OMBlog

  • Reorganizing Government for the 21st Century

    With all the disagreement and discord that tends to dominate Washington, it’s easy to lose sight of areas where Democrats and Republicans can make common cause. One important example: the need to update and reorganize the Federal government for the 21st century.

    Today, I co-authored an op-ed on this topic with former Republican Governor of Michigan and current president of the Business Roundtable, John Engler. Governor Engler and I don’t agree on everything, but we both recognize that we’re competing in a 21st century economy with a 20th century government – a government that often suffers from overlapping and duplicative responsibilities that waste taxpayer dollars and needlessly complicate government.

    In our op-ed, we echo President Obama’s call for Congress to reinstate the authority that would allow him to submit to Congress proposals to streamline and reorganize the Federal government. Importantly, any such proposal would have to either reduce the size of government or cut costs and help reach our deficit reduction goals.

    Every CEO has the flexibility to restructure his or her company to keep pace with the competition and meet changing customer demands. Likewise, many Governors have reorganization authority, which has allowed them to achieve remarkable efficiencies and cost savings at the state level.

    As we argue in today’s piece, granting this same authority to the President at the Federal level is not a partisan cause – it’s just common sense and good management.

    Check out the full piece here.

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

  • Cutting Red Tape to Accelerate Infrastructure Projects

    Today in Cushing, OK, President Obama signed an Executive Order that requires agencies to make faster permitting and review decisions for vital infrastructure projects while protecting the health and vitality of our communities and the environment – fulfilling a commitment he made in his State of the Union address to cut the red tape that can slow down construction, and following up on a set of recommendations made by his Council on Jobs and Competitiveness. As part of this effort to develop American infrastructure, the President also issued a Memorandum directing federal agencies to expedite the Cushing Pipeline and other pipelines that relieve bottlenecks as a top priority of the new EO’s permitting process. The need for pipeline infrastructure is urgent because rising American oil production is outpacing the capacity of pipelines to deliver oil to refineries. 

    Big infrastructure projects relating to roads and surface transportation, aviation, ports and waterways, water management, renewable energy generation, electricity transmission, broadband, and pipelines can be complex – often involving multiple Federal, State, local, and Tribal government agencies as well as the private sector companies leading the projects. As you might imagine, multiple permits and reviews from multiple agencies across multiple jurisdictions with no single organization in charge can create a situation that’s ripe for confusion, duplication, and delay – particularly when many of these permitting and review processes are still done with paper and pen.

  • The Ryan-Republican Budget: The Consequences of Imbalance

    Ed note: This post is updated with a correction on the number of workplace inspections to protect worker safety.

    Yesterday, House Republicans released their budget resolution for FY 2013. While many of the proposals require more analysis, one thing is absolutely clear: this budget does not ask all Americans to do their share to get our fiscal house in order and create an economy that is built to last. Instead, the GOP plan gives those making over $1 million per year an average tax cut of at least $150,000 and preserves tax breaks for oil and gas companies and hedge fund managers. These tax breaks are then paid for by ending Medicare as we know it and implementing deep cuts in what we need to grow our economy and create jobs in years to come.

    Others will go into deep detail on the tax and health proposals in the budget resolution.  I want to focus on funding known as “nondefense discretionary spending.”  It deserves a better name.  This is annual funding that pays for many of the investments most critical to expanding economic growth and opportunity, including education, research and development, and clean energy. 

    With his strong focus on cutting waste and unneeded spending, the President has already signed into law several rounds of cuts that will bring non-security spending to its lowest level as a share of the economy since Dwight Eisenhower was President. Put another way, we are cutting this category of spending as a share of economy by 50 percent from 2010 to 2022.

    But when it comes to annual, non-defense spending, the House Budget Resolution is not about cutting fat.  It is cutting deep into the muscle that America needs to compete and win in the 21st century. 

  • Smarter Regulation: Reducing Cumulative Burdens

    The Obama Administration has adopted a number of initiatives to promote smart, cost-justified regulation. On January 18, 2011, the President ordered an unprecedented government-review of existing rules. After a period of public comment, over two dozen agencies released ambitious reform plans, outlining hundreds of cost-saving reforms. A small fraction of those reforms, already finalized or formally proposed to the public, will save more than $10 billion over the next five years.

    As the plans are implemented, far higher savings are anticipated. Just today, the Federal Register has on display a final rule from the Department of Labor that will bring our warning labels for hazardous chemicals in line with those of other nations. This rule will save employers a lot of money on training and updating of materials; improve safety and health protections for American workers; and reduce trade barriers for chemical manufacturers that sell their products abroad.  The overall five-year savings will be in excess of $2.5 billion, most of it in the form of savings for employers. (Stay tuned; significant announcements from other agencies are expected in the near future.)

    Today, we are taking another major step toward improving our regulatory system and eliminating unjustified costs. In some cases, the addition of new rules and requirements has unfortunate cumulative effects. Taken in isolation, a new rule may seem perfectly sensible, but it may overlap with existing requirements. The sheer accumulation of regulations can cause real harm, especially for small businesses and startups. As the President said last January, agencies must take into account “the costs of cumulative regulations.”

  • CBO: The President’s Budget Will Bring Down the Deficit

    Today, the non-partisan, Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released its analysis of the President’s 2013 Budget, and it confirms that the President has a balanced plan to reduce our budget deficits and put the country on a fiscally sustainable path, which is critical to constructing an economy that is built to last.

    CBO found that by 2016 deficits as a share of the economy would be below 3 percent – a key milestone of fiscal sustainability. It found that after implementing the President’s Budget, debt held by the public will decrease and then stabilize as a share of the economy, also a key indicator of improving fiscal health. Finally, relative to CBO’s alternative fiscal scenario representing what happens if current policies are continued, the President’s Budget reduces the deficit by more than $4 trillion, according to CBO’s own estimates.

    What’s important here is not just where the Budget takes us, but how we get there. CBO shows that we can achieve this level of deficit reduction by pursuing a balanced plan that asks everyone to shoulder their fair share. For instance, in line with the bipartisan budget deal agreed to last August, the Budget brings discretionary spending to its lowest level on record, and to do that, includes scores of cuts, consolidations, and savings totaling more than $24 billion in 2013. The Budget details more than $360 billion in savings to Medicare, Medicaid, and other health programs that will make these programs more effective and move our health care system to one that rewards high-quality care without violating our obligation to seniors and people with disabilities. To that, the Budget also saves an additional $270 billion through other mandatory savings such as through changes in agriculture subsidies and direct payments and federal civilian worker retirement benefits.

    Recognizing that all Americans have a responsibility to do their part – especially those who have done so well these past several years – the Budget also calls for individual tax reform that: cuts the deficit by $1.5 trillion, including the expiration of the high-income 2001 and 2003 tax cuts; simplifies the tax code, lowers tax rates, and protects progressivity; eliminated inefficient and unfair tax breaks for millionaires while making all tax breaks at least as good for the middle class as for the wealthy; and observes the Buffett Rule that no household making more than $1 million a year pays less than 30 percent of their income in taxes. Moreover, the Budget does not raise taxes on the 98 percent of families that make less than $250,000 a year.

    As we make these cuts, we also need to recognize that to have an economy that is built to last, we must invest in those areas critical to long-term economic growth and job creation. That is why the Budget has more than $350 billion in short-term measures for job-growth, starting this year as well as critical investments in education and skills for American workers, increases in research and development, investments in advanced manufacturing and clean energy; and a bold plan – fully paid for – to create a 21st century transportation infrastructure that will create thousands of new jobs.

    This balanced approach is one that the American people support, and – as the CBO confirms – will reduce our deficits and put the country on a sustainable fiscal path. It’s now up to Congress to act on these policies, and lay the foundation for an economy built to last.

    Jeff Zients is Director of the Office of Management and Budget 

  • Spotlighting Open Government Progress During Sunshine Week

    As we mark “Sunshine Week,” we’re reminded that our democracy is stronger and healthier when government is open, transparent, and accountable to the American people.

    Too often over the years, the Federal government failed to meet that standard, operating in a closed-door culture of secrecy that left many Americans rightfully skeptical about the way important decisions were made and taxpayer dollars spent.

    From his first days in office, President Obama has taken unprecedented steps to begin changing that legacy by bringing greater transparency and openness to the business of government. And today, just three years later, we have a great deal to show for those efforts, particularly when it comes to transparency into government spending and other data. Key highlights to date include:

  • Let the Sunshine In

    This week is Sunshine Week, a joint project of the American Society of News Editors and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.  Held in mid-March, Sunshine Week is a national initiative to promote discussion about the importance of open government and freedom of information.

    The theme of this year’s Sunshine Week is “Put Sunshine in Your Government,” and so now is an appropriate time to reflect on the Obama Administration’s strong commitment to open government over the past three years, and more particularly to provide an update on implementation of the U.S. National Action Plan on Open Government

    President Obama unveiled the National Plan in September 2011, as part of the United States’ commitment as a founding member of the Open Government Partnership – a global effort to promote more transparent, effective, and accountable governance in countries around the world.  

  • Happy International Women’s Day!

    International Women’s Day is an opportunity to reflect on the significant gains made by women throughout our history, to recognize those who made those gains possible, and to reaffirm that their legacy is working to make a world that protects the rights, security, and dignity of women everywhere.

    From his first days in office, President Obama has made a steadfast commitment to honoring that legacy by ensuring women have access to the full range of opportunities and freedoms that all people in all places deserve. From establishing the White House Council on Women and Girls, to fighting pay discrimination through the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, expanding women’s access to health care, and combatting international human trafficking, the Administration has made great strides protecting the rights and ensuring the equality of women in the United States and around the world.

    Of course, much work remains. As President Obama has said, “we cannot rest until our mothers, sisters, and daughters assume their rightful place as full participants in a secure, prosperous, and just society.” That’s why in his FY 2013 Budget, the President put forward a series of proposals to protect and build on the progress we’ve already made when it comes to the advancement of women:

  • Now Live: The Updated IT Dashboard

    Earlier today, we updated the IT Dashboard, sharing publicly for the first time detailed IT investment information in support of the President’s FY 2013 Budget.

    The Administration first launched the IT Dashboard back in 2009 as part of our effort to create a more transparent and open government. By publicly posting data on more than 700 IT investments across the Federal government, we armed agencies with the tools needed to reduce duplication in IT spending, strengthen the accountability of agency CIOs, and provide more accurate and detailed information on projects and activities. We also gave Americans an unprecedented window into how their tax dollars were being spent.

    Today’s release builds on these efforts, bringing even greater transparency to IT investment performance and empowering CIOs to intervene in troubled projects sooner. Some improvements you can expect to see include:

  • Partnering to Reform Federal Grants

    This past weekend, President Obama met with governors from around the country to talk about ways the Federal Government and the States can work together toimprove outcomes for the American people while lowering costs for government at all levels. Over the past year, the Administration has engaged in a number of new, innovative partnerships on key programs that are leading to real benefits for state, local, and tribal governments, as well as the American people. For more information on these efforts, please see this report released by the White House this week. 

    As part of this effort, the Office of Management and Budget has been working to improve the accountability and performance of Federal grants, while at the same time reducing administrative burden for grant recipients. This effort got underway one year ago, when President Obama directed his Administration to work with Federal agencies and other stakeholders to strengthen accountability for taxpayer dollars and reduce unnecessary regulatory and administrative burdens, in order to focus resources and get more bang for our buck.  

  • Supporting U.S. Economic Growth through North American Regulatory Cooperation

    As part of the President’s ambitious regulatory reform initiative, the Administration is working to reduce unjustified regulatory barriers to exports and to strengthen international regulatory cooperation – a critical tool for promoting job creation and economic growth here at home. By collaborating with key trading partners to promote free and open trade and investment, we can further reduce unnecessary burdens on U.S. businesses, as a recent report from the President’s Jobs Council emphasizes. Regulatory cooperation is an important mechanism for reducing regulatory roadblocks to U.S. exports. To this end, we are pleased to announce the launch of the United States-Mexico High-Level Regulatory Cooperation Council (HLRCC) Work Plan.   

    Bilateral commerce between the United States and Mexico reaches more than $1 billion daily. This Work Plan identifies a number of areas of mutual interest – food, transportation, nanotechnology, e-health, oil and gas, and conformity assessment – and outlines activities to be carried out by the United States and Mexico over a period of two years. Among other things, the Work Plan will seek to:

    • Develop common approaches to food safety in ways that will benefit consumers and the food industry on both sides of the border;
    • Reduce burdens on U.S. and Mexican businesses, while maintaining the safety and reliability of products, by bringing the two countries together to develop compatible electronic certification programs for plants and plant products;
    • Improve the safety of our citizens by ensuring that all trucks in each country are inspected to a consistently high standard, regardless of the vehicle’s country of origin;
    • Foster innovation while reducing risks to environmental and human health by ensuring that the United States and Mexico share information about each nation’s respective regulatory approaches to nanomaterials at an early stage;
    • Decrease costs and reduce the time required to implement electronic health record systems in each country, by increasing cooperation and sharing best practices on Electronic Health Record certification; and 
    • Minimize risks in oil and gas exploration, production activities, and drilling, by developing a common approach to managing contingencies in the Gulf of Mexico that will ensure coordinated actions between the two countries.  

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

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

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

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

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

  • Contracting Smarter, Saving More

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

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

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

  • Announcing the Business App Challenge

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

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

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

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

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

    I’m looking forward to seeing your ideas soon.

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

  • Regulations.gov: Remaking Public Participation

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

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

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

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

  • Introducing BusinessUSA

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

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

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

  • Making It Easier to Do Business

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

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

  • Starting from the Right Place

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

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

    So, what is going on here?

  • Maximizing our Return on IT

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

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

  • The 2013 Budget

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

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

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

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