.  It fails to propose a multi-year solution for financing infrastructure improvements across the country that would create jobs and repair roads and bridges that have fallen into disrepair.  And it offers no solutions for our broken immigration system, even though independent economists of all stripes have said that commonsense immigration reform would grow our economy and reduce our deficits.

    The Administration strongly disagrees with the House Republican approach, and believes it would weaken our economy and our country.  At the same time, we are encouraged by the bipartisan agreements reached over the past year to return to a regular budget process that provides certainty for individuals, businesses and the economy.  The Administration looks forward to working with both parties in Congress throughout the coming year to maintain this progress and advance policies that will grow the economy and expand opportunity for all Americans.

    Sylvia Mathews Burwell is Director of the Office of Management and Budget. 

  • A Roadmap for Growth, Opportunity, and Fiscal Responsibility

    Ed. Note: This op-ed originally appeared in regional newspapers across the country.

    The President’s 2015 Budget provides a roadmap for accelerating economic growth and expanding opportunity for all while continuing to improve the nation’s long-term fiscal outlook.

    Despite the significant progress we have made in recovering from the worst recession since the Great Depression, too many Americans are still struggling to join the middle class or stay there.  That is why the President’s top priority remains growing the economy and building ladders of opportunity for all Americans to get ahead. 

    To create jobs and accelerate growth, the Budget includes an ambitious four-year plan that will put people to work repairing and modernizing our nation’s transportation infrastructure, paid for with one time revenue generated by pro-growth business tax reform.  It invests in American innovation and strengthens our manufacturing base by supporting the President’s goal of creating a national network of 45 manufacturing institutes.  And it supports ground-breaking research to fight disease, protect the environment, and develop new technologies.  

    The Budget also enhances the Administration’s efforts to deliver a 21st Century government that is more effective, efficient, and supportive of economic growth, focusing on areas directly impacting citizens and businesses. For example, it expands the President’s initiative to modernize the Federal permitting process for major infrastructure projects, cutting red tape to get more construction workers on the job faster, while still protecting communities and the environment.

    To expand opportunity, the Budget doubles the maximum value of the Earned Income Tax Credit for childless workers to build on the EITC’s success in encouraging people to enter the workforce and reducing poverty.  It invests on the President’s vision of making access to high-quality preschool available to every four-year-old child.  And it invests in new efforts to drive greater performance and innovation in workforce training to equip American workers with skills that match the needs of employers.

    To ensure the nation’s long-term fiscal strength, the Budget focuses on the primary drivers of long-term debt and deficits.  It builds on the reforms in the Affordable Care Act with another $400 billion in health care savings, continuing to slow health care cost growth and improve the quality of care.  It curbs inefficient tax breaks that benefit the wealthiest, and calls for pro-growth immigration reform, which the Congressional Budget Office has found would increase economic growth and reduce the deficit by about $160 billion in the next decade and by almost $1 trillion over the next twenty years. 

    Under the President’s leadership, the deficit has already been cut in half as a share of the economy, the largest sustained period of deficit reduction since World War II.  By paying for new investments and tackling our true fiscal challenges, the Budget continues that progress, reducing deficits as a share of the economy to 1.6 percent by 2024, stabilizing debt as a share of the economy by 2015 and putting it on a declining path after that.

    In recognition of the important bipartisan funding compromise reached by Congress in December, the Budget adheres to the 2015 spending levels that were agreed to in that deal. And it shows the tradeoffs and choices the President would make at those levels. 

    However, those levels are not sufficient – both in 2015 and beyond – to ensure the nation is achieving its full potential.  For that reason, the Budget also includes a fully paid for $56 billion Opportunity, Growth, and Security Initiative – split evenly between defense and non-defense priorities – which presents additional investments in critical areas, such as education, research, manufacturing, and security.  And the Initiative is fully paid for with a balanced package of spending cuts and tax reforms, so it does not add a dime to the deficit.

    The President’s Budget provides a responsible, balanced, and concrete plan that can serve as a guide for Congress in its work over the coming year and help ensure that all of our citizens enjoy the benefits of a strong and prosperous America for generations to come.

    Sylvia Mathews Burwell is the Director of the Office of Management and Budget.

  • Setting New Goals to Deliver a More Effective and Efficient Government

    Since the President took office, the Administration has worked hard to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the Federal Government. A key component of this effort has been setting clear, measurable goals to drive better outcomes for the American people. These include agency-specific goals and government-wide goals in areas benefiting from cross-agency collaboration.  

    To continue our progress in this area, today, the Administration is announcing new two-year Agency Priority Goals (APG) and new longer-term Cross-Agency Priority (CAP) Goals, as well as releasing agency Strategic Plans outlining strategies for improving performance over the coming years. The new goals were selected based on their importance in accelerating economic growth, expanding opportunity, and ensuring the nation’s long-term fiscal strength.

     For example:

    • A new CAP goal is being established to spur job growth by encouraging more foreign direct investment (FDI) in the U.S. Over the last ten years, U.S. affiliates of foreign companies employed more than five million workers, mainly in high-paying manufacturing jobs, which, on average, pay up to 30 percent more than non-FDI jobs. The National Economic Council, together with the Department of Commerce and the Department of State, will lead this effort.  They will be responsible for improving coordination across the Government and enhancing Federal investment tools and resources.   
    • A new CAP goal led by the General Services Administration and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is focused on increasing Government efficiency by establishing cost and quality benchmarks in areas such as human resources, acquisition, IT and property management.  These new benchmarks will give agencies better data so they can make more informed choices about allocating resources and improving processes.
    • The Department of Veteran Affairs, in partnership with the Department of Housing and Urban Development, is setting a joint APG of eliminating Veterans’ homelessness in 2015, ensuring that our veterans receive the care and quality of life they deserve. 

    This spring, goal teams will release detailed implementation plans with specific metrics and milestones for Cross-Agency Priority Goals. Cross-Agency Priority Goals efforts will be co-led by leadership from the Executive Office of the President and Federal agencies, allowing for more broad-based ownership of cross-agency initiatives. This year also marks the first time that all agencies have revised their Strategic Plans at the same time, allowing for better interagency coordination.

    As we have done with prior goals, we will track progress on a quarterly basis on Performance.gov, allowing the public to see how we are doing, and judge what is working well and what is not. Last month, OMB released a report on recently completed APGs and ongoing CAP Goals that showed significant progress across the Government.  We look forward to building on that progress as we work to achieve the new goals announced today.

    Beth Cobert is Deputy Director for Management at the Office of Management and Budget

  • Updating Guidance on Use of Voluntary Consensus Standards to Promote Smarter Regulation, Collaboration, and Technological Innovation

    The computer, tablet, or smartphone you are using to read this blog is comprised of parts and components that were developed, manufactured, and assembled in different locations around the United States and the globe, yet was carefully designed to ensure that your device is safe and interoperable with other devices.  We don’t spend much time thinking or worrying about how our electronics work or if they are safe, due largely to the ingenuity of the companies that make these products and their willingness to collaborate with each other to develop technologies that are safe, innovative, and interoperable.  While these companies do an excellent job in designing our products, it is important to remember that governments also play a critical role in ensuring the products that impact our daily lives are safe, effective, and protective of the environment.

    Since the enactment of the National Technology Transfer and Advancement Act in 1995, U.S. Federal regulatory agencies have been guided by the Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB) Circular A-119, “Federal Participation in the Development and Use of Voluntary Consensus Standards and in Conformity Assessment Activities.”  In 1998, OMB issued a revised version of Circular A-119, which has been guiding agencies on the use of voluntary consensus standards in regulation and on conformity assessment ever since.

    Over the intervening years since those revisions, the scope of economic activity and technology innovation has become increasingly global, and its complexity requires governments to collaborate more closely with the private sector, other stakeholders, and each other.  Many of the regulations that U.S. agencies issue every year rely on the work of standards developers and providers of conformity assessment services in the private sector.  Many of these regulations impact companies, workers, and consumers both inside and outside the United States.  As the worlds of regulation, standards, and trade increasingly intersect, and domestic and international interests increasingly overlap, close collaboration within the U.S. government on these issues has become critical, as has a more comprehensive approach.

    In light of these significant changes that have taken place since 1998, OMB has joined together with the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to develop a comprehensive proposal to update Circular A-119.  This forward-looking proposal includes important and timely updates to U.S. policies on how standards and conformity assessment support regulation, procurement, international regulatory cooperation, and other government functions.  The proposed changes will help:

    • strengthen implementation of international trade rules, helping prevent the creation of trade barriers, and avoiding unnecessary regulatory differences with key trading partners; 
    • support a flexible, transparent, and innovative U.S. standards system for the 21st Century that promotes economic growth, competitiveness, and job creation;
    • reduce regulatory complexity, duplication and costs on companies, workers, consumers and the U.S. Government itself, as well as cumulative burdens on the economy, through promoting retrospective review of existing regulations and increased reliance on private sector solutions, where appropriate; and
    • ensure that U.S. regulations reflect state of the art technical solutions for purposes of interoperability, as well as to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the American public and our environment. 

    This effort represents an important part of our ongoing work to strengthen our regulatory practices to help create jobs, grow the economy, and expand opportunity for the American people.  We invite you to review our proposal and submit your comments, which you may do online here.  OMB, USTR, and NIST will also be hosting a workshop this spring to obtain additional public input on the proposed changes. 

    Howard Shelanski is the Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs of the Office of Management and Budget

    Miriam Sapiro is the Deputy United States Trade Representative

    Patrick Gallagher is the Director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology at the Department of Commerce