OMBlog

  • “Lookback” Progress

    Ed Note: This post is updated with a correction on HUD borrower savings as those figures have not yet been finalized.

    President Obama is committed to a regulatory approach that protects public safety and welfare while also promoting economic growth and job creation. In January 2011, the President issued a historic Executive Order, setting forth new cost-saving, burden-reducing requirements for federal regulations, and requiring an ambitious government-wide “lookback” at existing regulations. In response to that requirement, over two dozen agencies identified more than 500 reforms. Agencies have already proposed or finalized more than 100 of them.

    On May 10, we announced a series of final rules that will save nearly $6 billion over the next five years. Other rules, now proposed or finalized, will produce billions of dollars in additional savings, producing total savings in excess of $10 billion from just a small fraction of the reform initiatives.

    Also on May10, the President institutionalized his regulatory lookback with an historic Executive Order requiring federal agencies to continue to scrutinize rules on the books to see if they really make sense. That Executive Order takes three new steps. To promote priority-setting, the Order requires agencies to identify reforms that will produce significant quantifiable savings, especially (but not only) for small business. To promote accountability, the Order requires agencies to report to the public regularly on their past efforts and their future plans -- with details and deadlines. To promote public participation, the Order directs agencies to obtain public comments to see which rules should be simplified, improved or repealed.

  • Working Together to Achieve More Mission for the Money

    “People who work together will win, whether it be against complex football defenses,
    or the problems of modern society.”

    -Vince Lombardi

    Today, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report on the Administration’s first-ever set of Cross Agency Priority (CAP) Goals. This study is the first of many GAO is conducting on the Administration’s implementation of the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA) Modernization Act of 2010 and we greatly appreciate GAO’s strong interest in this area, its recognition of our progress, and its recommendations. Cross Agency Priority Goals reflect the Administration’s commitment to reduce duplication, fragmentation, and waste across agencies. They also reflect the Administration’s decision to tap the power of goals, measurement, and frequent data-driven reviews as critical change-driving tools to deliver more value to the American people. These goals aim to tackle one of the most difficult challenges the Federal government faces: solving national problems for which multiple Federal departments and agencies share implementation responsibilities. 

    In some instances, reorganizing the structure of government offers the greatest promise for fixing duplication and fragmentation problems. That’s why on February 16, 2012, the President sent to Congress the Consolidating and Reforming Government Act of 2012 to allow the President to put forward for fast Congressional action proposals to consolidate government and eliminate wasteful duplication. In other instances, and until Congress acts on the Administration’s proposed legislation, smarter management approaches that bring together expertise, resources, and skills from across the Federal Government can advance opportunities and fix problems.

  • On the Right Real Estate Track

    In June 2010, President Obama set an ambitious goal for his Administration: to eliminate billions in real estate costs by consolidating or selling off excess Federal properties that are no longer needed. Today, OMB is proud to report that agencies have made significant strides toward meeting – and exceeding – the President’s goal.

    As of the end of the first quarter of FY 2012, agencies have already achieved over $5.6 billion in real estate savings and are on track to exceed the President’s directive to save $8 billion by the end of this year – historic progress that will reduce costs and thereby make government more efficient and effective. The President’s directive included two parts: $5 billion in savings through the Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC) process, as well as $3 billion in non-BRAC savings. We are currently on track to exceed both of these goals, having achieved $3.25 billion in BRAC savings and $2.4 billion in non-BRAC savings to date.

    The Federal Government is the largest property owner in the United States. But over time, agencies accumulated more properties than the Government needs to effectively meet its mission. That’s why from his first days in office, the President has made it a priority to eliminate wasteful spending on Federal real estate. At his direction, agencies have worked to reduce office space, encourage wider adoption of telework, provide alternate workspace configurations, reduce operating costs, and consolidate data centers. Through these efforts, agencies have generated millions of dollars in savings from selling or consolidating properties, on top of numerous examples of lease cancellations, improved space management, and reductions in operating costs that are driving greater returns for the taxpayer.

  • Roadmap for a Digital Government

    When the Internet revolution arrived in the 1990s, the U.S. Government embraced this new medium to interact with the American people.  Today, what started as basic information pages has evolved into sophisticated transactional systems that allow us to pay taxes online, download medical records, and so much more.

    Like the 1990s, we are now in the midst of another important shift in how people consume and deliver information and services. In 2011, global smartphone shipments exceeded personal computer shipments for the first time in history, and more Americans will soon access the Internet via mobile devices than desktop PCs. The rise of mobile further compounds the challenge of providing high-quality digital services in a cost-effective and efficient manner.

    That’s why President Obama issued a directive today to make important services accessible from your phone and charged me with developing a comprehensive strategy to build a 21st Century Digital Government that delivers better digital services to the American people.

    Today marks the launch of that Digital Government Strategy (PDF / HTML5).

    At its core, the strategy takes a coordinated, information- and customer-centric approach to changing how the government works and delivers services to the American people. Designing for openness from the start – making open data the default for government IT systems and embracing the use of web APIs – enables us to more easily deliver information and services through multiple channels, including mobile, and engage the public and America’s entrepreneurs as partners in building a better government.

  • Continuing to Crack Down on Government Waste

    One of the Federal government’s most fundamental responsibilities is to serve as a careful steward of taxpayer dollars – to make sure that every dollar is well-spent and directed toward areas of high return. That’s a responsibility this Administration takes seriously. From his first days in office, President Obama has led a concerted and aggressive effort to streamline government and cut wasteful and inefficient spending wherever it exists so that we can focus our resources on serving the American people. From slowing the uncontrolled growth of Federal contracting to getting rid of excess real estate held by agencies and reining in spending on Federal employee travel, this Administration has already cut billions in inefficient spending across the Federal government.

    Today, we’re taking another important step forward in that effort. This afternoon, the Office of Management and Budget is issuing guidance to Federal agencies to take additional actions to increase efficiency and strengthen accountability in the areas of travel, conferences, real estate, and fleet management.

  • Introducing the IT Shared Services Strategy

    From the outset of this Administration, President Obama has recognized the unique power of technology to streamline government services, cut waste and duplication, save taxpayer dollars, and drive efficiency across the Federal government. Through the Campaign to Cut Waste and other efforts, we’ve shed light on Federal spending both in IT and across the government; unlocked valuable government data for use by researchers, companies, and the public; and turned back the dial on overspending in Federal IT, saving billions through optimizing infrastructure and tackling poorly performing projects. Now, we are going to promote responsible and business driven sharing across Federal IT to reduce spending further so that we can invest in needed innovative mission systems.

    In support of these efforts, last October I launched the Shared-First initiative to root out waste and duplication across the Federal IT portfolio.  Today, we’re building on that important step by taking another.  Today, I am releasing the Federal IT Shared Services Strategy, which will arm agencies with new tools to eliminate waste and duplication and update their services for the 21st century. 

    The new strategy was first outlined in the December 2010 25-Point Implementation Plan to Reform Federal IT Management. It covers the entire spectrum of IT shared service opportunities throughout the Federal Government and promotes the use of existing and new strategic sourcing methods where agencies can combine their buying power for similar IT needs and get lower prices and improved service leverage in the process. 

  • Reducing Red Tape: Regulatory Reform Goes International

    Over the past year, the Federal Government has been working to implement President Obama’s directions for a 21st-century regulatory system, which he described in Executive Order 13563, “Improving Regulation and Regulatory Review.”  Executive Order 13563 requires U.S. regulators, to the extent permitted by law, to select approaches that maximize net benefits; choose the least burdensome alternative; increase public participation in the rulemaking process; design rules that are simpler and more flexible, and that provide freedom of choice; and base regulations on sound science. Executive Order 13563 also calls for an ambitious, government-wide “lookback” at existing rules, with the central goal of eliminating outdated requirements and unjustified costs.

    Today, President Obama has built on Executive Order 13563 by signing a historic Executive Order on Promoting International Regulatory Cooperation.  The new Executive Order will promote American exports, economic growth, and job creation by helping to eliminate unnecessary regulatory differences between the United States and other countries and by making sure that we do not create new ones.  

    As I discuss in an op-ed in today’s Wall Street Journal, the order makes clear that in eliminating such differences, we will respect domestic law and will not compromise U.S. priorities and prerogatives. Even while insisting on those priorities and prerogatives, we can eliminate pointless red tape. Today’s global economy relies on supply chains that cross national borders (sometimes more than once), and different regulatory requirements in different countries can significantly increase costs for companies doing business abroad. As the President’s Jobs Council recently noted, international regulatory cooperation canreduce these costs and help American businesses access foreign markets.  Such cooperation can also help U.S. regulators more effectively protect the environment and the health and safety of the American people. 

  • World Intellectual Property Day

    Today is World Intellectual Property Day. Around the world, people will be celebrating the benefits and contributions of intellectual property to our societies. Intellectual property gives us art and entertainment. It drives the Internet and enables stunning advances in the fight against genetic and infectious disease. It stimulates our economy and creates well-paying jobs. It facilitates social networks and feeds the world. 

    President Obama believes that the American people deserve a smart approach to regulation that enhances economic competitiveness and public health. He knows that protecting intellectual property is critical to the United States. Our companies and workers create some of the most innovative products on the world market. Unfortunately, our consumers are also confronted with a myriad of dangerous and illegal counterfeit goods.

    Our closest friends around the world share this belief in intellectual property protection, which is why I asked David Jacobson, the U.S. Ambassador to Canada, for the opportunity to reach out to the Canadian people on Embassy Ottawa’s blog this morning. That post can be found here.

    This World Intellectual Property Day, the American people and economy will enjoy the benefits of intellectual property across many industries and disciplines. These intellectual property-intensive industries and the innovators within them demand praise and deserve protection. By offering both, we can harness their economic clout and competitive advantages, validating President Obama’s message that “if the playing field is level, I promise you – America will always win.”

    I wish you a very happy World Intellectual Property Day.

    Victoria Espinel is the U.S. Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator

  • Job Training Cuts in the Republican Budget

    Earlier today, President Obama visited Lorain County Community College in Elyria, Ohio to highlight how federal job training funding is helping unemployed workers get the skills they need to compete for jobs in high-demand, high-growth industries.

    In communities like Elyria all across the country, federal job training programs are helping meet a critical need. As manufacturing jobs have shifted from assembly-line positions to advanced manufacturing, schools like Lorain County Community College have partnered with non-profits, business, and government to develop job training programs that help equip dislocated workers with skills that match employer needs. Many of these programs depend on federal funding through the Workforce Investment Act, which supports employment services and training programs that serve millions of workers across the country each year.

    And yet just a few weeks ago, House Republicans passed a budget resolution that would cut spending for these kinds of services by over 5 percent in 2013 and 19 percent in 2014 – all while showering families making more than $250,000 per year with over $1 trillion in tax cuts. It’s an approach that fails the basic test of balance, fairness, and shared responsibility, and it would be a devastating blow to struggling middle class families in communities like Elyria across the country. Check out this chart to see how your state would be affected by these cuts.

    Martha Coven is Associate Director for Education, Income Maintenance, and Labor 

  • Protecting the Top, Hurting the Hungry

    On Monday, Senate Republicans voted to block the Buffett Rule.  As the President said, “The Buffett Rule is common sense. At a time when we have significant deficits to close and serious investments to make to strengthen our economy, we simply cannot afford to keep spending money on tax cuts that the wealthiest Americans don’t need and didn’t ask for. But it’s also about basic fairness – it’s just plain wrong that millions of middle-class Americans pay a higher share of their income in taxes than some millionaires and billionaires.  America prospers when we’re all in it together and everyone has the opportunity to succeed.”

    Unfortunately, this week we’ll see a similar turn from common sense and fairness in another area: agriculture.

    The House Agriculture Committee is marking up its fast-track budget reconciliation proposal to achieve $33 billion in savings. 

    According to this story, the committee’s majority proposal will not reduce farm subsidies. While everybody recognizes the critical importance of a strong farm safety net, we can protect farmers while contributing to deficit reduction. That’s why folks on both sides of the aisle have proposed that we end taxpayer subsidies to individuals who don’t need them. The committee’s fast-track bill doesn’t touch these subsidies – even for individuals who make more than $1 million a year.

    Instead, the committee is looking to find more than $33 billion in cuts from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program—formerly known as Food Stamps—which provides support for millions of families struggling to get by. 

  • Do Not Pay Solution Open for Business

    As Americans across the country prepare to file their taxes, the Administration today is launching a tool to help guard against wasteful and improper payments that squander taxpayer dollars. The new Do Not Pay tool will help Federal agencies avoid the types of payment errors that have plagued government for too long – including pension payments to the deceased and payments to contractors who have attempted to defraud the government.

    Every year, the Federal government wastes tens of billions of dollars on payments to the wrong person, in the wrong amount, or for the wrong reason. When the President took office, the government-wide improper payment rate was on the rise, reaching an all-time high of nearly 5.5 percent in 2009. In response, he has taken swift and aggressive action to make improper payments a focus of the Administration’s Campaign to Cut Waste.

    As a direct result of these efforts, we have begun to see real results. Last year, we announced that the government-wide improper payment rate decreased to 4.7 percent, a sharp drop from the 2009 error rate of 5.4 percent that helped prevent $20 billion in improper payments in 2010 and 2011 combined. In addition, we are announcing today that we have already exceeded the goal the President set in 2010 to recapture $2 billion in overpayments to contractors by the end of this fiscal year. The Administration surpassed this goal nearly 6 months ahead of schedule, due in large part to hundreds of millions of dollars in recoveries from the Medicare Fee-for-Service Recovery Audit Contractor Program.

  • Intellectual Property and the U.S. Economy

    America has always been a nation of innovators. Throughout our history, we’ve produced countless groundbreaking innovations, from Henry Ford’s assembly line to Amazon.com’s internet sales model, from Edison’s light bulb to Bell Labs’ transistor, from General Electric’s jet engines to Google’s internet tools. And to create an economy that’s built to last, the President has made clear that we must continue to lead the world when it comes to innovation.

    The President has also said that protecting the intellectual property underpinning that innovation is an economic imperative that his Administration takes very seriously. As he made clear in his State of the Union Address, our workers are the most productive on Earth, and if the playing field is level, America will always win.

    We are a data-driven government and it’s important that we understand the impact that intellectual property has on our economy. Today, I am proud to report that the U.S. Department of Commerce, working with the President’s Council of Economic Advisors and the chief economists of the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, Department of Labor, and other Federal agencies, is releasing an economic report identifying the full range of sectors that generate intellectual property, as well as the jobs, exports, and wage premiums those sectors support. This study is the first of its kind.  Never before has the U.S. Government produced a report at this scale that details the nature and impact of intellectual property across the entire American economy. The report, Intellectual Property and the U.S. Economy: Industries in Focus, is available here.

  • The JOBS Act: Encouraging Startups, Supporting Small Businesses

    President Barack Obama signs the Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act

    President Barack Obama signs the Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act, which includes key initiatives the President proposed last fall to help small businesses and startups grow and create jobs, in the Rose Garden of the White House, April 5, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

    Earlier this week, I was back in my home state of Iowa talking with tech entrepreneurs about the Administration’s progress leveraging technology to innovate with less, improve transparency and efficiency, and better serve the American people. As fellow tech junkies, we spent plenty of time talking about Government’s role in open data, application programming interfaces to Federal systems and more. But we also had a chance to talk more broadly about the vital role start-ups and small businesses play in strengthening our economy, creating jobs, and nurturing innovation. 

    President Obama recognizes the critical role these types of high-growth startups and innovative entrepreneurs play in creating an economy that’s built to last. That’s why back in the fall – and again in his State of the Union Address – the President put forward a series of specific proposals to ease regulations that prevent aspiring entrepreneurs from accessing the capital they need to grow and create jobs. Today, the President put many of those proposals to work when he signed into law the Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act – a bipartisan bill that will help encourage startups and support our nation’s small businesses. 

    As the President said at today’s signing, “this bill is a potential gamechanger” for America’s entrepreneurs. For the first time, Americans will be able to go online and invest in small businesses and entrepreneurs. Not only will this help small businesses and high-growth enterprises raise capital more efficiently, but it will also allow small and young firms to expand and hire faster.  

  • Applying Private Sector Best Practices in Information Technology

    One year ago, a group of private sector leaders sat down with Administration and agency officials to offer to help the government adopt management best practices. The group, the President’s Management Advisory Board (PMAB), decided to spend the next year focusing on a variety of topics, including how the government buys information technology (IT).

    And the effort has paid off. Over the past three years, the Federal Government has done much in adopting private sector practices to triage broken IT investments, reduce the IT infrastructure footprint, and innovate with less. For example, at today’s PMAB meeting, the Department of the Interior showed that by modernizing IT infrastructure and aligning resources to improve customer service, they will realize $100 million in savings from 2016 to 2020, for a cumulative total of $500 million. To date, there have been $11 million in cost avoidance by updating the scope of projects and $2.2 million in redirection of funds due to IT Spending Reviews.

    These agency successes are a good start, but we need to do more. We still face an unacceptable amount of duplicative and low-value IT.  That is why Acting Director Jeff Zients today is signing a memorandum launching a new tool for agencies to use to assess the current maturity of their IT portfolio management process and make decisions on eliminating duplication across their organizations. This tool – which we’re calling “PortfolioStat” - gives agencies tools to look into the darkest corners of the organization to find wasteful and duplicative IT investments.

  • Safeguarding America’s Job Creating Innovations

    For an economy built to last, President Obama has said that we must innovate, educate and build on our competitive strengths as a nation.  Protecting innovation is fundamental to our country’s competitiveness in the global economy. This is especially true at a time when job creation is among our most urgent tasks.  We must stop intellectual property theft and piracy which harm our businesses and threaten American jobs.

    It’s been almost two years since the Administration issued the Joint Strategic Plan on Intellectual Property Enforcement which set out 33 specific actions that we committed to undertake to improve intellectual property enforcement. These important steps will help protect both U.S. rightholders and American jobs. 

    Today, I sent to Congress the second annual report outlining the significant progress we’ve made implementing the Strategy in 2011.  Some of the key highlights include:

  • Informing Consumers through Smart Disclosure

    Today, the White House and the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), with support from ideas42, will host a summit on Smart Disclosure – a new tool that helps provide consumers with greater access to the information they need to make informed choices.

    In many contexts, the Federal government uses disclosure as a way to ensure that consumers know what they are purchasing and are able to compare alternatives.  Consider nutrition facts labels, the newly designed automobile fuel economy labels, and choosemyplate.gov.  Modern technologies are giving rise to a series of new possibilities for promoting informed decisions.

    In September 2011, the Office of Management and Budget issued guidance to Federal agencies on Smart Disclosure.  Smart disclosure refers to the timely release of complex information and data in standardized, machine readable formats in ways that enable consumers to make informed decisions. 

  • Cuts that Gut: More Insight into the Ryan-Republican Budget

    Last week, I posted about the Ryan-Republican Budget resolution and the extraordinarily harsh cuts in education, research and development, and basic government services that it would require. 

    To recap, in2013, it would cut on its face annual non-defense funding by 5 percent.  Starting in 2014, the GOP resolution would cut this funding by 19 percent in nominal terms, and even more deeply when inflation is considered. Abandoning the bipartisan agreement signed by the President in August, it would cut more than $1 trillion in non-defense spending over the next decade on topof what was agreed to. These cuts are necessary since the GOP 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.

    As others have noted, these cuts would lead to unprecedented cuts in government services that would hurt the middle class and those trying to get there. Now, we’ve learned that these cuts in discretionary spending are even more extreme than we originally thought. 

  • 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.