OMBlog

  • Creating Opportunity for All in Rural Communities

    Rural America provides the vast majority of food and energy benefits for the rest of the country, is the source of nearly 90 percent of renewable water resources, and is home to important service sector and manufacturing hubs. Despite this critical role in our nation’s economy, too many Americans in rural areas are not sharing in our nation’s economic growth.

    In 2013, 6.2 million Americans in rural areas lived in poverty, including about 1.5 million children. Moreover, in far too many of these communities, high rates of poverty have persisted for generations: Over 300 rural counties have had poverty rates of over 20 percent in every Census since 1980.

    While the fight to eliminate poverty is far from over, today, as part of the White House Rural Council’s ongoing efforts to address rural child poverty, we released a report that finds that programs like refundable tax credits, Social Security, SNAP, and housing assistance lifted about 9.0 million rural people out of poverty in 2013, including about 1.6 million children.

  • Behind the Buy #3: A Simple and Intuitive Approach for IT Procurement

    Author’s Note: The "Behind the Buy" podcast features audio stories told by members of the Federal acquisition workforce who have successfully executed best practice IT contracting strategies from the TechFAR and Digital Services Playbook to help their agency meet its mission.

    In this third Behind the Buy podcast, OFPP Administrator Anne Rung interviews Traci Walker, a founding member of the U.S. Digital Service’s procurement team.  During the episode, Traci explains how to make IT procurement simple and intuitive by using the TechFAR and Digital Services Playbook to drive strategies and implementation approaches for customer agencies such as the Forest Service, Small Business Administration, and the Department of Veterans Affairs.

    Traci used Play #3’s simple and intuitive approach to enable tech companies to propose software support services to the Government on an incremental and iterative basis. This key play reduced administrative burden by reducing the Government’s commitment to contract solutions that fail performance standards. It also granted flexibility for contractors by enabling them to propose solutions that meet the Government’s objectives without having to incorporate predefined solutions. Traci worked with GSA to expand this approach across the Federal Government and satisfy agencies’ needs for agile IT services.

    Contracting officers must communicate with key stakeholders throughout a procurement, including contractors and agency program staff. As noted during the interview, this Playbook approach allows for tailored communication to key stakeholders. Contracting officers use Reverse Industry Day events to hear best practice ideas and new solutions from contractors. For internal stakeholders, contracting officers use acquisition strategy sessions to engage customer’s concerns and teach them how to write effective solicitations. Traci tells listeners how to build flexibility into the procurement process by briefing all key stakeholders early and often and adapting to unforeseen challenges. 

  • House Republicans Shortchange Funding for Transportation, Housing and Other Critical Domestic Priorities

    Today, House appropriators will consider the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill, one of the first to be considered under the Congressional Republican budget framework. With several appropriations bills, as well as funding allocations for the remaining bills, now available, it is becoming increasingly clear how House Republicans plan to budget at discretionary funding levels that are the lowest in a decade, adjusted for inflation. They would shortchange programs that support the middle class and weaken ladders of opportunity for those seeking to reach the middle class. While some Republicans have started talking the talk about issues like inequality and poverty, their budget shows they are not walking the walk.

    Overall, according to the subcommittee, the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill reduces funding by about $9.7 billion, or 15 percent, below the President's Budget, which both reverses sequestration and proposes a long-term, fully-paid for surface transportation reauthorization proposal. The bill would reduce access to affordable housing, set back efforts to end homelessness, and cut critical transportation programs. While House Republicans have not yet released most of their other appropriations bills, allocations they’ve released for subcommittee bills make clear that the only way their budget framework works is to also underfund education, training, research and development, and other investments that promote growth and opportunity.

    Click below to read more about how House Republicans’ short-sighted priorities will affect your State:

    Alabama

    Alaska

    Arizona

    Arkansas

    California

    Colorado

    Connecticut

    Delaware

    D.C.

    Florida

    Georgia

    Hawaii

    Idaho

    Illinois

    Indiana

    Iowa

    Kansas

    Kentucky

    Louisiana

    Maine

    Maryland

    Massachusetts

    Michigan

    Minnesota

    Mississippi

    Missouri

    Montana

    Nebraska

    Nevada

    New Hampshire

    New Jersey

    New Mexico

    New York

    North Carolina

    North Dakota

    Ohio

    Oklahoma

    Oregon

    Pennsylvania

    Rhode Island

    South Carolina

    South Dakota

    Tennessee

    Texas

    Utah

    Vermont

    Virginia

    Washington

    West Virginia

    Wisconsin

    Wyoming

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

  • Better data, Better decisions, Better government

    A year ago, Congress passed the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act of 2014, or the DATA Act. Since then, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the Department of the Treasury (Treasury) have engaged with the communities that create and use this data and taken important first steps towards creating a more data driven government, and making federal data more transparent and available to the American people. Today marks the beginning of the next phase of implementation of the DATA Act.

    Rolling Out Data Standards

    Currently, the Federal Government produces huge amounts of data about how it spends money, but in some cases the same words are used in different ways. These inconsistencies make it difficult to use this data in a comprehensive way. Over a two-year period, starting today, the DATA Act requires Federal agencies to streamline this fragmentation and report Federal funds, broken down into specific categories like how much funding an agency receives from Congress and how much they are spending on specific projects and awards. It also requires agencies to use common government-wide data standards when posting that information to USAspending.gov – standards that aren't currently applied across all agencies for all uses.

    Today we are beginning the rollout of 57 data standards. Some are final based on public input we have already received, and others will require additional input as we finalize them this summer. As a result of input from our partners in Congress, industry stakeholders, federal agencies, and taxpayers through feedback on our public GitHub collaboration space, 15 final data standards available today will be used by all agencies for all federal spending data posted on USAspending.gov, the Federal Government’s one-stop shop for spending data.  We are also releasing 12 additional proposed data standards and 30 existing data elements that we are in the process of standardizing across the government. Conversation and collaboration with the public has been key to our progress thus far and we encourage you to visit our online collaboration space on GitHub for more information on these proposed standards.

    In addition to data standards, we have been testing new formats for exchanging data across the Federal Government. In particular, Treasury’s pilots have demonstrated how we can digitally tag award data through the eXtensible Business Reporting Language (XBRL) format. This process is called the DATA Act Schema and it has been released online and will continue to be refined with public input.

    Helping Agencies & the DATA Act Playbook

    To ensure the government has the necessary tools to adopt these standards within the two-year timeline, OMB also issued guidance to agencies on Increasing Transparency of Federal Spending by Making Federal Spending Data Accessible, Searchable, and Reliable. And to assist agencies with implementation, Treasury created a DATA Act Playbook with eight key steps that, if followed together, will help agencies leverage existing capabilities to drive implementation of the DATA Act. Treasury will continue to refine the Playbook and will hold meetings and workshops with agencies to provide updates on DATA Act activities, encourage agency collaboration, and share important insights and information.

    Finally, leveraging the leadership of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), we have begun a pilot program to test and explore ways to simplify the reporting process for recipients of federal grants. We are approaching this pilot in a non-traditional way, with the goal of using the next two years to identify and test multiple ways to improve.  To start, today, we have launched a repository for common data elements and a new section of Grants.gov  with information about the grants lifecycle, which will test how data standards can translate to actual time saved in reporting and how to put all information about Federal grants in one place.

    While we are pleased with the progress that has been made so far on the DATA Act implementation within existing budgetary resources, this is a complex project with challenges ahead. The FY 2016 Budget proposes $84 million to allow agencies to make progress in implementing the DATA Act and increase Federal spending transparency. With better data, we will make better decisions and ensure that every dollar is well spent.

    For more information about our efforts under the DATA Act and how the public can participate, please visit USAspending HERE.

    David Mader is the Controller of the Office of Federal Financial Management at the White House Office of Management and Budget.

    David Lebryk is the Fiscal Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Treasury.

  • How the Federal Government is Modernizing the Immigration System

    In the fall of 1962, my grandparents, who were living in Cuba, made a decision that would forever change the course of my family’s history. My grandmother packed her bags, boarded a plane for Miami, Florida, and landed in the United States of America on October 9, 1962 – the day before her 34th birthday. All she knew was that she would start a new life with two small children, in a country that she would grow to lovingly refer to her as her home.

    Fate is a tricky creature; a few days later, the airports in Cuba were closed for commercial travel, making it nearly impossible to travel in and out of the country. Twenty years later, my father’s parents made a similar choice to leave Colombia at the height of political crisis, and also found their new home in Miami.

    My parents met there, and the rest of my life as I know it has been shaped by these events. It’s why I strongly believe in a modern and inclusive immigration system that allows for immigrants to pursue the American dream, harness their potential, and find opportunities to fully integrate into the fabric of our society.

    My name is Vivian Graubard, and I’m a proud member of the U.S. Digital Service working on modernizing our country’s immigration service.

    Every year, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) processes millions of immigration requests. This system is mostly paper-based, and consists of multiple forms and a long wait period.

    An immigration application can cost over $400 and take six months to process. When someone mails in their forms, they end up in a USCIS facility called a service center. There, a series of contractors cross-reference the application with other systems by opening command line apps connected to mainframes, typing in information, printing out the results, and then stapling it in to the paper applications. The application folders grow and grow, and eventually land on the desk of a federal employee, called an adjudicator, who reviews the entire file and physically stamps their decision.

    This poses an interesting service design question: how do we modernize a service that millions of people interact with, and make long-term, high-impact change at scale?

    USCIS identified the challenge of this outdated system and began a five-year engagement with a technology vendor to tackle this issue. However, the project ran into the kinds of problems that IT projects in government too often face.  The scope of the project was too large and the timelines too long.  It used a traditional waterfall methodology, which meant that the first product releases happened years after the project began; and the agency was heavily reliant on specific vendors. Years into the process, when the project was finally due to deliver results, it fell short of expectations. 

    We believe that pairing a better technical base with user-centered design can play a big role in modernizing the immigration process.

    So last July, U.S. Digital Service engineers, designers, and product managers joined the USCIS team as they worked to make this process better for users. USCIS had already changed course and made great progress; they were using an agile development approach, had a generally sound technical base including many open source components, and split development up among several small contractors instead of one massive one. Together, we:

    1) Helped USCIS transition to the public cloud -- which reduces infrastructure costs and increases reliability and uptime.

    2) Implemented application monitoring, including alerting to immediately respond to issues and better visibility into key metrics. Before, executives would get emailed occasional reports with key stats on the system. Now they all have this dashboard loaded on their computers that updates in real-time.

    3) Helped the teams hit deadlines and establish a regular release process. In November 2014, USCIS tested a digital I-90 Form for three days—the application to renew or replace your green card—and received close to 2,000 applications. The team collected customer feedback and data about the process, and in March 2015, USCIS hard launched the I-90, allowing for full electronic filing. So far, it's seen over 40,000 applications. They’re now releasing improvements to the software every week, and hopefully even more frequently in the future.

    4) Did extensive user research. We traveled to USCIS operations centers in Kansas City, Missouri and Lincoln, Nebraska to learn how adjudicators work, how they make decisions, and how they talk about what they do. We saw the tools they made for themselves and the workarounds they’d created for their own internal processes that were making it harder to make decisions on requests. These observations gave us enough data to create a concept for a design that we took back into the field and got feedback on. From this, we started a program of regular intervals of usability testing.

    5) Reimagined the immigrant experience, end-to-end. With the help of teams at 18F—part of the General Services Administration (GSA)—they launched myUSCIS, a platform that allows users to easily access information about the immigration process and find immigration options for which they may qualify. Co-created and co-designed with USCIS’ customers, myUSCIS is a major paradigm shift in how the government designs and builds digital services for its customers. Ultimately, it will become the primary tool for USCIS’ customers to manage the majority of their online experience with USCIS.

    USCIS changed the way they did business – and in the process, put their users at the center of their work.

    Join us

    I think often about the choices my family made, and how grateful I am for my grandparents’ bravery and determination. But I know that modernizing the immigration system is more than fixing technology; it’s mending a bridge that makes our collective dreams a reality.

    I believe that America deserves an immigration system that’s worthy of the people who come to our shores, seeking a better life for their families, contributing to our economy and our society.  By keeping users at the heart of our work, fixing inefficient technology processes, and engaging in iterative and rapid design work, we can create change at the scale we want to see.

    But we can’t do this alone. We need people who want to share their stories, use their skills to untangle these systems, and help make this country what I know it can be. If that sounds like you, join us: https://www.whitehouse.gov/digital/united-states-digital-service/apply.

    We can’t wait to meet you.

    Vivian Graubard is a founding member at United States Digital Service.

  • Celebrating America's Workforce

    Federal service is public service. That’s easy to forget sometimes because so much of what Federal employees do goes on behind the scenes. But America’s workforce affects every American every day.

    Each day, all across this country, many Americans are fortunate to wake up in a society where they have clean water to drink, safe food to eat, beautiful parks, affordable and quality health care, and a growing economy.

    Providing these and countless other services to the American people requires a Federal workforce that is talented, well-trained, and engaged in the workplace, is led by executives who inspire and motivate, and draws from the rich diversity of the people it serves.

    The President is committed to supporting the model Federal workforce. In his proclamation on Public Service Recognition Week, the President said:

    “In the face of difficult challenges, public servants give new life to the values that bind our Nation together. Civil servants are scientists and teachers, social workers and first responders -- they are the leaders of today's progress and the innovators of tomorrow's breakthroughs. With determination and resolve, they defend our country overseas and work to widen the circle of opportunity and prosperity here at home. And despite tough circumstances -- including pay freezes, budget cuts, sequestration, and a political climate that too often does not sufficiently value their work -- these exceptional leaders continue to make real the fundamental truth that people who love their country can change it.

    With more than 2 million civilian workers and more than 1 million active duty service members, our Federal workforce represents extraordinary possibility. Our Government can and must be a force for good, and together, we can make sure our democracy works for all Americans. We know there are some things we do better when we join in common purpose, and with hard work and a commitment worthy of our Nation's potential, we can keep our country safe, guarantee basic security, and ensure everyone has a shot at success.“

    We could not agree more. Federal service attracts people who are passionate about what they do. The mission of their agencies and their commitment to serving the American people are what drives them. And they come from – and work in – every corner of the country, reflecting the rich diversity and talent of this great country.

    From the recent college graduate to the mid-career professional to the soon-to-be retiree, our employees are here to make a difference and to serve their country.

    As we kick off Public Service Recognition Week, we hope you’ll take a moment to reflect on how America’s Federal workforce makes your life better each and every day.  And we hope you’ll join the President in recognizing the hard work and dedication of our nation’s public servants. They deserve our gratitude and appreciation.

    Katherine Archuleta is the Director of the Office of Personnel Management.

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

  • Congressional Republican Budget Conference Agreement Cuts Programs that Support the Middle Class, Working Families, and National Security

    The Republican budget resolution conference agreement announced yesterday serves as a reminder of what Republicans in the House and Senate can agree on: underfunding investments that benefit middle-class families and contribute to economic growth; stripping away health insurance coverage from millions; making it harder for students to afford college; and funding national defense through a cynical, temporary budget gimmick – while shortchanging it altogether in later years.

    Just as the President’s Budget reflects his priorities – making the investments needed to bring middle class economics into the 21st Century and to strengthen our national security—yesterday’s conference agreement reflects Congressional Republican priorities: keeping taxes low for the highest-income Americans at the expense of middle-class families and those struggling to reach the middle class.  The Republican budget resolution conference agreement would:

    • Cut investments in the middle class and our future economic growth by maintaining sequestration funding levels in 2016. Under the Republican budget, both non-defense and base defense discretionary funding in 2016 would be at the lowest levels in a decade, adjusted for inflation.  With votes on the first two spending bills in the House expected this week and the release of the House funding allocations for the remaining bills, we are starting to see how Republicans plan to budget at these levels. For example, the first two House appropriations bills would underfund veterans’ medical care by over half a billion dollars relative to the President’s Budget and would make deep cuts to clean energy research.  Based on House Republicans’ allocations for future appropriations bills, we can expect that their budget will result in a number of damaging cuts compared to the President’s Budget, including 46,000 fewer children in Head Start, 2.4 million fewer Americans receiving job training and employment services, and 1,400 fewer NIH grants. 

    The Republican proposal cuts middle class investments even more deeply starting after 2016, doubling the size of the cuts relative to the President’s Budget.  It also eliminates roughly $90 billion in mandatory funding for the Pell Grant program. That would either require significant cuts in other domestic priorities to make up for lost funding or result in deep cuts to the Pell program, leading to cuts in scholarships for 8 million students, cuts to number of students receiving Pell Grants, or both.

    • Damage national security by funding national defense with gimmicks in the near term, short-changing it altogether in the long term, and singling out key non-defense national security programs for deep cuts relative to the President’s budget.

    o   For 2016, the Republican agreement tries to have it both ways on defense funding: maintaining sequestration and then using overseas contingency operations (OCO) funds intended for wars and not subject to budget caps to fund the day-to-day operations of the Pentagon. As the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs have explained, this is both bad budgeting and harmful to military planning. Former House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan referred to it as treating overseas contingency funding as a “slush fund,” while Senators Mike Crapo and Jeff Flake, among others, have called it a “gimmick.”  According to news accounts, House debates over the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations bill continue to highlight ongoing, bipartisan concern over the inappropriate use of OCO.

    o   The shortcomings of the Republican approach become even more obvious starting in 2017, when the Republican budget conference agreement would continue to lock in sequestration levels for defense.  Sequestration levels will damage our ability to restore readiness, advance badly-needed technological modernization, and keep faith with our troops and their families.  As Defense Secretary Carter has testified, the long-term consequences of sequestration would “almost certainly mean a smaller, less capable and less ready military” that “could translate into future conflicts that last longer, and are more costly in both lives and dollars.”

    o   Meanwhile, the House Republican appropriations allocations single out key national security programs for especially deep cuts. Compared to the President’s Budget, the Republican budget allocations would impose double-digit percentage cuts to funding for U.S. diplomacy and a broad range of programs critical to the President’s National Security Strategy, at a cost to American global leadership. Other important national security activities are also funded on the non-defense side of the budget and would also be at risk of significant cuts.

    • Take away health insurance from more than 16 million people who have gained coverage after five years of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The Affordable Care Act is working. Thanks to its coverage provisions, the nation’s uninsured rate now stands at its lowest level ever – and these provisions are costing almost one third less than the Congressional Budget Office initially projected. Rolling back the ACA coverage provisions would:

    o   Take away Marketplace coverage from more than 11 million Americans who have newly signed up or been re-enrolled in coverage for 2015. Some of these individuals would become uninsured, while others would end up with worse or less affordable coverage.

    o   Deprive up to 130 million Americans with pre-existing conditions of the security of knowing they will still be able to buy affordable health coverage if they lose their jobs or otherwise lose their health insurance.

    o   Deny millions of young adults of the option to stay on their parents’ plans if they re-enroll in school or get a job without health coverage.

    o   Increase prescription drug costs for more than 5 million seniors and people with disabilities.

    The Republican budget conference agreement would cut resources for Medicaid and other health programs by hundreds of billions of dollars and appears to block grant Medicaid, on top of the impact of repealing the ACA Medicaid provisions.  Medicaid currently insures almost 70 million Americans in a typical month, including millions of children, seniors, and people with disabilities. Even just repealing the ACA’s coverage provisions would nearly double the number of uninsured Americans, and these Medicaid cuts would jeopardize coverage for many millions more.

    • Makes massive, mostly unspecified cuts to programs that provide critical assistance to low-income Americans, increasing poverty and hardship.  The conference agreement proposes to cut roughly $600 billion from the portion of the budget that funds “income security” programs, including nutrition assistance, Supplemental Security Income for low-income seniors and people with disabilities, and refundable tax credits for low-income working families with children. While the conference agreement is silent about where these cuts would come from, the House Republican budget proposed to obtain about $125 billion of savings from block granting the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). That would jeopardize help for the roughly 46 million Americans who depend on SNAP, the majority of them children, older Americans, or people with disabilities. 

     

    • Meanwhile, while claiming to prioritize fiscal responsibility, the Republican budget would not ask the wealthy to contribute a single dollar to deficit reduction.  The conference agreement even dropped language endorsed by a bipartisan majority of Senators that recommended reversing sequestration through a combination of targeted spending cuts and tax expenditure reforms. 

    Meanwhile, millions of working families and students would actually pay higher taxes under the Republican Budget, since it does nothing to prevent the expiration of Earned Income Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit, and education tax credit improvements that together benefit 25 million families. In the past, Congressional Republicans have made clear they would let this tax increase happen, raising taxes on those 25 million families by an average of $1,000 apiece.

    While Republicans have shown what they can agree on, at great peril to our national security, middle class investments, and the safety net, the President’s Budget demonstrates a different set of priorities.  It builds on the economic progress we’ve made and makes the critical investments needed for our defense and to accelerate and sustain economic growth in the long run.

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

  • House Republicans Show Their Hand: Committee Spending Levels Shortchange Key Priorities

    Today, House Republicans marked-up their first two funding bills for fiscal year (FY) 2016 in full committee. They also released planned funding levels, known as 302(b) allocations, for the 10 remaining appropriations bills that fund the rest of the government.  In doing so, House Republicans have started to show how they plan to budget at discretionary funding levels that are the lowest in a decade, adjusted for inflation. The bills released so far, along with the targets for the remaining bills, show that the Republican budget funding levels will force cuts compared to the President’s Budget in areas important to the economy and the middle-class, ranging from research to education to environmental protection, as well as in national security priorities, ranging from peacekeeping and foreign assistance to the base defense budget.

    These funding levels are the result of Congressional Republicans’ decision to lock in the funding cuts imposed by sequestration. Sequestration was never intended to take effect: rather, it was supposed to threaten such drastic cuts to both defense and non-defense funding that policymakers would be motivated to come to the table and reduce the deficit through smart, balanced reforms. The President's Budget would reverse these cuts going forward, replacing the savings with commonsense spending and tax reforms in order to make investments important to families, the economy, and our national security. Unfortunately, the bills and appropriations targets released today double down on a very different approach.

    Table 1. Proposed Republican Budget Cuts Relative to the President’s 2016 Budget Request*

    Appropriations Bill

    Percentage Cut

    Dollar Cut (billions)

    Examples of What the

    Bill Funds

    Financial Services and General Government

    -16.4%

    -$4.0

    Taxpayer services and tax enforcement; small business assistance; Federal courts

    State and Foreign Operations

    -13.6%

    -$6.4

    Peace-keeping; foreign assistance; counter-terrorism

    Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education

    -8.7%

    -$14.6

    PreK-12 education; job training; medical research; public health

    Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development

    -7.2%

    -$4.3

    Transportation infrastructure; housing assistance

    Defense

    -7.0%

    -$36.7

    Military personnel, operations, and equipment

    Interior and Environment

    -6.3%

    -$2.0

    National parks; Forest Service; clean air enforcement

    Agriculture

    -5.2%

    -$1.1

    Infant nutrition; rural housing assistance; food safety

    Homeland Security

    -5.0%

    -$2.1

    Border protection; emergency response; the Coast Guard

    Legislative Branch

    -5.0%

    -$0.2

    Congress; the Capitol Police; government auditing

    Military Construction and Veterans Affairs

    -3.5%

    -$2.7

    Veterans’ medical care; military infrastructure

    Energy and Water Development

    -1.8%

    -$0.6

    Clean energy research; water infrastructure

    Commerce, Justice, and Science

    -1.3%

    -$0.7

    Scientific research; criminal investigations; manufacturing

    *Based on a comparison of the House 302(b) allocations to CBO’s re-estimate of the President’s 2016 Request for base discretionary spending.
     

    The two bills that House Republicans are considering in the Appropriations Committee today are among the smallest in terms of their cuts relative to the President’s Budget.  Even so, the bills make harmful cuts to key priorities.  

    o   Underfunds the President's request for veterans’ medical care by more than half a billion dollars, equivalent to the cost of providing care for tens of thousands of veterans. If enacted, the bill would negatively impact medical care services for veterans, including by reducing the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) ability to activate new and replacement facilities and to adequately maintain existing facility infrastructure;

    o   Underfunds major construction for the VA, preventing building upgrades and renovations that would improve service to our veterans and provide opportunities for long-term savings; 

    o   Underfunds military construction, delaying or deferring projects that will serve critical needs for members of our Armed Forces and their families; and

    o   Inappropriately provides a portion of military construction funding through overseas contingency operations (OCO) funding intended for wars – a gimmick that is bad budget policy and bad defense policy, since it undermines long-term planning.

    • Energy and Water Development [Letter to Chairman Rogers]: And on Earth day, the House Republicans are considering a bill that slashes support for U.S. innovators – scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs pioneering clean energy technologies – including by:

    o   Cutting investment in the Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy by over $1 billion, or 40 percent, compared with the President’s Budget, including reductions of 55 percent to solar energy investments and 49 percent to manufacturing, which will slash the number of research, development, and demonstration projects supported in cooperation with industry, universities, and national labs.

    o   Cutting grid modernization and other investments in the resilience of our electricity and energy system by $111 million, or 41 percent, compared with the President’s Budget.

    o   Failing to adequately fund the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), providing $45 million, or 14 percent, less than the President’s Budget for a research agency focused on game-changing technological breakthroughs.

    The Energy and Water Development bill also includes a range of highly problematic ideological riders, including provisions that threaten to undermine our ability to protect a resource that is essential America’s health: clean water.

    The subcommittee allocations released today show how the comparatively shallow cuts in the first two bills will force deeper cuts to other investments, with the steepest cuts targeted on the appropriations bills that fund early education and medical research, Wall Street reform and taxpayer services and enforcement, transportation infrastructure and housing and homelessness programs, and national security programs, including both national defense and peacekeeping and foreign assistance. 

    Assuming that the cuts are distributed equally within bills, below are some examples of how programs would fare compared to the President’s Budget. Actual cuts relative to the President’s Budget could be larger or smaller depending on how the appropriations subcommittees distribute their funding allocations, but smaller cuts to some programs would require larger cuts to others.

    Education and Training (Labor-Health and Human Services-Education)

    • Head Start.  The President’s Budget provides a $1.5 billion increase for Head Start, both to ensure that all programs can provide a full school-day and school-year and to ensure that the number of children served can return to 2014 levels. Not only would the House Republican budget fail to provide the resources needed to support a more robust school day and school year, which research has shown are key elements to improving school readiness, but it would also result in more than 46,000 fewer vulnerable children having access to Head Start.

    • Title I.  The House Republican budget would result in $1.3 billion less in funding for Title I, equivalent to funding for nearly 5,000 schools, 18,500 teachers and aides, and 2.1 million students.
    • IDEA.  The House Republican budget would result in over $450 million less in funding for students with disabilities, an amount equivalent to what is necessary to support nearly 7,800 special education teachers, paraprofessionals and other related staff. 
    • Job training.  The House Republican budget would serve 2.4 million fewer people with job training and employment services, including help finding jobs and skills training.

    Research and Development

    • National Institutes of Health (NIH) (Labor-Health and Human Services-Education).  The House Republican budget would lead to more than $1.7 billion less in funding for NIH, translating into 1,400 fewer new grants and adversely impacting research across all disease areas. The House Republican budget also risks squeezing out new initiatives proposed in the President’s Budget, such as a major investment in Precision Medicine, an innovative approach to disease prevention which takes into account individual differences in people’s genes, environments, and lifestyles to give clinicians the tools to better understand the complex mechanisms underlying a patient’s condition and the ability to better predict which treatments will be effective. 
    • National Science Foundation (NSF) (Commerce-Justice-Science). The House Republican budget would lead to about 350 fewer research grants at the National Science Foundation (NSF), affecting about 4,900 researchers, technicians, and students. This reduction would slow the pace of discovery across fields of science and engineering – including areas like advanced manufacturing, clean energy, cybersecurity, and neuroscience – inhibiting research essential to U.S. innovation and economic competitiveness.
    • Clean energy investments (Energy and Water Development). Most clean energy research and development (R&D) is funded in the Energy and Water Development Appropriations Bill, one of the two bills House Republicans have already marked up in committee. As described above, the bill cuts key R&D and other clean energy investments by 40 percent or more relative to the President’s budget, including reductions of 55 percent to solar energy investments and 49 percent to manufacturing, sharply reducing the number of innovative projects the Federal government will support.

    Housing Assistance, Homelessness, and Supportive Services

    • Permanent supportive housing (Transportation-Housing and Urban Development).   The House Republican budget would support at least 15,000 fewer families with rapid rehousing, at least 23,000 fewer units of permanent supportive housing targeted to the chronically homeless, and 60,000 fewer special-purpose vouchers, which would provide needed housing assistance to families, veterans, and tribal families experiencing homelessness, victims of domestic or dating violence, youth aging out of foster care, and families with children in the foster care system for whom assistance could facilitate reunification.
    • Housing choice vouchers (Transportation-Housing and Urban Development). The House Republican budget would provide housing assistance to about 34,000 fewer very low-income families because Public Housing Authorities would not be able to reissue vouchers or would have to terminate assistance.
    • Rural housing (Agriculture).  The House Republican budget would provide affordable rental housing for 19,000 fewer rural families and households headed by older Americans or individuals with disabilities that depend on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Housing Service Rental Assistance program to be able to remain in their homes.
    • Home and community-based supportive services (Labor-Health and Human Services-Education). The House Republican budget would underfund programs that provide services to older Americans and individuals with disabilities potentially resulting in more than 500,000 fewer rides to doctors and grocery stores, 200,000 fewer hours of assistance to seniors unable to perform activities of daily living, and 100,000 fewer hours of care for dependent adults in supervised, protective group settings.

    Public Health, Safety, and Other Core Functions of Government

    • Tax enforcement and taxpayer services (Financial Services and General Government).  The House Republican allocations target their deepest cuts on the bill that funds Wall Street Reform and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The IRS budget has already been cut by roughly 17 percent, adjusted for inflation, since 2010. If the Financial Services and General Government cuts are distributed across the board, IRS funding would be cut by roughly 23 percent, adjusted for inflation, since 2010. Funding cuts made to date have already had severe consequences; the additional cuts are so extreme that the IRS would likely have to take even more drastic measures to absorb them.

    o   IRS customer service levels have dropped to unacceptable levels with taxpayers lining up outside Taxpayer Assistance Centers for hours to get service and more than 8 million taxpayer calls being disconnected due to overloaded IRS phone systems.  With the additional cuts that would result from the Republican budget, assistance to taxpayers would continue to deteriorate and critical information technology investments to improve customer service and efficiency would not be made, introducing a risk of major system failures.

    o   The IRS has lost 5,000 key enforcement personnel since 2010, hamstringing its enforcement capacity. As a result of these reductions to enforcement personnel, the Federal government loses billions of dollars of tax revenue each year from corporations and individuals who get away with not paying the taxes they owe.  Additional cuts would exacerbate reductions to tax enforcement activities, further increasing the deficit by approximately $2 billion.

    • Law enforcement agents (Commerce-Justice-Science).  The House Republican budget would result in 300 fewer Federal agents to combat violent crime, pursue financial crimes, and ensure national security; nearly 70 fewer Assistant U.S. Attorneys; and 250 fewer prison guards to maintain the safe and secure confinement of inmates in federal prisons.
    • Ryan White HIV/AIDs program (Labor-Health and Human Services-Education).  The House Republican budget would lead to 5,000 fewer patients receiving critical antiretroviral treatments through the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program, and 125,000 fewer medical visits at Ryan White clinics.
    • Indian Health Service (IHS) (Interior and Environment). The House Republican budget would require IHS to reduce health services purchased for emergency care, specialty care, and capacity to address primary care shortages for a population that suffers disproportionately from acute and chronic health issues, resulting in approximately 3,300 fewer inpatient and 95,000 fewer outpatient visits, despite the fact that the need for these services only continues to grow.
    • Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) (Interior and Environment).  The House Republican budget would reduce the number of inspections the EPA would be able to conduct for non-compliance with environmental laws to protect the water we drink and the air we breathe, delay criminal enforcement actions for polluters, postpone efforts to save taxpayer dollars by consolidating EPA facilities, and decrease support for state and tribal partners in their implementation of the Nation's environmental laws to protect the public’s health.

    Infrastructure

    • National Parks (Interior and Environment).  The House Republican budget would delay roughly three-quarters of the 35 major construction projects and close to half of the 464 rehabilitation projects planned for 2016 at our national parks.
    • Weatherization Assistance Program (Energy and Water Development). The Republican Budget would reduce funding for Weatherization Assistance Program grants by nearly 10 percent from the President’s Budget level, which would result in about 3,000 fewer low-income households receiving residential energy retrofits that would lower their bills and make their homes more energy efficient.

    National Security

    • Peacekeeping (State and Foreign Operations)The House Republican budget would severely reduce international assistance compared to the President’s Budget. That would translate into nearly 4,700 fewer peacekeepers in some of the most vulnerable parts of the world if the cut were applied directly to ongoing UN missions, reducing the number of personnel available to protect civilians, maintain peace and security, assist in disarmament, demobilize and reintegrate former combatants, support the organization of elections, protect and promote human rights, and assist in restoring rule of law.
    • Other foreign assistance (State and Foreign Operations). Compared to the President’s Budget, the Republican Budget would impose double-digit percentage cuts to funding for U.S. diplomacy and a broad range of programs critical to the President’s National Security Strategy, at a cost to American global leadership.  The lower funding levels would hamper our efforts to promote economic and security engagement in Central America and help stem illegal immigration, scale back our commitments to address the urgent and growing threat posed by climate change, and harm critical programs that enhance the ability of our partners and allies to counter terrorism, control the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and build both civilian and military security capacity, ultimately causing risks to accrue to our national security.

    Finally, the Republican budget holds defense funding to sequestration levels and skirts the budget caps by using a funding mechanism intended for wars to pay for non-war costs, despite the widely acknowledged and cynical “gimmick” nature of the approach.  Governing responsibly means clearly articulating policy priorities and providing a strategic, credible, and responsible investment plan to fund them, which enables the military to fully execute a long-term strategy. In contrast to the Republican budgets, the President’s Budget is clear, realistic, and strategic. It makes long-term investments above the sequestration levels to restore military readiness over the next several years, and responsibly funds recapitalization and modernization programs needed to ensure our continued technological edge. 

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

  • Learning More from the Data the Federal Government Already Collects

    Last week the Departments of Labor and Education published the draft regulations implementing the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA).  These proposed regulations, and the underlying WIOA legislation, will improve our Nation’s public workforce system by strengthening coordination and accountability. One of their most exciting features is that they would require States to produce standardized, easily-understandable “scorecards.” What that means is that – for the first time – workers choosing among different training programs that receive WIOA funding will be able to easily compare them on criteria that matter, like how much the program costs, the percent of participants who actually complete the program, and the average earnings of participants. Right now, workers seeking training may not even be able to find apples-to-apples data on how much different programs would cost, much less how their students fare in the job market. WIOA and the proposed regulations published last week seek to change that. In addition, the draft regulations put in place the WIOA requirement that States implement high-quality evaluations of the core WIOA employment, education, and training programs. That will let them improve workforce outcomes over time by learning which approaches work best and then scaling-up those approaches.

    All of this is possible because the proposed regulations encourage States to leverage their “administrative data” for maximum effect. Administrative data are data that are already collected by government entities for program administration, regulatory, or law enforcement purposes. In this context, administrative data include, for example, participant enrollment information and State-held unemployment insurance (UI) records on employment and earnings.  Being able to match these data is essential for States to reliably and cost-effectively generate accurate information about the employment outcomes that employment, education, and training programs achieve. It’s equally essential that States conduct these matches while protecting the privacy or confidentiality of these data, and that we ensure that personally identifiable, individual-level data are not disclosed to private entities without an individual’s consent.  The proposed regulations provide clarity on the structures that States can use to do that: match participant enrollment information, including information from training providers, with State-held UI employment and earnings records while maintaining the privacy and confidentiality.  

    Beyond job training, making better use of the administrative data the Federal Government already collects has huge potential to provide the public with better information and help government agencies learn which approaches work best so that they can further improve government programs.  Often, using administrative data lets us produce more reliable information at a lower cost than if government relied solely on more expensive and time-consuming data collection methods, like surveys.  Combining administrative and survey data can be especially fruitful. For example, multiple studies on student aid simplification showed the feasibility and importance of simplifying the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), using Federal administrative records and survey data together.  This research influenced the steps the Administration has already taken to simplify the FAFSA and motivated both Administration and Congressional proposals to make further legislative progress.

    Administrative data can undoubtedly be an incredibly powerful tool to help government identify and do more of what works. Unfortunately, there are some significant barriers to making better use of these data, including out-of-date statutes that have not been updated for modern technology and data analytic techniques, and resource and capacity constraints that prevent agencies from making their data usable for research or other statistical analysis.

    The President’s 2016 Budget includes a package of proposals that would begin to address these challenges and help make additional administrative data from Federal agencies and programs legally and practically available for policy development, program evaluation, performance measurement, and accountability and transparency purposes. All of these proposals would operate within a strong framework of privacy, confidentiality, and data security protections.  The President is calling for:

    • Expanding access to data. Consistent with bipartisan congressional proposals, the Budget would improve access to employment and earnings data by letting select Federal statistical and evaluation units access the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) National Directory of New Hires (NDNH) database—a national database of new hire, quarterly wage, UI claim information—for statistical purposes. A limited number of entities have authority to receive matched NDNH data for limited purposes, but stringent access restrictions prevent the use of these data for evaluations that aim to measure the impact of federally-funded job training programs, even though the Department of Labor administers the UI system. This proposal would allow NDNH data to be used to evaluate Federal job training programs as well as other programs that are intended to increase employment and earnings. While the proposed WIOA regulations make significant progress in encouraging States to make better use of their own UI data for these purposes, using data compiled at the Federal level would improve our understanding of employment outcomes.  For example, it would streamline access to cross-State data (so that we can understand the employment outcomes for individuals who move across State lines after completing a program), and make it easier for the Departments of Labor and Education to conduct their own evaluations of WIOA programs without placing additional burdens on States.

    The proposal would also allow the Census Bureau to access NDNH data for statistical uses, including for the 2020 Decennial Census.  Access to administrative data records, including the NDNH, could help the Census Bureau reduce the cost of the decennial census by $1.2 billion or more by using these records to identify who resides in non-responding households.  The proposal would prohibit the Federal statistical and evaluation units from releasing personally identifiable information, and it includes strong criminal penalties for individuals if they willfully make an unauthorized disclosure.

    In addition, the Budget proposed expanding the scope of use of Medicare data by certain health research organizations and spur improvements in health care quality through activities like fraud prevention activities and value-added analysis for physicians to enable better care coordination and practice improvement. We are pleased that a similar provision was recently enacted in the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015.

    • Investing in data infrastructure. The Census Bureau has been a leader in working with administrative data. The Budget requests $10 million in additional funding for the Census Bureau to build on its existing strengths and start developing a more comprehensive infrastructure for linking, sharing, and analyzing key datasets. The additional funding would allow Census to accelerate the process of acquiring additional key datasets, including State-held data, such as for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP); expand and improve its infrastructure for processing and linking data; and improve its infrastructure for making data available to outside researchers, while protecting individual privacy and data confidentiality.

    The Budget would also:

    • Invest in the Department of Education's student aid data infrastructure,
    • Help States make better use of their administrative data by supporting the improvement of their workforce and education data systems, and
    • Support the linking of Bureau of Justice Statistics data with the Department of Justice’s grants management system data in order to shed light on the effects of Federal funding on recidivism and other justice system outcomes.
    • Creating a commission to lay the groundwork for future improvements. The 2016 Budget includes a proposal to create a commission that would make recommendations for how to make additional administrative data available for evaluation and other statistical uses by Federal and outside researchers, what legislative changes are needed to facilitate such access, and how to expand access while ensuring data security and fully protecting privacy and confidentiality, as well as how to improve data quality. Last week Representative Paul Ryan (R–WI) and Senator Patty Murray (D–WA) re-introduced the Evidence-Based Policymaking Commission Act of 2015, a very similar proposal that creates a bipartisan commission focused on making better use of administrative data for fostering the types of learning described above.

    The administrative data package outlined in the Presidents 2016 Budget fits into the Budget’s broader emphasis on tackling challenging but important reforms that are integral to making government work better. Harnessing the full potential of administrative data can improve transparency and support efforts to hold programs and service providers accountable; allow Federal agencies to adopt private sector best practices for using data analytics to improve performance and customer service; support ongoing innovation, experimentation, and evaluation to learn what works; and permit a greater understanding of the different needs of different groups and communities. We look forward to working with Congress to unlock the potential of administrative data while maintaining a strong framework of privacy, confidentiality, and data security.

    Aviva Aron-Dine is the Acting Deputy Director of the Office of Management and Budget.

  • Making a Difference by Funding What Works

    Yesterday, the President signed H.R. 2, the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015, which passed both the House and Senate with overwhelming bipartisan support. Not only will the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 reform Medicare’s physician payment system to incentivize quality and value and extend the Children’s Health Insurance Program, it also includes a two-year extension of the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program (“Home Visiting”). The Home Visiting program, administered by the Department of Health and Human Services, funds States, territories, and tribal entities to develop and implement voluntary, evidence-based home visitation programs in which families that choose to participate receive advice, guidance, and other help from nurses, social workers, or other trained professionals during pregnancy and the first years of a child’s life.

    The Home Visiting program builds upon decades of scientific research showing that home visits improve the lives of children and families by preventing child abuse and neglect, supporting positive parenting, improving maternal and child health, and promoting child development and school readiness.  This research also shows that evidence-based approaches can provide a positive return on investment to society.  By law, Home Visiting Program grantees must spend the majority of their grants to implement models that have been shown to improve child health and to be cost effective, with up to 25 percent of funding available to try out and rigorously evaluate other promising approaches.  

    Thanks to investments made in the Affordable Care Act, the number of children and parents served by the Home Visiting program has tripled since 2012, reaching 115,545 in 2014, and the number of home visits provided has quadrupled, with more than 1.4 million home visits provided over the past three years. As part of a broader investment in early childhood education, the President’s Budget includes $15 billion in funding for the Home Visiting Program over the next 10 years, which would greatly expand grantees’ ability to reach at-risk children and families with evidence-based home visiting services. While less ambitious, the extension in the Medicare payment reform bill is a strong bipartisan endorsement of this important program, and will let grantees continue and build on their efforts to date.  

    Home Visiting is just one example of a program that the President’s Budget proposes to expand on the basis of strong evidence that it delivers value for the American people. Some of these programs, like Home Visiting, are already serving tens of thousands of people, but could have a larger impact with greater reach. Others have proven so effective in small experiments that we think they should be tried on a larger scale. Below are just a few examples of areas where the Budget proposes to expand proven practices.

    The President’s Budget is able to make these important investments in evidence-based efforts, in large part because it reverses sequestration, freeing up resources for important national priorities. 

    • Getting more people back to work and increasing their incomes.  The Budget includes a number of proposals to expand proven approaches to get more people back to work at better-paying jobs. For example, the Budget includes a $100 million increase to expand reemployment services and eligibility assessments for the one-third of unemployment insurance beneficiaries who are most likely to run out of benefits before becoming reemployed.  A high-quality randomized control trial in Nevada found that in comparison to their peers who did not receive these services, participants got back to work nearly a month faster, and they earned over $2,600 more than their peers over the next year and half.

    • Ending Homelessness.  Chronic homelessness was long considered an intractable problem, but a broad body of research, including rigorous evaluations, demonstrated that permanent supportive housing is more cost-efficient and effective than other approaches. Various studies have shown that permanent supportive housing not only improves housing stability but can also reduce costs for emergency department and inpatient services.

    Studies on the Cost Effectiveness of Permanent Supportive Housing

    By investing in evidence-based approaches and partnering with communities across the country, the Administration has made significant progress toward the President’s ambitious goals of ending homelessness, especially among veterans.  In January 2015, New Orleans, Louisiana became the first major American city to end veterans’ homelessness entirely, and several major cities, including Salt Lake City, Utah and Phoenix Arizona, have ended chronic homelessness among veterans.  The overall number of veterans experiencing homelessness has declined by 33 percent—nearly 25,000 veterans—since 2010, and, with continued focus from Federal, State, and local partners, we are on a path to end veteran homelessness by the end of this year.                                                        

    The 2016 Budget includes $2.5 billion for HUD’s Homeless Assistance Grants, which will support 15,000 additional families through rapid rehousing and an estimated 25,500 new units of permanent supportive housing targeted to the chronically homeless, strategies that have been proven to work.  These funds, in coordination with targeted special purpose Housing Choice Vouchers, will support the Administration’s efforts to end chronic homelessness in 2017 and to make significant progress in ending homelessness across other populations.

    • Reducing Crime and Recidivism.  The Administration is committed to a comprehensive strategy to contain incarceration costs over the long term by facilitating inmates’ transition into society to reduce recidivism rates, increase public safety, and strengthen communities.  The Budget includes a $145 million increase for programs to reduce recidivism and reentry and address the cycle of incarceration.  These investments cover a range of activities, including expanding capacity for correctional education programs.  A recent high-quality study that looked across all of the research for these programs found that participants had a 43 percent lower chance of recidivating and 13 percent higher chance of becoming employed than similar individuals who didn’t participate in the program. 

    These are just a few examples of programs the 2016 Budget would expand on the basis of strong evidence of effectiveness. We look forward to working with Congress on making additional investments in these and other evidence-based programs. 

    For more about the Administration’s efforts to use rigorous evaluation and data to improve programs, check out OMB’s Evidence and Evaluation Website

    Aviva Aron-Dine is the Acting Deputy Director of the Office of Management and Budget.

  • Behind the Buy #2: Driving Agile IT Procurement

    Author’s Note: The "Behind the Buy" podcast features audio stories told by members of the Federal acquisition workforce who have successfully executed best practice IT contracting strategies from the TechFAR and Digital Services Playbook to help their agency meet its mission.

    In this second Behind the Buy podcast, OFPP Administrator Anne Rung interviews Jonathan Mostowski, the Contracting Officer at the U.S. Digital Service. During the episode, Jonathan explains how budgetary flexibility and cost savings are achieved during agile IT procurement. Listeners learn about Jonathan’s role in creating the TechFAR Handbook and how he leveraged Play #5 “Structure Budgets and Contracts to Support Delivery,” from the Digital Services Playbook to meet the business needs of the intelligence community.

    Jonathan improved how the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency (NGA) procured software applications (apps) in a commercial model by opening opportunities for software developers across America in NGA’s app environment. This resulted in the Government avoiding software development and sustainment costs by only paying for apps that end-users downloaded.

    In addition to Play #5, Jonathan explains how to use other Playbook plays in combination to maximize IT service delivery. He discusses avoiding the pitfalls of past acquisition techniques by adapting the acquisition strategy to customers. Procuring small for software development allows for flexibility for changing needs and avoids cost-overrun. Using these Playbook strategies in combination ensures that both internal and external stakeholders needs are met efficiently and effectively.

  • A High-Performing Government of the Future

    Since the beginning of the Administration, the President has made it a priority to identify and eliminate inefficient or unnecessary spending, and advance efforts that help sustain a high-performing, cost-effective Government for the American people.

    The Government Accountability Office (GAO) is a key partner in the Administration’s efforts to create more efficiencies and cost savings.  Every year, GAO releases its report identifying opportunities for Congress and the Executive Branch to reduce or eliminate inefficiencies and achieve savings across programs.  In addition, GAO provides helpful updates on actions the Administration and Congress have taken on recommendations from previous reports.  In today’s 2015 annual report, GAO’s findings recognize the overall progress the Administration has made since the initial 80 areas of fragmentation, overlap, or duplication were identified in 2011. For example:

    • GAO found that Congress and the Executive Branch have made progress on addressing 348 of the 440 (76 percent) broad areas needing attention over the past four years.
    • GAO found that the Executive Branch addressed or partially addressed 317 of the 384 (83 percent) recommended actions directed to the Executive Branch.
    • GAO found that Congress addressed or partially addressed 31 of the 74 (42 percent) recommended actions directed to Congress.

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

    Under the President’s Management Agenda, we are accelerating progress made to reduce administrative overhead, improve training and job programs, reduce the government’s real estate costs, institutionalize data-driven reviews, reform acquisition, and driver smarter IT delivery.  A more complete picture of this Administration’s progress in reducing duplication, fragmentation, and overlap across the Federal Government can be found HERE.

    A few examples where the Administration has made progress on GAO’s recommendations as well as the President’s Management Agenda include:

    • Saving on Real Property Costs.  In 2013, the Administration issued the Freeze the Footprint (FTF) policy to freeze the Federal Government’s real estate footprint and restrict the growth of excess or underutilized properties.  Freeze the Footprint was the first government-wide policy that established and required federal agencies to identify offsets (i.e., disposals) of existing property to support new property acquisitions, and that set a timeline for agencies to freeze their real property footprint. The policy was a success. Now federal agencies have frozen, reduced, or are on a path to freeze their baseline by the end of FY 2015.  For example, Agencies achieved a 21.4 million square foot reduction in office and warehouse space between FY 2012 and FY 2014. And in FY 2014 alone, for all domestic owned building types, the government disposed of 7,350 buildings, 47 million square feet of space, and eliminated $17 million of annual operation and maintenance cost as a result of Freeze the Footprint.  Building on this success, just last month the Administration issued the National Strategy for Real Property (National Strategy) and the Reduce the Footprint policy. Agencies will be required not only to continue to freeze but also reduce their real property footprint over the next several years beginning in FY 2016.
    • Reorganizing STEM Education Programs.  The Nation's competitiveness depends on the ability to improve and expand STEM learning in the United States.  Over the past two years, the Administration has made considerable progress toward creating a more cohesive framework for delivering STEM education.  Guided by the Federal STEM Education Five-Year Strategic plan and a significant reorganization of programs, agencies are increasing coordination, strengthening partnerships, and identifying ways to leverage existing resources to improve the reach of agency assets.  The number of different STEM programs has been cut from over 220 to fewer than 140, a reduction of roughly 40 percent.  The Budget builds on these efforts and continues to reduce fragmentation, ensuring that investments are aligned with the Strategic Plan.  The President’s FY 2016 Budget invests more than $3 billion in this critical area, including $200 million for K-12 education in the Department of Education's Math and Science Partnerships and National Science Foundation programs providing $338 million for graduate fellowships, $62 million for graduate traineeships, and $135 million for improving undergraduate education.
    • Improving Employment and Training Programs. The Administration, in partnership with Congress, has taken a number of steps to improve coordination and alignment across Federal training and employment programs.  Last year’s passage of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) made significant improvements in integration and coordination of the Federal workforce system. The Administration recently released the WIOA draft Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, which presents a vision of the law that furthers the goals of enhanced coordination across Federal programs.  These rules, developed jointly by the Departments of Labor and Education, lay out a common set of performance measures that will improve accountability in the workforce system and improve transparency.  Last year, the Vice President also led an across-the-board review of job training program to identify ways to make them more job-driven and ensure that they train people for jobs that exist today. This effort culminated in a report that includes a set of principles of job-driven training. Agencies across the government, including DOL, ED, HHS, DOD, and USDA, are using these principles to make their programs more aligned with one another and more responsive to the needs of jobseekers. In addition to taking steps to improve coordination, the Administration has recommended several targeted consolidations that would reduce overlap without adversely affecting vulnerable populations. And several of the 47 programs GAO identified have already been eliminated or consolidated. 

    In each of the President’s first six Budgets, the Administration identified, on average, more than 150 cuts, consolidations, and savings averaging more than $23 billion each year. Many of these proposals have now been implemented, and the Budget built on this success by including 101 cuts, consolidations, and savings proposals projected to save over $14 billion in 2016. The President’s FY 2016 Budget shows that we can avoid the harmful spending cuts known as sequestration, and instead invest in economic growth, mobility, and national security, while still putting the Nation on a sustainable fiscal path. Overall the Budget achieves about $1.8 trillion in deficit reduction, primarily from reforms in health programs, the tax code, and immigration.

    The Budget also supports the President’s plan to reorganize the Federal Government so that it does more for less, and is best positioned to assist businesses and entrepreneurs in the global economy.  Specifically, the President is renewing his request for the Congress to revive the reorganization authority given to nearly every President from Herbert Hoover to Ronald Reagan. This authority would allow the Administration to submit plans to consolidate and reorganize Executive Branch Departments and agencies for fast track consideration by the Congress, but only so long as the result would be to reduce the size of Government or cut costs, a new requirement for this type of authority.  The President’s FY 2016 Budget includes examples of cross-government consolidations intended as a blueprint for reorganizing and reforming the Government.  As the President first indicated in 2012, if he is given Presidential reorganization authority, he would propose to consolidate a number of agencies and programs into a new department focused on fostering economic growth and driving job creation.  This proposal would consolidate six primary business and trade agencies, as well as other related programs, integrating the Government’s core trade and competitiveness functions into one new department.  The President’s Budget also proposes consolidating food safety functions, as an essential step to reforming the Federal food safety system overall.  The Administration will continue to work with Congress and stakeholders on these proposals and to identify opportunities to make the Government more efficient and effective.

    Improving the effectiveness and efficiency of the Federal Government is not an easy endeavor.  It requires dedication and commitment throughout agencies, from the Secretary at headquarters to the employees on the front line.  It requires sustained support from both the Executive and Legislative Branches.  Our success to date shows that we can improve the way Government works and provide the American people with an efficient, effective, high-performing Government.  We look forward to continuing to work with Congress, GAO, and other stakeholders to identify opportunities to create a Government of the future that makes a significant and tangible difference in the economy and the lives of the American people. 

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

     

  • Another Step Toward A More Inclusive Contracting Workforce

    Today, the President’s executive order banning discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Americans in the workplace goes into effect. The EO on LGBT Workplace Discrimination prohibits federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity in federal employment, and prohibits all companies that receive a contract from the Federal Government from discriminating against their LGBT employees. This action not only ensures that LGBT Americans have a more inclusive environment to work and flourish, but also better positions our contracting community to attract and retain the best talent.

    Every year, billions of taxpayer dollars are spent on everything from consulting services, to training, to software development.  Citizens expect contracting professionals to provide these services on a superior scale while serving as responsible business models with respect to 21st century workplace equality. As the President stated when he signed the executive order, “America’s federal contracts should not subsidize discrimination against the American people.”  

    Already, a majority of federal contractors have policies on the books on LGBT workplace equality. In fact, of the largest 50 federal contractors, which represent nearly half of all federal contracting dollars, 86% prohibit sexual orientation discrimination and 61% prohibit discrimination based on gender identity. In addition, the five top federal contractors, which receive nearly a quarter of all federal contracting dollars, already bar discrimination based on both sexual orientation and gender identity. Still, no federal law adequately protects LGBT workers. In too many sectors and too many states, LGBT workers can be fired or not promoted simply because of who they are and who they love. The executive order makes clear that the Federal Government will not do business with anyone who discriminates against LGBT workers. In the acquisition space, we know that policies that create an inclusive environment for employees to deliver on their missions, can improve productivity, support the bottom line, and strengthen the overall business model for both the company and its customers, including the federal government.

    The Executive Order governs only Federal contractors and federally-assisted construction contractors and subcontractors who do over $10,000 in Federal Government business in one year.  Federal contractors have decades of experience complying with anti-discrimination laws, and today’s action simply ensures they extend the same protections to their LGBT workers.

    Anne Rung is the Administrator for the Office of Federal Procurement Policy at the White House Office of Management and Budget.

  • Focusing on Implementation to Drive Continued Progress

    A little over a year ago, the Administration committed to several ambitious improvements in Government services and better outcomes for the American public.  Building on successful data-driven efforts that have helped reduce veterans’ homelessness, increased renewable energy, and the speed up the approval of disaster loans for families in need, we established 15 new Cross-Agency Priority (CAP) Goals and every Federal Agency published a limited number of Agency Priority Goals (APGs).  Our framework of clear priorities and data-driven decision making enables Federal leadership to accelerate efforts to deliver Government services more efficiently and effectively and drive real positive change for the American public.

    In the final year of the Administration it will be more important than ever for the senior leadership team to focus on implementation to lock in progress on Administration priority issues.  As we begin to establish this Administration’s final set of APGs for Fiscal Year 2016-2017, we have asked each agency to accelerate progress on those areas that will have the greatest impact.  In this week’s guidance to agencies, we have required agencies to identify a senior career leader, in addition to a goal leader, to support implementation throughout the goal period.  We will also be publishing the new priority goals at the start of Fiscal Year 2016, instead of waiting until the President’s 2017 budget is released in February. 

    Over the course of my career, in sectors as diverse as mobile telecom, the leisure industry and financial services, I’ve seen how efforts to streamline and re-design processes and put new technologies to work can have genuine impact on improved service delivery and customer service – and the bottom line.  Since joining government for the first time a year and a half ago, it is clear that the private sector does not have the monopoly on using these approaches to drive better results.  The APG and CAP Goal efforts are a clear testament. In particular, in reviewing progress on our APGs and CAP Goals this quarter, there are several areas where streamlining processes and deploying new technology is delivering better services for the American people. 

    For example:

    • The Department of State’s Excellence in Consular Service Delivery Agency Priority Goal measures the time required to process passport applications for U.S. citizens and appointment wait times for nonimmigrant visa (NIV) applicants.  The Department of State uses a data-driven approach to implement process improvements and dynamically shift resources in order to improve customer service and processing speed while preserving the integrity of the passport and visa adjudication processes.  Throughout FY 2014, State exceeded the target of ensuring that 80 percent of NIV applicants were interviewed within three weeks of requesting an appointment.  In addition, State processed 99.9% of passport applications in a timely manner.
    • The Social Security Administration set a goal to deliver a world-class customer experience by expanding the use of video technology to hold hearings. This technology provided the opportunity for claimants to have their cases heard in many of SSA’s 1200 field offices instead of only their 162 hearing offices, thus cutting down on claimant travel time and burden. Video hearing technology gave SSA the ability to balance workloads when shifting demographics and changing economic conditions created a large influx of cases in a particular hearing office. Before video hearings, SSA didn’t have a way to manage this change in workload. Now, with national video hearing centers (first piloted in Baltimore, MD), any office with a substantial backlog can redirect their hearings to reduce that backlog. SSA now conducts 28% of their hearings by video, over 170,000 more than last fiscal year. 

    In the final year of the Administration it will be more important than ever for the senior leadership team to focus on implementation to lock in progress on priorities like those highlighted above. As we work with agencies on these Goals and others, we are consistently looking for places where there are promising, innovative approaches or proven tools that have the potential to be spread to other areas or regions to deliver maximum impact. 

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

  • Why We Need You in Government

    Editor’s Note: Mikey Dickerson, Administrator of the U.S. Digital Service, and Jen Pahlka, former Deputy CTO of the United States and founder of Code for America, gave a talk at the 2015 SXSW Music, Film + Interactive Festival on “How Government Fails and How You Can Fix It.”  For those who weren’t there, here’s Mikey’s opening remarks:

    This all started for me in October 2013.  Healthcare.gov had just launched, and if you remember, it wasn't going too great.  I was minding my own business in California working for Google.  Although I had volunteered for the Obama campaigns, I had no other connection to the Administration and no government experience at all.

    I was visiting some friends from the campaign in Chicago when through some complicated series of connections that I still don't understand, I heard that the White House was looking to organize some kind of assessment of the website, and was asked to call in to a phone conference where I would get more information.  The phone call was at 8:30 Eastern, so 5:30AM for me, so I was not too happy but I did it anyway.  On the phone was a guy named Todd Park.  I had never met Todd; I looked him up on Wikipedia while on the phone.  With a couple more phone calls, I was talked into flying to Washington, D.C. for a few days to evaluate the situation.

    Here was the situation when I got there: The government shutdown was over, and the failure of Healthcare.gov was the lead story on cable news all day every day.  The original estimate from the Congressional Budget Office had been that 7 million people would enroll in this first enrollment period, but Todd said that given the circumstances if we could manage 4 million, that would be a home run.  He said they needed an independent outside team to figure out how bad the problems were and if they could be fixed to save the site this year. Also that if it couldn't be fixed, then it would be a catastrophe for the policy, with the 2014 election coming and the unpopular law having failed to launch.  Democrat support would probably fracture, the election would be a disaster, the President would be a lame duck two years early, and nobody would try again for a generation.  But you know, we want your honest assessment.

    We looked around and found some really surprising things.  One was that there was no monitoring of the production system.  For those of you that run large distributed systems, you will understand that this is as if you are driving a bus with the windshield covered.  Second was that there were hundreds of people and dozens of companies involved, but nobody in charge.  Third was that there was no particular urgency about the situation.   As I would come to understand, nobody was acting like there was anything out of the ordinary because there was nothing out of the ordinary.  The whole system had worked as normal and produced the expected result, which was a web site that was overpriced by hundreds of millions of dollars and did not work, at all.

    Since there were so many really basic problems, we ended up recommending that the site could probably be fixed to work well enough to enroll the 4 million people.  Of course, we were then asked to stay to follow through and implement those recommendations.  (This is called commitment escalation, and we will do it to you.  This is the only time I will warn you.)  I ended up going home in January—my 3 day trip had turned into nearly 3 month stint.  I submitted an invoice for the nine week period ending December 31, 2013, and the mean hours per day worked was 17.5.  I was hallucinating and having other problems from not having slept enough for three months.  This was the hardest thing I have ever done and I hope nothing ever comes close to it again.

    When I went home, other people had taken over the day to day operations and helped finish the enrollment period, which went to March 31.  But things did not go back to normal for me; they only continued to get weirder.  There had already been media interest in the people from the "tech surge," and in March the final enrollment number of over 8 million was announced, and three of us from the “tech surge” team were on the cover of Time Magazine.  In May I went back one more time for an event where we met the President.

    I tell you all this not to prove how amazing we were, but exactly the opposite.  Nothing we did was technically difficult by any standard we are used to.  There were simple problems with simple solutions.  The solution to the lack of monitoring was to install monitoring.  The solution to nobody being in charge was to make everybody come to the same room where we could coordinate.  And so on.  It was not a hard engineering problem, and any of you could have done it, and it was also more important and meaningful than anything I could have accomplished in a lifetime working at my old job.  Beyond the 8 million people that got access to health care for the first time, which for many of them was a matter of life or death, I don't think we are ever going back to the time when people who actually need health insurance are not allowed to buy it.

    So I went back to my old job and tried to care about it.  I was not successful.  On one hand the company does not need me; there are thousands of other engineers that are as good or better.  On the other hand, if I succeeded beyond anybody's wildest dreams the net effect is that some extra billions of dollars would go to one billionaire instead of a different billionaire.  It was hard to see why I should bother, and still is.

    But meanwhile, there were wheels turning in Washington, D.C., where people that had been working on government technology reform for years had received a huge boost from the Healthcare.gov meltdown.  So pretty soon Todd Park was calling me again, asking me to come work for a group that has now become known as the U.S. Digital Service.  It took a few months to convince me, but in August I finally left Google forever and moved to Washington.

    The basic theory of the U.S. Digital Service was to replicate the ingredients that were successful on turning around Healthcare.gov, for a few other high priority projects.  With the money we basically had left over in an IT oversight fund, I expected to hire about 10 to 12 people and take on three projects, which I thought would be the Affordable Care Act, the VA, and immigration.  I expected that the difficult problems would be recruiting 10 more engineers to make this questionable life decision, and getting agencies to accept outside help.

    Since then several unexpected things have happened.  Where I was worried about recruiting 10 people, I actually got over a thousand applications.  The demand from the agencies is also more than we could ever satisfy.  We have met with 22 of them and identified around 60 projects that need attention.  And possibly the most surprising thing was that Congress passed an omnibus spending bill in December, and it included the full $20M funding request to operate the U.S. Digital Service.  This will allow us to grow to about 40 people and take on 10 projects in 2015.

    And this is the part where you come in.  Right now, at least, in this moment, we have overwhelming demand for engineers like yourself in the federal government.  And we have overwhelming supply of people that want to come help.  For these reasons, we have proposed in the President's 2016 budget a total of $105 million to create copies of the U.S. Digital Serivce team inside all of the 24 major agencies, for a total of around 500 people.  The artificial barrier that has kept the technology industry and the public sector separated on different evolutionary paths is porous right now, and if enough people cross over, it can be destroyed.

    Some of you, not all of you, are working right now on another app for people to share pictures of food or a social network for dogs.  I am here to tell you that your country has a better use for your talents.  The Affordable Care Act, I just told you about.  The Social Security Administration mails checks from a mainframe running COBOL, which might kind of be OK except that more than half of the workforce that maintains it is at or near retirement age.  What happens then?  The Department of Veterans Affairs has a serious backlog of disability claims.  The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service processes permanent resident applications and everything else on paper.  If you lose your green card, it will take you 6-8 months to get a new one and in the meantime you will not be able to prove you have the right to be in the country or get a job.   All of these are information processing problems and all of these are matters of life or death to millions of citizens and all of them are things you can fix if you choose to.

    So that's what it all boils down to.  This is a market economy and you—and your talents—are the crucial capital. Whether you know it or not, you are making decisions about how we allocate resources.  We can solve any of these problems but we have to choose to do it.  The most sobering thing about my time in government is to really understand on an emotional level that this country belongs to you and me and it is exactly as good as we make it.  Grownups are not going to fix it for us and billionaires are not going to fix it for us.  We either do it ourselves, or nobody does.  I will take questions.

    Ready to get involved?  Apply here: www.WhiteHouse.gov/us-digital-service.  

  • A National Strategy for Reducing the Federal Government’s Real Estate Footprint

    In 2013, the Administration issued the Freeze the Footprint (FTF) policy to freeze the Federal Government’s real estate footprint and restrict the growth of excess or underutilized properties.  Freeze the Footprint was the first government-wide policy that established and required federal agencies to identify offsets (i.e., disposals) of existing property to support new property acquisitions, and that set a timeline for agencies to freeze their real property footprint. The policy was a success. Now federal agencies have frozen, reduced, or are on a path to freeze their baseline by the end of FY 2015.  Agencies achieved a 21.4 million square foot reduction in office and warehouse space between FY 2012 and FY 2014. And in FY 2014 alone, for all domestic owned building types, the government disposed of 7,350 buildings, 47 million square feet of space, and eliminated $17 million of annual operation and maintenance cost as a result of Freeze the Footprint.

    Building on this success, today the Administration has issued the National Strategy for Real Property (National Strategy) and the Reduce the Footprint policy. With the establishment of the National Strategy and OMB’s new Reduce the Footprint (RTF) policy agencies will be required not only to continue to  freeze but also reduce their real property footprint over the next several years.  The RTF policy will supersede the current FTF requirements by requiring agencies to reduce, rather than freeze, their footprint beginning in FY 2016.

    Through the National Strategy, OMB has established a clear strategic framework to guide agencies’ real property management, to increase efficient real property use, control costs, and reduce real property holdings.   The National Strategy outlines three key steps to improved real property management:

    • freeze growth in the inventory,
    • measure performance to identify opportunities for efficiency improvements through data driven decision-making, and ultimately,
    • reduce the size of the inventory by prioritizing actions to consolidate, co-locate, and dispose of properties.

    Over time, application of the National Strategy will improve the utilization of government owned buildings, lower the number of excess and underutilized properties, and improve the cost effectiveness and efficiency of the portfolio. Consolidating properties and collocating agengy office space is not only commonsense, but will provide more convenient access to the public and allow for upgraded facilities to provide more modern work environments for federal employees to conduct their business.  

     Complementing the National Strategy, the RTF policy requires agencies to:

    1. Set annual square foot reduction targets for federal domestic buildings; and
    2. Adopt space design standards to optimize federal domestic office space usage.

    Under the RTF OMB has, for the first time, established government-wide policy to use property as efficiently as possible and to reduce agency portfolios though annual reduction targets.  The policy is an impetus for real property management transformation that will provide value to the taxpayer.

    Issuance of the RTF builds upon ongoing success in other key real property program elements.  OMB has partnered with GSA and the Federal Real Property Council to implement new and enhanced analytical tools within the Federal Real Property Profile database that support data driven decision-making.  These new tools will provide detailed data on properties’ annual cost, location, size, and lease expiration, among other data elements, in a structured format that fully supports agency management’s ability to identify efficiency opportunities and to use data to prioritize and implement them. When fully implemented in the fourth quarter of FY2015, the system will provide agencies with greater management capability to seize the efficiency and cost opportunities that their portfolios present over the next five years. 

    The National Strategy establishes a new strategic framework through which the government can manage its real property.  The framework and the RTF policy build upon and expand the successes the Administration has achieved to date.  While we are making progress in reducing space and disposing of unneeded assets using existing authorities, we will need the support of our partners in Congress to identify additional flexibilities and resources to further our efforts.  The President’s FY2016 Budget specifically addresses these issue by requesting funding for GSA’s consolidation program through appropriation of $200 million of Federal Building Fund monies to support smart investments in Federal facilities. The budget also re-proposes the Civilian Property Realignment Act, which would create an independent board of private and public sector real estate experts to analyze the real estate portfolio government-wide and recommend to Congress which properties should be disposed, consolidated, co-located or reconfigured.

    We look forward to working collaboratively with all stakeholders to achieve a more efficient and effective delivery of government services through improved management and utilization of real property.

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

  • Turning Government Data into Better Public Service

    Every day, millions of people use their laptops, phones, and tablets to check the status of their tax refund, get the latest forecast from the National Weather Service, book a campsite at one of our national parks, and much more. There were more than 1.3 billion visits to websites across the Federal Government in just the past 90 days.

    Today, during Sunshine Week when we celebrate openness and transparency in government, we are pleased to release the Digital Analytics Dashboard, a new window into the way people access the government online. For the first time, you can see how many people are using a Federal Government website, which pages are most popular, and which devices, browsers, and operating systems people are using. We’ll use the data from the Digital Analytics Program to focus our digital service teams on the services that matter most to the American people, and analyze how much progress we are making. The Dashboard will help government agencies understand how people find, access, and use government services online to better serve the public – all while protecting privacy.  The program does not track individuals. It anonymizes the IP addresses of all visitors and then uses the resulting information in the aggregate.

    Here’s what we’ve already learned from the data:

    • Our services must work well on all devices. Over the past 90 days, 33% all traffic to our sites came from people using phones and tablets. Over the same period last year, the number was 24%. Most of this growth came from an increase in mobile traffic. Every year, building digital services that work well on small screens becomes more important.
    • Seasonal services and unexpected events can cause surges in traffic. As you might expect, tax season is a busy time for the IRS. This is reflected in visits to pages on IRS.gov, which have more than tripled in the past 90 days compared with the previous quarter. Other jumps in traffic are less easy to predict. For example, a recently-announced settlement between AT&T and the Federal Trade Commission generated a large increase in visits to the FTC’s website. Shortly after the settlement was announced, FTC.gov had four times more visitors than the same period in the previous year. These fluctuations underscore the importance of flexibility in the way we deploy our services so that we can scale our web hosting to support surges in traffic as well as save money when our sites are less busy.
    • Most people access our sites using newer web browsers. How do we improve digital services for everyone when not all web browsers work the same way? The data tells us that the percentage of people accessing our sites using outdated browsers is declining steadily. As users adopt newer web browsers, we can build services that use modern features and spend less time and money building services that work on outdated browsers. This change will also allow us to take advantage of features found in modern browsers that make it easier to build services that work well for Americans with disabilities, who access digital services using specialized devices such as screen readers.

    This Analytics Dashboard is just a first step. Not every government website is represented in this data. Currently, the Digital Analytics Program collects web traffic from almost 300 executive branch government domains, including every cabinet department, out of about 1,350 domains total. Over the coming months, we will encourage more sites to join the Digital Analytics Program, and we’ll include more information and insights about traffic to government sites with the same open source development process we used to create the Dashboard. If you have ideas for the project, or want to help improve it, let us know by contributing to the project on GitHub or emailing digitalgov@gsa.gov.

    Learn more about the U.S. Digital Service at: http://www.whitehouse.gov/usds

    Learn more about 18F at: https://18f.gsa.gov/

    Learn more about the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy at: https://www.whitehouse.gov/administration/eop/ostp

  • Acquisition 360

    Successful acquisitions depend on a clear understanding of the market’s capabilities and dynamics, and this requires early and meaningful engagement with industry and the application of strong management practices within the agency. Today, in an effort to further that goal, I issued guidance to agencies directing them to seek feedback from vendors and internal stakeholders – such as contracting officers and program managers – on how well certain high-dollar IT acquisitions perform.  We will be using Acquisition 360, the first ever transaction-based feedback tool that allows agencies to identify strengths and weaknesses in their acquisition processes with the focus on pre-award activities, contract execution, and certain post award activities, such as debriefings.

    It has long been the case where ineffective communication between federal agencies and vendors, amongst other complex processes, lead to unnecessary burden on vendors, higher government costs and unfavorable outcomes for taxpayers. These shortcomings have been the premise of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy’s (OFFP) open dialogue with both internal and external stakeholders. And these conversations have led to greater improvements in early vendor engagement and timely and specific feedback from key stakeholders that we will build upon today.

    Acquisition 360 will significantly increase the efficiency with which federal agencies carry out procurements, as well as give OFFP greater insight into how the process can be further streamlined to better use every American’s tax dollars. I am very proud of the progress that we have made in this effort already and look forward to continuing to build upon it moving forward.

    Anne Rung is the Administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy at the White House Office of Management and Budget.

  • Accelerating Progress and Institutionalizing Retrospective Review

    In 2011, President Obama called on federal agencies to undertake an unprecedented government-wide regulatory review to identify rules on the books with outdated requirements or unjustified costs.  Retrospective review continues to be a key priority for the Obama Administration.  Since the release of Executive Order 13563 in 2011, federal agencies have been continually identifying outdated and duplicative regulations and have taken action to modify or eliminate them where possible. And the Administration has made significant progress. For example, the Department of Transportation, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the Environmental Protection Agency, and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) have already finalized significant retrospective review initiatives. To date, the retrospective review process is expected to achieve $20 billion in savings over five years, and is on track to eliminate over 100 million paperwork burden reduction hours.    

    Today, agencies released their bi-annual retrospective review plans, identifying recently completed initiatives as well as outlining what they are working to accomplish on retrospective review over the next year.  As their plans outline, agencies across the government have continued to find ways to improve and streamline regulations on the books.  Here are a few of the successes and ongoing initiatives worth noting:

    • The Social Security Administration (SSA) is developing an online application to allow certain members of the public to apply for replacement social security cards electronically without having to visit an office or mail in an application. In the proposed rule, an adult U.S. citizen meeting certain qualifications would have the option to file for an SSN replacement card online.
    • The Department of Housing and Urban Development published a proposed rule regarding housing voucher portability in March of 2012.  The agency plans to finalize this streamlining regulation this year.  The goal of this rulemaking is to make the voucher program more flexible and maximize family choice in locating housing.  Reducing the administrative burdens involved with processing portability requests will enable Public Housing Agencies to better serve families and expand housing opportunities.
    •  In December 2014, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services finalized a fraud protection final rule that helps prevent fraudulent entities from enrolling in Medicare by increasing the criteria for denying enrollment including: a felony conviction, relationship with a previously enrolled provider or supplier that had Medicare debt, pattern of submitting claims that don't meet Medicare standards, and limiting the ability of ambulance suppliers to bill for services performed prior to enrollment.  CMS anticipates this that this could lead to reduced payments of about $327 million dollars to such potentially fraudulent actors.

    Agency retrospective review efforts complement and advance many initiatives designed to improve the interaction of the American people with their government. For example, through Executive Order 13604, the Administration has worked to integrate ongoing agency efforts to identify specific changes to existing regulations that would help streamline, modernize and improve the efficiency of the federal permitting process for infrastructure projects.  Pursuant to Executive Order 13659, DHS in coordination with the Department of Treasury is leading a whole-of-government effort to streamline the import/export process by developing a national “single window” through which businesses will submit the data required for international trade transactions. This effort will result in substantial burden reduction by significantly decreasing paperwork obligations and reducing redundant information collections. 

    In conjunction with producing their bi-annual retrospective review plans, federal agencies have also recently submitted to OMB written plans for stakeholder engagement.  The goal of these plans is to get input on promising themes and specific targets for review and reform from parties with a stake in regulation. For example, the Department of Labor (DOL) launched an interactive “IdeaScale” website to seek public input on developing its preliminary retrospective review plan.  This initiative allows individuals to submit their own recommendations for retrospective review and to vote on others. DOL plans to expand on this robust, technology-driven engagement effort to identify opportunities for regulatory reforms.  This initiative will feed into the Department’s July 2015 retrospective review report.  

    We are proud of the progress made to date on retrospective review, but we know we can do more. To that end, we have begun to step up our collective efforts in the remaining months of the Administration to significantly accelerate progress and to better institutionalize retrospective review.   We are focusing our efforts in four key areas:

    • Reducing regulatory and compliance burdens for state and local government;
    • Reducing regulatory burden for industry, with a focus on flexibility for small and new businesses;
    • Regulatory modernization; and
    • Identifying areas with regulatory gaps or where regulations need to be strengthened.

    As the President said in 2011, “We should have no more regulation than the health, safety, and security of the American people require. Every rule should meet that commonsense test.” OIRA, together with our agency colleagues, is determined to build upon the progress we have made since the President spoke those words. We will continue to expand the use of retrospective review, carefully consider ideas and input from the public as we make regulatory changes,  and work to further institutionalize retrospective review in order to make government work more efficiently and effectively for the American people.  We look forward to showing even more progress going forward. 

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

  • The Long-Term Budget Outlook

    Today, I had the honor to speak before the Economic Club of Washington, D.C. on the economy and the President’s FY 2016 Budget. I made three key points that I believe should frame the budget debates going forward: (1) we have made both near-term and medium-to-long term fiscal progress; (2) the President’s FY16 Budget prioritizes both fiscal responsibility and economic growth; and, (3) we face a critical choice in whether we will return to austerity or continue the economic progress we’ve seen. I would like to dig into the first point a bit more here than I was able to do in my speech and explain the medium and long term fiscal progress we’ve made.

    The President’s Budget provides official projections for spending, revenues, deficits, and debt over the next 10 years, reflecting the President’s proposed policies, including ending sequestration, investing in growth and opportunity, and reducing deficits and debt. But each year, the Budget also includes projections for the path of the Nation’s finances over the longer term. These long-term projections are highly uncertain, because they are driven by economic, demographic, and other predictions for the next 25 years. However, they can still provide valuable information about key fiscal trends. This year’s Analytical Perspectives chapter on the long-term budget outlook has three main findings.

    1. The medium-term and long-term budget outlook have improved substantially over the last five years. Since the President took office, deficits as a share of the economy have fallen by about two thirds. Less well known, but equally as important, projected deficits and debt have also fallen substantially.