OMBlog

  • A Smarter, More Innovative Government for the American People

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    One of the President’s first priorities after taking office in 2009 was to bring a government built for the 20th century into the 21st century. Over the last four years, we’ve made great progress to advance this goal, thanks in large part to the integration of new technologies and innovations across the Administration.

    This morning, the President held a meeting with his Cabinet and senior officials to lay out his vision for building a better, smarter, faster government over the course of his second term. During the meeting, the President directed Cabinet members and key officials in his Administration to build on the progress made over the first term, and he challenged us to improve government even further.

    To help members of the Cabinet and Administration officials find more innovative ways to deliver better results, the Administration recently welcomed a second class of Presidential Innovation Fellows – 43 highly talented and motivated individuals chosen out of more than 2,000 applicants. The first class of 18 Presidential Innovation Fellows worked hand-in-hand with top government innovators to develop solutions that are delivering smart-government solutions to taxpayers at a lower cost.

  • Intellectual Property: A Key Driver of our Economy

    Innovation and creativity have always been the foundation of our economy, and effective enforcement of intellectual property rights enables us to promote economic growth, ensure our global competitiveness, and protect the health and safety of our citizens. Today’s release of the Administration’s 2013 Joint Strategic Plan on Intellectual Property Enforcement builds on our efforts to protect intellectual property to date, and provides a roadmap for our work over the next three years. In preparing the 2013 Joint Strategic Plan, we solicited public comment on how to improve our approach, and that public input was invaluable in drafting the final version of the Joint Strategic Plan. We will continue to seek public views on how to best promote and protect intellectual property rights.

    Intellectual property is a key driver of our economy. So it matters that we have the right approach to intellectual property enforcement; one that is thoughtful, dedicated and effective, and that makes good and efficient use of our resources.

    Ours is a Nation of entrepreneurs, inventors, and artists. The ideas that American citizens generate catalyze cutting edge research, ensure longer and healthier lives, and power the globe’s most productive economy. Our ingenuity and entrepreneurial spirit make the United States great, and we must fiercely defend that competitive advantage. As President Obama has said, “If the playing field is level, I promise you – America will always win.”

  • Stopping Excessive Payments for Contractor Compensation

    Next week, the Administration will be transmitting to Congress a legislative proposal to stop excessive payments to Federal contractors. The proposal builds on previous Administration proposals and language included in the President’s Budget, and marks another important step in our ongoing effort to buy smarter and end wasteful, fiscally imprudent contract spending.

    Under current law, contractors that are paid based on their incurred costs (which represents about one-third of current contract spending) may demand reimbursement for executive salaries, bonuses and other compensation up to the level of the Nation’s top private sector CEOs and other senior executives. This taxpayer reimbursement level has skyrocketed by more than 300 percent since the law was enacted in the mid-1990s. Taxpayers have been required, by law, to foot this unaffordable expense, despite the fact that this rapidly increasing cost has had little bearing on the value agencies receive under their government contracts. 

  • Digital Strategy: Delivering Better Results for the Public

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

    The Strategy is built on the proposition that all Americans should be able to access information from their Government anywhere, anytime, and on any device; that open government data - data that are publicly accessible in easy-to-use formats - can fuel innovation and economic growth; and that technology can make government more transparent, more efficient, and more effective.

  • Building a 21st Century Infrastructure: Better Outcomes, Faster Timelines, and Less Red Tape

    President Obama today signed a Presidential Memorandum that will shave months, and even years, off the time it takes to review and approve major infrastructure projects. This means that states, local governments, and private developers will be able to start construction sooner, create jobs earlier, and fix our nation’s infrastructure faster.

    On March 22, 2012, the President issued an Executive Order launching a government-wide initiative to improve the efficiency of federal review and permitting of infrastructure projects. Since then, agencies have expedited the review and permitting of 50 major projects, including bridges, transit , railways, waterways, roads, and renewable energy projects.  

    Federal agencies have also identified a set of best practices for efficient review and permitting. Those range from expanding information technology (IT) tools to strategies - like simultaneous review - for improving collaboration. Today’s Presidential Memorandum directs all relevant agencies to put these best practices into effect.

    Cutting red tape and streamlining the process for making permitting decisions will help us meet the President’s goal of cutting in half the timelines for major infrastructure projects, while creating better outcomes for our communities and for the environment.

    The President’s initiative is already showing real results. For example, this afternoon, President Obama and Deputy Transportation Secretary John Porcari will visit Baltimore, where we sped up the approval process for the city’s Red Line rail transit corridor by six months.

    We also recently expedited Federal approval for the Tappan Zee Bridge replacement project in New York. By speeding up the approval process, Federal agencies trimmed up to three years off the timeline for this multi-billion dollar project that will help put Americans back to work.

  • A Plan to Create Jobs and Cut the Deficit

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

    The President’s Fiscal Year 2014 Budget is a concrete plan to create jobs and cut the deficit. We do not need to choose between these two priorities. The President’s balanced, compromise plan proves we can do both.

    The guiding principle behind the President’s plan is reigniting America’s engine of economic growth: a rising, thriving middle class. The plan is focused on addressing three fundamental questions:  How do we attract more jobs to our shores? How do we equip our people with the skills needed to do the jobs of the 21st Century? How do we make sure hard work leads to a decent living? 

    To make America once again a magnet for jobs, the Budget invests in high-tech manufacturing, clean energy, and infrastructure, laying the foundation for more rapid business growth. These investments will ensure that the jobs of the future are created in America and we stay on the cutting edge of innovation. To give workers the skills they need to compete in the global economy, it invests in education and job training, including a “Preschool for All” initiative to ensure children across the country are prepared to succeed. To ensure hard work leads to a decent living, it raises the minimum wage to $9.00 so an honest day’s work pays more.

    The Budget does all of these things as part of a comprehensive plan that cuts the deficit and puts the nation on a sound fiscal course. Every new initiative in the plan is fully paid for – not adding a single dime to the deficit. 

    To be clear, we have already made important progress in cutting the deficit. Over the past few years, Democrats and Republicans have cut the deficit by more than $2.5 trillion through a mix of spending cuts and raising income tax rates on the wealthiest Americans. This progress puts us more than halfway toward the goal of $4 trillion in deficit reduction that economists say is needed to put us on a fiscally sustainable path.

    Now we need to finish the job. That is why the President stands by the compromise offer he made to House Speaker Boehner during “fiscal cliff” negotiations this past December. These proposals would achieve $1.8 trillion in additional deficit reduction over the next 10 years, bringing total deficit reduction to $4.3 trillion while replacing the damaging, arbitrary cuts of the sequester. This deficit reduction is comprised of more than $2 of spending cuts for every $1 of new revenue from closing tax loopholes and reducing tax breaks for the wealthiest. And it takes further steps to address the largest driver of long-term deficits – rising health care costs – by including $400 billion in health savings that crack down on waste and fraud and strengthen Medicare for years to come.

    By including this compromise offer made to Speaker Boehner in the Budget, the President is demonstrating his willingness to make tough choices to find common ground to further reduce the deficit. This offer includes some difficult cuts that the President would not propose on their own, such as an adjustment to inflation indexing requested by Republicans. But there can be no sacred cows for either party.

    Importantly, the Budget’s deficit reduction proposals are designed to accelerate the recovery by replacing the damaging sequester and making smart investments in jobs, while protecting the most vulnerable – adhering to two key principles laid out in the bipartisan Bowles-Simpson Commission proposal.  

    The House and Senate have now both passed budget proposals. By returning to the regular order process that members of Congress say they want, we are hopeful that a bipartisan agreement can be reached.

    Our country continues to face significant fiscal and economic challenges. But they are surmountable. By working together, we have already made progress in reducing the deficit and restoring economic growth and job creation. The President’s Budget provides a specific and responsible plan for continuing this progress. It shows how we can live within our means while further growing the economy, strengthening the middle class, and securing the nation’s future.

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

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

    Today, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a report identifying areas where there are opportunities to reduce fragmentation, overlap, and duplication, or achieve cost savings.  In addition, the report provides an update on actions being taken by Congress and the Administration to address the recommendations identified by GAO over the last two years.

    We appreciate GAO’s work in these important areas. The Administration is strongly committed to reducing duplication and fragmentation and has worked hard over the last four years to make that happen. 

    From day one, the President has made rooting out waste and improving the way government works a top priority. 

    In June 2011, the President and Vice President launched the Campaign to Cut Waste, aimed at identifying and eliminating wasteful, inefficient or duplicative spending wherever it may exist in government.  This initiative has already saved taxpayers billions of dollars. And, in February 2012 the President submitted a proposal to Congress to reinstate Presidential authority to reorganize Federal agencies to reduce the number of overlapping government programs, all with an eye towards eliminating duplication and making government more efficient.  In addition, each year the President’s Budget has included hundreds of proposals for ways to cut, consolidate or save money on programs that are inefficient, duplicative, or simply no longer needed, translating into hundreds of billions of dollars in savings. 

    The Budget that the President will release tomorrow goes even further, including 215 cuts, consolidations, and savings proposals, which are projected to save more than $25 billion in 2014.

    We have examined the report GAO released today, and highlighted some of our efforts here.

    GAO’s findings recognize the progress the Administration is making:

    • GAO found that the Executive Branch and Congress, together, have made progress on 104 of the broad areas out of the 131 GAO has identified over the past two years.
    • In terms of the specific recommended actions within these broad areas, the Executive Branch has made progress on over 75% percent of the recommendations, with more than 20% fully addressed and at least another 55% percent partially addressed.  The Executive Branch has fully addressed more than 50 actions and partially addressed more than 140 actions since 2011.
    • The GAO report also recognizes that there are many areas where additional action by Congress is needed.   GAO found that Congress has fully addressed about 20% of the recommendations for Congressional action since early 2011, and made progress on another 11%. 

    By identifying specific actions which may help reduce duplication, achieve cost savings, or improve coordination across programs, GAO is helping to further these efforts to make government more effective and efficient. Many of the GAO 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 many years to implement– a fact that GAO recognizes.  Progress in other areas requires Congressional action.

    Building on proposals in previous budgets, many of which were adopted by Congress, the President’s 2014 budget offers several proposals to address some of the areas of duplication and overlap.  For example, the budget will include proposals to:

    • Streamline Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) programs through a bold reorganization of STEM education programs into four key areas:  K-12 instruction; undergraduate education; graduate fellowships; and informal education activities that typically take place outside the classroom.  Currently, there are more than 220 STEM education programs spread across 13 agencies. The proposed reorganization would consolidate or restructure more than half of these programs and streamline functions across the agencies to improve the delivery and impact of STEM education.
    • Modernize, Streamline, and Strengthen the Delivery of Training and Employment Services.  Today more than 40 Federal programs deliver job training and employment services. The Administration is exploring opportunities to make these programs even more effective, including by reorganizing some of the existing training programs to make it easier for Americans to find a job or build their skills for a better one, and for employers to find well-qualified workers.  For example, the 2014 Budget proposes a universal displaced worker program that will reach more than a million workers a year with a set of core services, combining the best elements of two more narrowly-targeted programs.

    We encourage Congress to take quick action on these and other proposals included in the Budget. 

    As the President has said, to support an economy that is built to last, we need a government that’s built for the 21st Century. We have made real progress toward that end and we look forward to working with Congress to enact the reforms proposed by the President to make our government work more effectively and efficiently for the American people.

    Danny Werfel is Controller of the Office of Federal Financial Management

  • PortfolioStat 2.0: Driving Better Management and Efficiency in Federal IT

    The President, in his 2013 inaugural address, charged us to, “harness new ideas and technology to remake our government, revamp our tax code, reform our schools, and empower our citizens with the skills they need to work harder, learn more, reach higher.” To achieve this goal in the current fiscal environment, the Administration has been focused on innovating with less and strategically investing in information technology (IT).

    In March 2012, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) initiated PortfolioStat. Agencies across the Federal government undertook a data-driven effort to examine their IT portfolios to identify common areas of spending with the goal of decreasing duplication and driving down costs. Through this process, agencies identified more than $2.5 billion in spending reductions that could be achieved from FY 2013 through FY 2015.

    Today, Acting Director Jeff Zients and I signed a memo commencing this year’s PortfolioStat process and outlining improvements from last year. PortfolioStat will be an ongoing effort, growing each year to incorporate lessons learned and changes in technology. The upgraded process streamlines agency data collection and improves analytics, consolidates the agency’s strategic IT direction and management improvements into one central plan, and holds agencies accountable for the goals set through last year’s process.

    A key lesson learned is that agencies should evolve their IT portfolios to deliver IT “as a service.” Unlike traditional capital models where assets are purchased for individual projects, the service delivery model entails agencies deploying their IT like a business, optimizing it for consumption agency-wide. For example, with cloud computing solutions, agencies have a scalable and transparent way to provision IT services, giving agencies a viable enterprise alternative to often stove-piped, capital IT investments.

    The results from PortfolioStat are already significant; by the end this month, we expect agencies to report savings of approximately $300 million. We are committed to continuing PortfolioStat to drive further management improvements, save billions of dollars across the Federal Government, and improve services to Americans through the use of technology.

    Steven VanRoekel is the U.S. Chief Information Officer

  • Freezing the Footprint

    The Administration has made it a priority for Federal agencies to dispose of unneeded properties and make more efficient use of the Government’s real estate assets. As the next step in this effort, today, OMB is issuing guidance to direct agencies to implement a “Freeze the Footprint” policy for Federal real estate.

    Under today’s new guidance, all CFO-act agencies are required to develop plans that will serve as the basis for agency actions to restrict the growth in their office and warehouse inventories. Agencies will also be required to develop internal controls related to square footage growth and facilitate increased communication between agency Chief Financial Officer and Real Property Management offices. These changes will further improve the management of the Federal Government’s real property assets.

    This effort builds upon on the Administration’s ongoing work to sell unneeded Federal properties. For example, in October 2012, GSA sold the Naval Weapons Industrial Reserve Plant in Dallas for $357,500 and the Government was able to realize over $27 million in savings by requiring the new owner to complete the necessary environmental remediation. And in November 2012, GSA sold a 1.39 acre Norfolk, VA, multi-building property, that had been declared excess by the Department of Defense (DOD), to the City of Norfolk for $1.1 million to become administrative and training offices for the Norfolk Sheriff's Department. More information on these and other Federal properties that have been sold can be viewed on the White House Excess Assets page.

    Today’s guidance also expands on the President’s 2010 directive to agencies to identify cost savings through better real estate management. In the directive, the President set an ambitious goal of eliminating $8 billion in real estate costs by 2012: $5 billion in savings through DOD’s Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC) process and $3 billion in non-BRAC savings. By the end of FY 2012 Federal agencies identified over $3.5 billion in non-BRAC real estate savings through disposals, space management, and sustainable energy and innovative real property management practices. In addition, DOD identified $5.1 billion in real-estate savings related to BRAC. An update on agency efforts to achieve the President’s $8 billion goal is available on Performance.gov.

    Agencies have made tremendous progress in making their real estate inventories more efficient, however, we know there is still more work to be done. As we develop new initiatives to spur progress in managing Federal real estate, we will be incorporating “lessons learned” from the implementation of the President’s goals to date. We look forward to further reducing the size and cost of the Government’s real estate inventory in the years ahead.

    Danny Werfel is Controller of the Office of Management and Budget

  • Working to Deliver Improved Performance

    This week, the Administration provided the first-ever quarterly progress update on the government’s 14 Cross-Agency Priority Goals and 103 Agency Priority Goals. These goals are set in areas where the Administration aims to achieve accelerated performance improvement through focused senior leadership attention. Agency leaders have each set ambitious near-term, implementation-focused Priority Goals, and the Administration has chosen Cross-Agency Priority Goals focused on topics requiring the collaboration of multiple agencies. Each quarterly progress update will be posted on Performance.gov, providing a window into the Administration’s efforts to make the government work smarter, better, and more efficiently. 

    For example, the Department of the Interior is working to authorize more production of clean energy on public lands. The agency set a goal that by September 30, 2013, it will increase the approved capacity for renewable energy (solar, wind, and geothermal) on or affecting public lands by at least 11,000 Megawatts relative to 2009 levels. By the end of 2012, it was fast approaching its goal, having approved 10,933 Megawatts, enough to power millions of homes.

  • Launch of the Administration’s Strategy to Mitigate the Theft of U.S. Trade Secrets

    Today, I am pleased to announce the Administration’s Strategy on Mitigating the Theft of U.S. Trade Secrets. Trade secret theft can cripple a company’s competitive advantage in foreign markets, diminish export prospects around the globe, and put American jobs in jeopardy. The President is committed to preventing the theft of corporate trade secrets. As he clearly expressed in his State of the Union Speech, “we cannot look back years from now and wonder why we did nothing in the face of real threats to our security and our economy.”

    The Strategy that we are releasing today coordinates and improves U.S. Government efforts to protect the innovation that drives the American economy and supports jobs in the United States. As the Strategy lays out, we are taking a whole of government approach to stop the theft of trade secrets by foreign competitors or foreign governments by any means – cyber or otherwise.

    • First, we will increase our diplomatic engagement. Specifically, we will convey our concerns to countries where there are high incidents of trade secret theft with coordinated and sustained messages from the most senior levels of the Administration. We will build coalitions with countries that share our concerns to support our efforts. We will urge foreign law enforcement to do more. And we will use our trade policy tools to press other governments for better protection and enforcement.
    • Second, we will support industry-led efforts to develop best practices to protect trade secrets and encourage companies to share with each other best practices that can mitigate the risk of trade secret theft.
    • Third, DOJ will continue to make the investigation and prosecution of trade secret theft by foreign competitors and foreign governments a top priority. Additionally, the FBI and the intelligence community will provide warnings and threat assessments to the private sector on information and technology that are being targeted for theft by foreign competitors and foreign governments.
    • Fourth, President Obama recently signed two pieces of legislation that will improve enforcement against trade secret theft. But we need to continue to make sure our laws are as effective as possible. So, moving forward, we will conduct a review of our laws to determine if further changes are needed to enhance enforcement. If changes are necessary, we will work with Congress to make those changes lasting and comprehensive.
    • Lastly, we will increase public awareness of the threats and risks to the U.S. economy posed by trade secret theft.

    We know that trade secrets play a crucial role in America’s global competitiveness. As the Strategy makes clear, the Administration will continue to act vigorously to combat the theft of American trade secrets that could be used by foreign companies or foreign governments to gain an unfair commercial advantage over U.S. companies. In order to continue to lead, succeed, and prosper in the 21st Century global economy, we will use this Strategy to put in place an effective and coordinated approach to protect American trade secrets.

    The launch event described below will being streaming on WhiteHouse.gov/live at 3:15pm today.

  • A Proposal for Better Management of Federal Grants

    The Office of Management and Budget today published a significant set of proposed reforms to improve the way we administer the more than $600 billion awarded annually for grants and other types of Federal financial assistance. This grant reform proposal entitled “Proposed Uniform Guidance: Cost Principles, Audit, and Administrative Requirements for Federal Awards,” combines the multiple Federal regulations that currently govern the way we administer grants into a single, comprehensive and streamlined uniform policy guide.  It is intended to both increase the efficiency and effectiveness of grant programs by eliminating unnecessary and duplicative requirements and strengthen the oversight of grant dollars by focusing on areas such as eligibility, monitoring of sub-recipients, adequate reporting, and other areas that are potential indices of waste, fraud or abuse.

    The reforms in this proposal make further progress on implementing President Obama’s November 2009 Executive Order 13520 on reducing improper payments and eliminating waste in Federal programs, and the February 2011 Presidential Memorandum on promoting administrative flexibility. Following OMB’s February 2012 publication of potential grant reform ideas in the Federal Register, we received hundreds of comments and suggestions, which we carefully considered as we worked with the Council on Financial Assistance Reform to develop this proposal. We also worked collaboratively with stakeholder groups in the grants community to identify policies in need of clarification and simplification – with the goal of improving grant management, accountability, oversight, and overall performance. 

     Specific measures in the proposal include:

    • Harmonizing and streamlining all OMB guidance on grants from eight documents into one, while clarifying key differences for different entities;
    • Simplifying the reporting requirements that grantees must adhere to in justifying salaries and wages charged to grants;
    • Ensuring that Federal agencies better review financial risk posed by applicants and merits of an application before providing a grant;
    • Providing guidance to ensure robust oversight of sub-recipients;
    • Focusing more audit resources on preventing waste, fraud, and abuse; and
    • Holding agencies accountable for getting results and addressing weaknesses among grant recipients.

    The Administration believes these reforms will make a significant contribution to improving Federal grant-making and outcomes for the American people. And we welcome ideas to make them even better and encourage the public and stakeholders to go to Regulations.gov (docket OMB-2013-0001) to review and comment on our proposal.

    Danny Werfel is Controller of the Office of Management and Budget

  • American Taxpayer Relief Act Reduces Deficits by $737 Billion

    Earlier today, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released its score of H.R. 8, the “American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012.”  By convention, the score measured the effects of this legislation relative to “current law,” which assumes the expiration of all of the 2001/2003 tax cuts, cuts to Medicare physicians of almost 27 percent, and allowing the across the board cuts from sequestration to take effect.  But that does not provide a realistic perspective on the impact of H.R. 8.  The relevant point of comparison isn't current law, it is “current policy” – those policies that were in place on December 31st, the day before all of these changes were scheduled to take effect. Different organizations, ranging from the Bowles-Simpson Fiscal Commission to the House Budget Committee, have considered this current policy baseline to be the appropriate reference point, since it measures changes relative to the status quo, rather than the mix of expiring provisions and policy changes that would likely never be implemented.

    CBO also recognizes the value in this “current policy” view and routinely publishes their interpretation, known as the Alternative Fiscal Scenario (AFS), which is regularly cited by lawmakers from both parties, including House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan. The CBO current policy baseline assumes that the Bush tax cuts, the AMT patch, and expiring business tax provisions will be extended; that the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) cuts in payments to Medicare physicians will not take effect; and that the sequestration will be turned off. 

    Compared to “current policy” and based on estimates from the CBO and the Joint Committee on Taxation – Congress’s official score-keeping bodies – we can see that H.R. 8 would reduce the deficit by $737 billion. Within that, it would reduce spending by $107 billion. The deficit reduction is comprised of:

    • $618 billion due to higher taxes on the highest-income Americans and the wealthiest estates.
    • $22 billion due to reductions in discretionary spending and a change to tax-preferred savings accounts that pay for turning off sequestration for two months.
    • $24 billion in various health measures that pay for turning off the SGR for one year.  (Because sequestration and the SGR are turned off in the CBO current policy baseline, these pay-fors reduce deficits relative to that baseline.)
    • The above provisions more than offset the $30 billion cost of the measure’s one-year extension of emergency unemployment insurance benefits, resulting in $630 billion of net non-interest deficit reduction.
    • Another $104 billion of deficit reduction results from lower interest payments on the federal debt, for a total of $737 billion in deficit reduction.

    See this table for a more detailed breakdown.

    So H.R. 8 not only keeps taxes low for the middle class, asks the wealthiest to pay their fair share, and helps the economy continue to grow, it also reduces the deficit by $737 billion under this more realistic scenario.

    Jeff Zients is the Deputy Director for Management.

     

  • The 2012 SAVE Award Winner

    The results of this year’s SAVE Award voting are in!  This year’s winner is Department of Education program officer Frederick Winter of Arlington, Virginia.  Frederick’s idea received more than 19,000 votes, out of more than 46,000 ballots cast. 

    Frederick proposes that all Federal employees who receive public transit benefits shift from regular transit fare to the reduced senior fare as soon as they are eligible.  In the D.C. area, this change would lower the cost of the employee’s travel by 50 percent, with no loss in the effective benefits for the employee.

    Frederick will have the opportunity to meet with President Obama in person in the Oval Office to discuss his winning idea.  And as in past years, each of the finalists’ ideas will be incorporated in the President’s Budget, and all other Save Award submissions will be reviewed for potential inclusion. 

    These SAVE Award ideas, along with others submitted over the last four years, won’t solve our Nation’s long-term fiscal challenges, but they represent common-sense steps to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of our government, and they are saving the government hundreds of millions of dollars.

    We thank everyone who submitted ideas for this year’s SAVE Award and congratulate Frederick Winter, our 2012 SAVE Award winner.  All those who submitted ideas embody the commitment Federal employees have to improving government performance, providing better value to the American people, and ensuring taxpayer’s dollars are spent wisely.

    Jeff Zients is the Deputy Director for Management.

  • The 2012 SAVE Award Final Four

    Since its creation in 2009, President Obama’s SAVE Award [Securing Americans Value and Efficiency] has served as a vehicle for Federal employees to offer firsthand their ideas on how to improve performance and ensure taxpayer dollars are spent wisely. 

    Over the last four years, Federal workers have submitted tens of thousands of ideas to curb unnecessary spending, both in their own agencies and across the government – covering everything from implementing new measures to conserve energy use to cutting back on paper copies of publications already available online like the Federal Register.  These ideas alone won’t solve the Nation’s long-term fiscal challenges, but they are saving hundreds of millions of dollars and represent common-sense steps to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of government and provide a better value to the American people.

    Last year’s winning idea came from Matthew Ritsko of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, who suggested the creation of a “lending library” that would store used space flight project tools so that employees would not have to reorder tools already available within the agency.  Matt’s idea, along with 26 other SAVE proposals, were included in the President’s FY 2013 Budget.

    Today, we are announcing the four finalists for the 2012 SAVE Award.  Keeping with tradition, the winner will present his or her idea to the President in the Oval Office, and other proposals will be directed to agencies for potential action or inclusion in the President’s Budget.

    With today’s announcement, public voting also begins to select this year’s winner.  Voting can be done through the White House website at: www.whitehouse.gov//save-award.

    Here are the 2012 finalists:

    Frederick Winter, Shift to Senior Transit Fares.  Frederick Winter of the Department of Education proposes that all Federal employees who receive public transit benefits shift from regular transit fare to the reduced senior fare as soon as they are eligible.  In the D.C. area, this change would lower the cost of the employee’s travel by 50 percent, with no loss in the effective benefits for the employee.

    Angela Leroux, Reduce Employee Shuttle Buses.  Many Federal agencies maintain buses to shuttle employees from one government office to another for work purposes.  Too often these vehicles sit idle or travel their routes with just a few passengers.  Angela Leroux at the Internal Revenue Service recommends that agencies eliminate or consolidate the bus service and encourage the use of conference and video calls, or provide metro cards to those with a need to travel.

    James Szender, Use Digital Transcription.  A written transcript of Federal meetings or hearings is often required.  James Szender of the Department of Interior proposes, whenever possible, using digital equipment for transcripts instead of hiring a court reporter, since using digital transcription is significantly less expensive than contracting with a certified court reporter to attend, record, and transcribe the proceedings.

    Laurie Dempsey, Post Customs Inspection Information Online.  Customs and Border Protection is required to post a bulletin weekly that lists all imported items that have completed the customs inspection process.  Currently, Customs ports across the country print this bulletin, which can be hundreds of pages long, and post it in the customs house.  Laurie Dempsey from the Department of Homeland Security suggests instead posting the bulletin electronically on CBP.gov.  This change would save paper, reduce costs, and make it easier for the public to find out what items have been inspected without having to visit the facility in person. 

    I encourage Federal employees and the public to vote now for your favorite SAVE Award idea.  You can help us cut waste and make your government more efficient and effective.  We’ll be announcing this year’s winner soon.  Stay tuned.

    Jeff Zients is the Deputy Director for Management.

  • The United States and Canada Announce Progress in Regulatory Cooperation

    Today the Canada-United States Regulatory Cooperation Council (RCC) is presenting President Obama and Prime Minister Stephen Harper with the first Progress Report on the Council’s efforts to date. The RCC was launched by the President and Prime Minister Harper just over a year ago to deliver benefits to U.S. and Canadian citizens in the form of smarter, more effective regulations that enhance the economic competitiveness and well-being of our two countries, while maintaining high standards of public health and safety and environmental protection. This report, which provides an update on the regulatory cooperation work done under the RCC to date, also marks the one-year anniversary of the RCC Joint Action Plan.

    As RCC co-chair, I’m pleased to report that significant progress has been made over the last twelve months under the Action Plan to improve regulatory cooperation between Canada and the United States. Throughout the 29 work plans – which cover areas as diverse as food and agriculture, motor vehicles, rail safety, emissions reduction, pharmaceuticals, personal care products, and nanotechnology – U.S. and Canadian representatives have found creative ways to work together to promote economic growth and cut red tape, as well as improve health, safety, and environmental protections for our citizens.

    This cooperation has taken many forms, from scientific and technical collaboration and work sharing to collaboration in standards setting and regulatory alignment. Specific examples of progress achieved over the past year include:

    • Pilot projects for simultaneous submissions to regulators in both countries for approval of crop protection products (see the related work plan here);
    • In the area of veterinary drugs, simultaneous reviews by U.S. and Canadian regulators for several drug submissions (read more about this work here); 
    • A pilot project for the joint inspection of non-U.S. and non-Canadian flagged vessels entering the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway, focusing on maritime security and pollution prevention, and monitoring living and working conditions for workers on these ships (learn more here); and
    • Proposed automotive regulations that would align U.S. and Canadian rules on tire safety and occupant restraint systems in frontal impact collisions (read more about an upcoming meeting to gather public input on next steps here).

    For too long, unnecessary differences between U.S. and Canadian regulatory approaches have posed hurdles for our businesses and increased costs for consumers. Through the Obama and Harper Administrations’ efforts with the RCC, we have spurred an unprecedented range of cooperation in addressing these differences. We are also working to understand the underlying causes of these misalignments so that we can prevent them in the future.

    Do we have more work to do? Of course. Regulatory cooperation is time- and resource-intensive, and it takes a strong commitment to keep the momentum going.  The Obama Administration has made an ambitious commitment to promoting international regulatory cooperation and we know that commitment is shared by our Canadian counterparts. We look forward to continuing implementation with Canada on the 29 items in the Action Plan as we move forward into 2013.

    But we cannot do it alone. We very much appreciate the stakeholder community’s interest in and commitment to the work of the RCC, and we hope that you will continue to provide us with ideas and hold us accountable for producing tangible results. Please continue sending us your feedback at international-oira@omb.eop.gov and if you want to receive RCC updates, go to www.trade.gov or email us at rcc@trade.gov. We look forward to announcing additional opportunities for stakeholder engagement in the coming months.

    Boris Bershteyn is the Acting Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs.

  • Setting Goals and Measuring Progress to Better Serve the American People

    Today, we mark another milestone in the Administration’s effort to change the way government does business – the launch of an updated and enhanced version of the Performance.gov website.

    In his inaugural address, President Obama charged the Federal government with delivering a government that works for the American people and does our business in the light of day. Congress recognized the importance of improving government performance as well, and passed the Government Performance and Results Modernization Act in 2010, helping to set the standard for Performance.gov.

    Performance.gov brings into the light how government is working, and it is also a tool to help agencies deliver on the President’s charge. The site lets the public see how agencies are progressing on their performance priorities. It also helps managers and employees across the government stay focused on their priorities and constantly look for smarter ways to accomplish their objectives. Plus, it supports cross-agency collaboration on shared goals. 

    Performance.gov is being updated today to provide additional information about each performance goal, including the first installment of quarterly progress reports. The site now also lets the public and others in government quickly identify the public servant managing progress on each goal and find additional information about why the goal was selected, how progress is being made, which programs are contributing to the effort, and what steps are being taken to make further progress.

    The President’s approach to improving Federal performance is showing real results. Over one million homes have been retrofitted to be more energy efficient, saving each household hundreds of dollars per year. Exports and broadband coverage are on the rise. Improper payments are declining. Patent applications are being processed with increasing speed and efficiency. And nearly 90,000 additional families have affordable rental housing. These are just a few examples of the progress we are making across the government by focusing relentlessly on performance.

    The updated Performance.gov launched today strengthens the government’s performance management with greater transparency, accountability, and shared responsibility. But our work is not done. The Administration will push for more progress on these goals, and, as needed, set additional ambitious goals in order to ensure that the American people get the best government possible.

    Shelley Metzenbaum is OMB Associate Director for Performance and Personnel Management.

  • Historic Savings in Contracting – and Plans for More

    Since the beginning of the Administration, President Obama has challenged Federal agencies to strengthen their acquisition and contracting practices by eliminating inefficiencies and buying smarter. In response, agencies have cut unnecessary contracts and launched new efforts to pool the government’s buying power to deliver a better value for the American people.

    These efforts are paying off. The Administration reduced contract spending by over $20 billion in Fiscal Year (FY) 2012 compared to last year. This reduction is the largest single year dollar decrease in Federal contract spending on record, and establishes a three-year downward trend from 2009-2012. As a result, FY 2012’s total spending on contracts was $35 billion less than the amount spent in FY 2009. This decline represents a dramatic reversal of the unsustainable 12 percent contract spending growth rate experienced from 2000 through 2008.

    At the President’s direction, one way agencies saved money this year was by tackling overspending on management support services, which includes services such as information technology systems development, program management, and engineering. This is an area of contract spending that was plagued with inefficiency and where costs quadrupled during the previous Administration. We are pleased to announce that agencies successfully reduced management support services spending by $7 billion over the last two years, meeting the Administration’s goal of bringing down such spending by 15 percent by the end of FY 2012.

    Another key way agencies have saved money in contracting is by coordinating the government’s buying, a practice known as strategic sourcing. Rather than making purchases independently, like dozens of separate medium-sized businesses, agencies have been moving to pool their purchases, both at the government-wide and agency level, to get the same goods and services at lower prices.

    Government-wide strategic sourcing of items such as office supplies and domestic shipping services has already saved nearly $200 million since FY 2010. And agency-level strategic sourcing of goods like IT and medical equipment have saved hundreds of millions more. In just one example, the Department of Homeland Security saved over $386 million last year by pooling purchases for a wide range of products - everything from canines to surveillance equipment - across FEMA, the Coast Guard, Customs and Border Protection, and other components.

    This progress is remarkable, and we are pleased that we have not only stemmed but reversed the unsustainable growth in contracting under the previous Administration. But there is more to do, and that is why the Administration issued guidance today to agencies to drive even better coordination of contracting to ensure that we can take strategic sourcing in the government to the next level. The guidance calls on the largest buying agencies to identify and develop at least 15 new government-wide strategic sourcing solutions that their agencies will commit to using over the next two years. The agencies will be analyzing savings opportunities across the government, in areas such as desktops and laptops, IT software, janitorial and sanitation supplies, office furniture, building maintenance and operations services, and other professional and technical services.

    Maximizing the use of small businesses in Federal contracting remains a top priority of this Administration. To that end, the Small Business Administration will work alongside these large agencies to ensure that, to the fullest extent possible, all strategic sourcing opportunities increase participation by small businesses.

    The initiative announced today builds on the successes that agencies have already had in this area, and will serve as the foundation for driving agencies to set new and bold goals for saving money and improving the acquisition and management of goods and services. The President will ensure that agencies move quickly to adopt new strategic sourcing solutions, increase their use of existing vehicles, and achieve even more savings for the American people over the next four years.

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

  • Eliminating Billions in Payment Errors

    As part of the President’s Campaign to Cut Waste, this Administration has taken an aggressive approach to attacking waste, fraud, and abuse within government agencies.  Nowhere is this more apparent than in combatting improper payments – those Federal payments that are made in the wrong amount, to the wrong entity, or for the wrong purpose.

    When the President took office, the rate of wasteful government-wide improper payments was on the rise.  Since then, the President has taken forceful steps to cut down on improper payments, such as issuing an Executive Order putting in place new measures to increase transparency and hold agency officials accountable to the American public, directing agencies to intensify and expand efforts to recover improper payments, establishing a “Do Not Pay” list for agencies to check before making payments, and signing into law the landmark Improper Payments Elimination and Recovery Act.  And the Administration has moved quickly to deploy cutting-edge forensic technologies to crack down on such waste for the first time in government.

    These efforts have resulted in the elimination of billions of dollars in wasteful improper payments.  Today, we are pleased to report that the government-wide error rate has decreased to 4.3 percent, having steadily declined from its high-water mark of 5.4 percent in Fiscal Year (FY) 2009.  We have successfully reduced error rates in major programs all across the government—Medicare Fee-for-Service, Medicaid, Unemployment Insurance (UI), the Earned Income Tax Credit, SNAP (Food Stamps), Pell Grants, the School Lunch program, and Retirement, Survivors, and Disability Insurance.

    Across the board, Federal agencies are taking targeted steps to combat erroneous payments.  As just one example, the Department of Labor is actively working with states to reduce UI improper payments. All states have been called to action to ensure that UI integrity is a top priority and to develop state-specific strategies to bring down the overpayment rate.  DOL also recently launched a partnership with the New York Department of Labor to establish a UI Integrity Center of Excellence.  This new Center will drive collaborative work with the Labor Department and other states to develop and implement innovative strategies that can be used to combat improper payments and build capacity nationally to use data analytics and predictive modeling more effectively. 

    In total, the government has so far avoided over $47 billion in improper payments over the past three years, almost hitting the President’s ambitious goal of avoiding $50 billion in improper payments by the end of FY 2012.  The Administration also surpassed, by more than double, the President’s goal of recapturing for America’s taxpayers $2 billion in overpayments to contractors by the end of FY 2012.  We are announcing today that Federal agencies recaptured a record $4.4 billion in overpayments to contractors over the last three years, due in large part to the success of the Medicare Fee-for-Service Recovery Audit Contractor program.

    Notably, when Department of Defense commercial payments are factored in, the total for improper payments avoided over the three years jumps to nearly $70 billion, and the government-wide error rate falls to 3.7 percent.  While including these new amounts can make year-to-year comparisons more complex, it is a more comprehensive snapshot of today’s government-wide error rate. 

    These are promising results, to be sure, but we will not rest as long as there is a single dollar of improper payment.  Every dollar paid in error represents an unacceptable waste of taxpayer resources.  This Administration is committed to keeping up the fight to reduce waste, fraud, and abuse and continuing to attack this challenge with every tool at our disposal.

    Danny Werfel is Controller of the Office of Management and Budget    

  • PortfolioStat: Saving Billions in IT Spending

    Over the last six months, agencies across the Federal government have been undertaking a coordinated effort to scour their IT budgets to find unnecessary IT spending and develop a plan to root out waste. This effort – called PortfolioStat – has resulted in ambitious plans that will save the government $2.5 billion over the next three years through consolidating duplicative systems, buying in bulk, and ending or streamlining off-track projects.  

    From day one, the President has made it a priority to reform the way the Federal Government does business to ensure we’re serving the American people as efficiently and effectively as possible. Just two months into the Administration, we launched the IT Dashboard to bring unprecedented transparency and accountability to government IT projects. We also launched TechStat accountability reviews of high priority IT projects, using the dashboard as a managing tool and saving taxpayers over $4 billion dollars.

    Building on these achievements, we launched PortfolioStat this year to ensure we are targeting our investments where they will deliver the greatest value to the American people. Under PortfolioStat, agencies have collected and analyzed baseline data on 13 specific types of commodity IT investments, spanning infrastructure, business systems, and enterprise IT.  These areas have the most significant opportunities for reducing waste. OMB worked with agencies to review their data and compare their spending to other agencies and private sector benchmarks in order to assess the agency’s current state and develop a list of opportunities to reduce inefficiency, duplication, and unnecessary spending. Based on this analysis, agencies drafted PortfolioStat plans, which were then reviewed in Deputy-Secretary-led PortfolioStat sessions with the Federal Chief Information Officer.

    What came out of this thorough process were thoughtful and ambitious plans to root out IT waste. Agencies identified 98 opportunities to consolidate or eliminate commodity IT areas, ranging from the consolidation of multiple email systems across an agency to the reduction of duplicative mobile or desktop contracts. For example, the Department of Homeland Security will save $376 million over the next three years on their IT infrastructure, including mainframe and server products, by leveraging the bulk buying power of the entire department.

    The Social Security Administration (SSA) is implementing an enterprise-wide purchasing program and they are leveraging their buying power to save $59 million – more than $760 for every computer. And the Department of Treasury will consolidate key financial management systems, which will save $90.3 million. By implementing a central hub for all vendor payment data for Federal agencies and their vendors, Treasury is cutting out inefficiencies for agencies and companies small and large that do business with the Federal government. These efficiencies can then be passed on as future price savings for agencies and the taxpayers.

    Today’s announcement is a critical next step on our aggressive path to deliver taxpayers the best bang for their buck, while putting an end to the kind of inefficiencies that plagued Federal IT during past Administrations. Moving forward, we will be holding PortfolioStat sessions, not only to push agencies to execute on their plans in a timely manner, but also to identify additional areas of savings. It’s a sustained commitment to this kind of accountability on behalf of the American people that has driven and will continue to power the Administration’s imperative to innovate with less.   

    Jeffrey Zients is the Deputy Director for Management.