OMBlog

  • Tackling Waste in Contracting

    As part of the Administration’s Campaign to Cut Waste, OMB’s Office of Federal Procurement Policy (OFPP) released guidance today to reduce wasteful duplication in federal contracting.  Too often in the past, agency spending for many commonly-used items was fragmented across multiple departments, programs, and components, which means that agencies often spent time writing hundreds of separate contracts, with pricing that varies widely.  The result is a waste of limited staff time and energy, and prices that are not as good as they should be. At a Cabinet meeting earlier this month, Vice President Biden pointed out that by leveraging their purchasing power agencies can save taxpayer dollars. He directed each agency leader to conduct a waste and efficiency review, targeting unnecessary or inefficient spending in areas like contracting. 

    OFPP’s new guidance will aid agencies in eliminating waste and carrying out the reviews ordered by the Vice President by addressing concerns, raised by GAO and others, that agencies may be unnecessarily duplicating each other’s contracting efforts. This guidance requires agencies to prepare ”business cases” - analyses to ensure they aren’t duplicating an existing contract and that they are getting the best value  for taxpayers- before they establish or renew certain interagency and agency-specific contracts for commonly-used goods and services, such as office supplies and wireless services. Doing this kind of due diligence and comparison-shopping is something that many families across the country do, and it is especially important that the Federal government weigh all the options before entering into large contracts and agreements whose scope would overlap contracts that already exist.  In the business case, agencies are required to balance the value of creating a new contract against the benefit of using an existing one, and whether the expected return from investment in the proposed contract is worth the taxpayer resources. Insisting on that cost/benefit analysis in the business cases should go a long way to avoiding duplicative contracts.

  • Saving Taxpayer Dollars With Moneyball

    More for less. The movie Moneyball opened last weekend, telling the story of Oakland A’s General Manager Billy Beane.  Beane knew he could never match the payroll of the Yankees, so he turned to analytics to win more games and do more - much more - with less.

    There may never be a movie about the management of the federal government, but the Administration has been taking its own Moneyball approach to management, driving performance and, ultimately, saving money.

    Like Beane, who understood that his goal was to win games – not hit the most home runs, government agencies must learn to be clear about what they want to accomplish and not get stuck in the rut of doing what they have always done. That means setting real, achievable goals that align with agency mission, and sticking to them. For some agencies or programs, that means staying focused on preventing bad things, like accidents and pollution, from happening and reducing their costs when they do – rather than focusing on process goals like completing plan reviews. Processes can be important in achieving the goal, but we should never confuse them with the ultimate goal. To achieve more, government agencies need a clear understanding of the goals each wants to accomplish, focusing on the ultimate goals rather than intermediate process steps. That’s why the Administration has set high priority performance goals to focus our efforts in the near and medium term – and right now we are working on setting agency and cross-agency goals for 2012 and 2013, which will be incorporated in the President’s next budget proposal. This is why the Administration expects agency leaders to be clear about their priorities.

  • Investing in What Works: Voluntary Home Visiting Programs

    On Thursday, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced $224 million in grants to states to provide evidence-based, voluntary home visiting programs for some of our most vulnerable children and families.  For those who haven’t followed this important new initiative, which President Obama first proposed on the campaign trail, here’s a quick recap.

    Rigorous research has shown that high-quality home visiting programs – through which at-risk families can choose to receive home visits from trained professionals like nurses and social workers – can make a positive difference for children and families on a range of outcomes, including child health and development, school readiness, and parent employment, as well as helping to prevent child abuse and neglect.  In addition, independent non-partisan organizations estimate that every dollar spent on evidence-based home visitation yields significant savings to federal, state, and local governments.

    President Obama first promised a large-scale investment in home visiting during his 2008 presidential campaign.  In his first Budget in the spring of 2009, he proposed directing significant new resources to states to support evidence-based home visiting.  The Administration then collaborated with Congress on legislation creating the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program, which was enacted as part of the Affordable Care Act in 2010.  The new program will provide a total of $1.5 billion over five years for evidence-based home visiting.  It relies on a tiered evidence structure that focuses investments in programs that have been rigorously evaluated and shown to have positive impacts on children and families, while also supporting the development and evaluation of other promising approaches.

  • Moving Aggressively on Improper Payments

    Today, the Washington Post ran a story about an Inspector General report that showed that from 2006 to 2010, the Office of Personnel Management paid $601 million to retirees who are dead.

    Unfortunately, paying people the wrong amount or paying the wrong people – what we call “improper payments” – has been happening in the Federal government for far too long, and it is just plain wrong. It’s why, as faithful readers of OMBlog know, the Obama Administration has moved aggressively against improper payments and wasteful government spending since day one.

    President Obama set a goal of preventing $50 billion in improper payments and recapturing $2 billion in erroneous payments. The Administration has taken important steps towards achieving the President’s goals, which have yielded early results. 

  • The President’s Plan for Economic Growth and Deficit Reduction

    The health of our economy depends on what we do right now to create the conditions where businesses can hire and middle-class families can feel a basic measure of economic security. In the long run, our prosperity also depends on our ability to pay down the massive debt the federal government has accumulated over the past decade. Today, the President sent to the Joint Committee his plan to jumpstart economic growth and job creation now – and to lay the foundation for it to continue for years to come.

    The President’s Plan for Economic Growth and Deficit Reduction lives up to a simple idea: as a Nation, we can live within our means while still making the investments we need to prosper – from a jobs bill that is needed right now to long-term investments in education, innovation, and infrastructure. It follows a balanced approach: asking everyone to do their part, so no one has to bear all the burden.  And it says that everyone – including millionaires and billionaires – has to pay their fair share.

    Overall, it pays for the American Jobs Act and produces net savings of more than $3 trillion over the next decade, on top of the roughly $1 trillion in spending cuts that the President already signed into law in the Budget Control Act – for a total savings of more than $4 trillion over the next decade. This would bring the country to a place, by 2017, where current spending is no longer adding to our debt, debt is falling as a share of the economy, and deficits are at a sustainable level.

  • 20 Years of the CFO Act

    Continuously making strides and improvements in financial management, accountability, and transparency is key to the effective stewardship of taxpayer dollars ─ a charge this Administration is committed to carry out.  Last year marked a major milestone in this effort, with the 20th anniversary of the Chief Financial Officers Act of 1990 (CFO Act). The occasion of this anniversary is an opportune time to take a look back at what we have achieved and a look forward at how we can continue to make improvements in financial management.

    With this in mind, Congress directed the Chief Financial Officers Council (CFOC) and the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency (CIGIE) to evaluate the lessons learned over the last 20 years since the CFO Act went into effect. Drawing upon input and expertise from across the CFO and CIGIE communities, the Government Accountability Office (GAO), academia as well as private sector auditing and accounting groups, the Councils recently provided a report to Congress outlining the results of their review and recommendations for improvements in financial management.

    The report highlights several benefits of the CFO Act, including the increased transparency, greater accountability and significant improvements in financial management and internal controls achieved in recent years.  Last year, these strides contributed to 21 out of the 24 CFO Act agencies obtaining unqualified “Clean” opinions on their financial statement audits – only the second time in the last decade that the government reached that milestone.

  • Getting Money to Small Businesses Faster

    Today, the President announced a new policy that will accelerate payments to small business contractors so they can reinvest that money in the economy and drive job growth. 

    Small businesses are the primary engine of job creation and job growth across the country. However, in today’s economic climate many face tight budgets and limited resources. With these challenges in mind, last week in his address to Congress the President emphasized the need to take common sense steps to give small businesses the flexibility they need to invest and hire. And that is what we are doing today.

    The Federal Government pays small businesses nearly $100 billion each year for goods and services. By taking actions that will enable these payments to be made as promptly as possible, we will improve cash flow for small businesses and provide them with a more predictable stream of resources. 

  • Cabinet Accountability for Cutting Waste

    When he launched the Campaign to Cut Waste in June, President Obama asked the Vice President to take on a new role holding the Cabinet accountable for cutting waste in their agencies to help make government more efficient and responsive to the American people. As a part of that effort, the Vice President today convened the first Cabinet waste reduction meeting and announced over $2 billion in anti-waste measures.

    In these challenging budgetary times, ensuring that every agency is rooting out waste and saving taxpayer dollars is more important than ever. We have made great strides in the last two years – shrinking contract spending for the first time in 13 years, identifying $3 billion in cost reductions from IT projects across government, and getting rid of property we no longer need and working aggressively to realize the President’s goal of saving $3 billion in real estate costs by the year 2012 – but we must continue to be vigilant and innovative about driving efficiency. That’s why the President and Vice President have made the Campaign to Cut Waste an Administration-wide priority.

  • Reimagining IT Talent in the Federal Government

    I am pleased to announce that the Chief Information Officers Council has officially launched the Technology Fellows Program. This initiative follows through with another essential reform item from the 25 Point Plan to Reform Federal IT Management.

    IT has transformed how the private sector operates and has revolutionized the way in which it serves its customers.  But the Federal Government largely missed out on these transformations in the last decade, due in part to its poor management of large technology investments. Challenges with IT program management have long been pervasive across the Federal Government due to a general shortage of qualified personnel. The result was not only slower progress than the private sector but in some cases millions in taxpayer dollars wasted due to personnel lacking the expertise to manage and oversee such large projects.

    Through the Technology Fellows Program, we are building a more sustainable talent pool that will ensure effectively managed IT programs from beginning to end. Highly qualified IT professionals are of great demand in any sector of the economy but the extent to which the private sector is able to hire top performers affords private companies an advantage in attracting the best and brightest in IT.

  • Disaster Request Sent

    Today, the President transmitted an official budget request to cover disaster needs in FEMA’s Disaster Relief Fund through FY 2012.

    This follows up on a letter Jack Lew sent Tuesday to the leadership of the Appropriations and Budget Committees outlining our expected needs.

    Specifically, today we sent a budget amendment requesting an additional $4.6 billion for the Disaster Relief Fund for FY 2012. This amount would cover the cost of responding to Hurricane Irene as well as outstanding costs of previous disasters. We also sent a supplemental appropriations request for $500 million to cover anticipated needs for the remaining few weeks of FY 2011. As Jack wrote earlier this week, the Administration is committed to making funds available in the amount and time they are needed. We have worked closely with FEMA and DHS this week to monitor these needs, and have determined that the Disaster Relief Fund requires these supplemental funds to prudently get us through this period. We are also reviewing potential disaster needs in other agencies, and will submit an additional amendment if funding is warranted. 

    All of us are dedicated to taking care of our fellow Americans whose lives have been turned upside down by disasters. We look forward to working with Congress to help them recover and rebuild.

    Kenneth Baer is a Senior Advisor and the Associate Director for Communications and Strategic Planning.

  • Disaster Relief Update

    Yesterday, the President joined with local leaders in New Jersey to tour the devastation that Hurricane Irene visited on communities in that state. He delivered a message to those suffering in the Garden State, and those in cities and towns up and down the East Coast hurt by the storm: “The entire country is behind you, and we are going to make sure that we provide all the resources that are necessary in order to help these communities rebuild.”

    This commitment to our neighbors in a time of need is one that crosses all boundaries of geography and political persuasion. As I wrote about on Thursday, it’s precisely this bipartisan commitment to help our fellow Americans that has guided funding for disaster relief for decades. And it’s what guided the Congress who included a provision in the Budget Control Act signed into law four weeks ago that allowed for the discretionary spending cap to be adjusted to fund disaster relief without an offset.

    Last week, we told Congress that under this mechanism and as identified under existing law, there are approximately $5.2 billion in known disaster relief needs for fiscal year 2012 (covering enduring costs from previous disasters such as the tornadoes in Joplin, Missouri earlier this year), and that paying for Hurricane Irene will come on top of that. When I wrote that, we were still assessing what we would need for Irene.

  • BCA and Disaster Relief

    America has a long tradition of providing for our neighbors as they recover and rebuild in the wake of a major natural disaster. Many of us experienced Hurricane Irene, and all of us have seen the pictures of the devastation the ensuing flooding has brought communities in the Northeast. Disaster relief funding is being delivered in real time to meet pressing needs, and the Administration is committed to providing for communities impacted by this natural disaster.

    There is no way to predict in advance precisely what the cost of disaster relief will be in any given year. That is why in the bipartisan Budget Control Act (BCA) passed last month there was included a provision to account for disaster relief spending by allowing the cap in discretionary spending to be adjusted to accommodate disaster relief needs. For purposes of fiscal year 2012, Congress allowed for the discretionary cap total to be raised by no more than the average funding provided for disaster relief over the previous 10 years, excluding the highest and lowest years. 

    Today, OMB, consistent with the BCA’s requirements, sent to Congress a report that determines the ceiling for disaster relief spending next year and discusses the potential amount that will actually be needed.

  • Mid-Session Review 2012

    Today, OMB released the Mid-Session Review (MSR), which updates the Administration’s estimates for outlays, receipts, and the deficit in light of economic, legislative, and other developments since the President’s 2012 Budget was released in February. 

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

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

  • Progress on Wartime Contracting

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

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

  • Improving Performance and Making Government More Accountable

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

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

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

  • 2013 Budget Guidance

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

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

  • The Changing Role of Federal Chief Information Officers

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

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

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

  • Open Government and the National Plan

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

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

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

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

  • Security Spending in the Deficit Agreement

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

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

  • Transitions

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

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