OMBlog

  • Making Federal Investments Climate-Smart

    Climate action makes fiscal and economic sense, and that is why we are taking new steps to code it into the DNA of how we do business at OMB.

    Each year, OMB issues a revised Circular A-11.  This is the Federal Government’s budgeting playbook.  For the entire Executive Branch, the Circular provides the latest guidance and technical instruction on how to prepare, submit, and execute the Budget.  Agencies are asked to submit budget requests that reflect the priorities of the Administration, including improving the efficiency and effectiveness of government and returning the highest value to the American taxpayer.

    To that end, for the first time, the Circular includes an explicit requirement for the entire Executive Branch to ensure that funding requests in support of Federal facilities align with the Administration’s climate preparedness and resilience goals. 

    Specifically, OMB is asking all Federal agencies to consider climate preparedness and resiliency objectives as part of their Fiscal Year 2017 budget requests for construction and maintenance of Federal facilities.  We are making it very clear that this is a priority in proposals for capital funding.  Why?  Because making our Federal facility investments climate-smart reduces our fiscal exposure to the impacts of climate change.  It’s the right thing to do to run an efficient and effective government.  And it’s the right thing to do to return the highest value to the American taxpayer.

    Of course, climate-smart will take on different meaning for each agency and asset. Our Federal portfolio of real estate is incredibly diverse, from office buildings to hospitals to laboratories to warehouses and beyond. For example, the Department of Defense alone manages over 560,000 facilities globally. The climate impacts the breadth of our Federal real estate portfolio. Specifically, many of these assets, and the critical domestic and national security missions they support, are vulnerable to climate-related extreme weather events – like hurricanes, wildfire, floods, and drought. For instance, just last week, the National Park Service identified more than $40 billion in national park infrastructure and historic and cultural resources put at risk by sea level rise. 

    So, while the United States leads global efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, we are also taking action to better prepare and become more resilient to the impacts of climate change today. That is why the Administration is working to reduce taxpayers’ exposure to the impacts of climate change through grants, technical assistance, and programs in sectors from transportation and water management to conservation and disaster relief.  The reason is simple: we can reduce future costs by making smarter investments up front.  It’s true for communities across the nation, and it’s true for the Federal Government. 

     

    Ali Zaidi is the Associate Director for Natural Resources, Energy and Science at the Office of Management and Budget.

  • Behind the Buy: Leveraging an Agile and Iterative Approach to Help Save American Lives

    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 Behind the Buy podcast, OFPP Administrator Anne Rung interviews Consumer Financial Protection Bureau contracting officer, Tara Jamison, who has experience in executing agile and iterative strategies supported by the TechFAR Handbook and Digital Services Playbook at the Department of Defense and Department of Justice. Jamison explains how, through the procurement of counter-roadside bomb technology, she used rapid development and deployment to help save American lives during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

    Tara employed an agile and iterative approach (Play #4) to buy jammer platforms that are worn by soldiers and mounted on vehicles for blocking radio signals that remotely detonate roadside bombs. Although this technology already existed at the time - its application required significant customization for combat purposes. Tara and her team addressed this emergency need by engaging contractors to determine technical capabilities and exchange best practices, strategies, and potential solutions. Every morning, Tara’s team discussed priorities for each iteration with all service branches and contractors. She managed their competing priorities by enabling each service branch to regularly test, evaluate, and aid in source selection. This consensus strategy was achieved by establishing the rules of engagement early on in the planning process between the service branches, leadership, and supporting offices. As the program matured, its purchasing strategy evolved and is now completely customized for combat purposes.

    Contracting officers must engage their customers early to facilitate collaboration and strategic planning. As a customer’s needs change, so must the approach. Tara teaches listeners that effective procurement is achieved by gauging and addressing customer concerns while maintaining the integrity of the intended outcome.

  • Protecting Public Health and the Environment

    President Obama is committed to protecting public health and the environment. Just yesterday, the White House hosted a Summit on Climate Change and Public Health. The Summit brought together senior White House and Administration officials, doctors, nurses, students, mothers, public health organizations, and deans from medical, public health and nursing schools around the country to, in the words of President Obama, “address the gathering challenges and costs that the threat of a changing climate poses to our nation’s health.”

    Congress is moving in the other direction. This week, the House will begin debate on H.R. 2822, a bill that would undermine the Administration’s efforts to protect the health of communities around the country, including those that are the most vulnerable like children and the elderly. It would block common-sense carbon pollution standards for power plants, which if finalized as proposed would prevent more than 150,000 asthma attacks in kids and up to 6,660 premature deaths each year.

    The bill would also prevent EPA from updating one of our most important air quality standards – the National Ambient Air Quality Standards for ozone. Updating national standards for ozone pollution, which is particularly harmful for children and adults with asthma, would, if finalized as proposed, prevent thousands of premature deaths and hospital admissions and prevent up to a million lost school days each year. These are just two of many provisions in the bill that would force EPA to ignore science at the expense of public health.

    We have benefited from 40 years of success under the Clean Air Act. In fact, since the Clean Air Act was enacted with bipartisan support in 1970, the economy has more than tripled in size, while harmful air pollution has decreased by nearly 70 percent. The Administration will continue to defend the Clean Air Act and protect public health.

    Ali Zaidi is the Associate Director for Natural Resources, Energy and Science at the Office of Management and Budget. Dan Utech is the Deputy Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change. Christy Goldfuss is the Managing Director of the Council on Environmental Quality.

  • State-By-State: House Republican Budget Bill Would Harm Students, Workers, Health Care, and the Economy

    Congressional Republicans have started to show how they plan to budget at discretionary levels that are the lowest in a decade, adjusted for inflation.  House Republicans are proposing to shortchange students, workers, our nation’s health, and the economy by cutting overall funding for the Departments of Labor, Education, and Health and Human Services by roughly $15 billion, or 9 percent, compared to the President’s Budget. Through a combination of funding cuts and ideologically-motivated provisions, the Republican bill being marked up in full committee in the House today would, for example, leave millions of Americans without health insurance, reduce access to early education, make college students more vulnerable to poorly performing career colleges, and jeopardize worker rights and safety. 

    The deep cuts in the Republican bill are a direct result of their decision to lock in 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 to date double-down on a very different approach.

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

    Alabama

    Alaska

    Arizona

    Arkansas

    California

    Colorado

    Connecticut

    Delaware

    District of Columbia

    Florida

    Georgia

    Hawaii

    Idaho

    Illinois

    Indiana

    Iowa

    Kansas

    Kentucky

    Louisiana

    Maine

    Maryland

    Massachusetts

    Michigan

    Minnesota

    Mississippi

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    Montana

    Nebraska

    Nevada

    New Hampshire

    New Jersey

    New Mexico

    New York

    North Carolina

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    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.

  • Priority Goal Update

    Eighteen months ago, the Administration committed to ambitious improvements in Government services and better outcomes for the American public.  We established 15 new Cross-Agency Priority (CAP) Goals and every Federal Agency published a small number of Agency Priority Goals (APG), totaling 91 goals across the Federal Government aimed at improving government performance.

    As we approach the half-way point in delivery of the CAP Goals, we are seeing real progress and success as agencies work together and break down silos. On Friday we published quarterly progress updates on Performance.gov and I wanted to highlight a few examples of the progress being made:

    • Smarter IT –On March 30, 2015, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) Transformation program began using its new Electronic Information System to accept and process one of the agency’s highest-volume applications, the I-90 form, which is an application to renew or replace a Permanent Resident card. A U.S. Digital Service team from OMB worked hand-in-hand with USCIS Transformation program staff to prepare for this release. Digitizing America’s immigration application process will allow the agency to provide a better customer experience, combat fraud, improve accuracy, and reduce the costs associated with paper-based application forms and processes. This is one of many efforts under the CAP Goal to enable the federal government to procure, build, and provide world-class, cost-effective IT delivery for its citizens. Leveraging the U.S. Digital Service team to assist agencies in designing and delivering smarter IT is a key strategy under the goal. In the second quarter of FY15, digital services experts were involved with eleven IT projects across government. 
    • Veterans and Service Members Mental Health – Data newly available shows that, for those Service members completing a Post-Deployment Health Reassessment (PDHRA) in 2013, who screened positive for PTSD, depression, or alcohol abuse and received a referral to mental health specialty or behavioral health in primary care, 55% received care at the Department of Veterans Affairs or Department of Defense (FY13), up from 46% in 2011 and performing well against our target of 56% by FY16.
    • Open Data – Earlier this year, the US Department of Agriculture, Department of Interior, and the Recreation.gov team hosted the open-to-the-public myAmerica Developer Summit. Eighty outside-of-government developers, entrepreneurs, outdoor enthusiasts, and representatives from other Federal agencies attended, half of whom traveled to DC for the event, with the goal of using publicly available recreation data to develop tools to allow travelers to discover and maximize their experiences on America's public lands. The "unconference" format, which allowed participants to form groups organically, develop and refine ideas, and work towards solutions, resulted in eleven teams working through the weekend to develop prototypes for applications such as in-park informational beacons, platforms for crowd-sourced trail data, and competitive games for kids. Hosting hackathons like this one is part of the CAP goal strategy of fueling the external open data ecosystem and feedback cycle. In the second quarter of FY15, the number of data views from Data.gov, where this recreation data resides, grew 25% to over 400,000 views.
    • Lab to Market – This goal aims to help entrepreneurs take federal innovations into the market place. Successfully facilitating their access to federal labs and innovations requires that federal employees understand entrepreneurship. 534 teams who work on federally funded R&D projects have completed immersion courses providing opportunities for experiential entrepreneurship education. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has successfully completed the I-Corps curriculum geared towards Life Sciences, and the Agriculture Research Service at USDA has begun the I-Corps pilot.  The Air Force Office of Scientific Research, Army Research Office, and National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences/NIH are exploring I-Corps partnerships with the National Science Foundation. I-Corps@Ohio, modeled after the NSF I-Corps program, is launching a statewide program to assist faculty and graduate students from Ohio universities and colleges to validate the market potential of their technologies and validate and launch startup companies.

    While results to date have been encouraging, delivery across agency boundaries is not easy. In particular there is no established means of funding these cross-agency efforts, which stymies the Federal Government’s ability to quickly and fully address these challenges and deliver results for the American people. 

    The President’s Budget included a high priority transfer authority proposal, which would provide a total of $15 million in agency-transferred funding to support key implementation activities and accelerate progress on current CAP goals. The House Republican Financial Services and General Government Appropriations bill does not include this transfer authority; as such the bill fails to establish a means of funding the execution of cross-agency efforts on areas critical to the Nation's economy and prosperity. Without such authority, CAP Goal leaders are constrained in their ability to implement effective solutions across agencies, leaving various Federal programs and activities to address shared issues in a duplicative, siloed, and ad hoc way.

    The experience of implementing the CAP Goals has reinforced our belief that Government needs to prioritize building the skills and capabilities critical to leading enterprise-wide change. Last week I wrote to my PMC Colleagues and formally launched the pilot year of the new White House Leadership Development (WHLD) Program, which the President announced in an address to SES last December.  This is an innovative rotational developmental experience which will create a cadre of high potential senior-level career employees with the skill-sets and networks needed to achieve results in an increasingly complex and cross-organizational environment.  In a number of cases I expect that participants in the WHLD Program will work closely with CAP Goal leaders in accelerating implementation and achievement of these ambitious outcomes. Agencies have been asked to nominate candidates by August 3 and the first year-long cohort will begin on October 1.  More information on this program is available at PIC.GOV/blog and we encourage individuals to apply. 

     

    Beth Cobert is the U.S. Chief Performance Officer and the Deputy Director for Management at the White House Office of Management and Budget.

     

  • House Republicans Fail to Invest in Students, Workers, Our Nation’s Health, and the Economy

    House Republicans are proposing to shortchange students, workers, our nation’s health, and the economy by cutting overall funding for the Departments of Labor, Education, and Health and Human Services by roughly $15 billion, or 9 percent, compared to the President’s Budget.

    But the impacts can be measured in more than dollars. Through a combination of funding cuts and ideologically-motivated provisions, the Republican bill will, for example, leave millions of Americans without health insurance, reduce access to early education, make college students more vulnerable to poorly performing career colleges, and jeopardize worker rights and safety, among many other deleterious effects. 

    The deep cuts in the Republican bill are a direct result of locking in sequestration. In contrast, the President put forward a comprehensive budget proposal that reverses sequestration, invests in both our critical domestic and national security priorities, and cuts the deficit.

    Compared to the President’s Budget, under the House Republican Labor- H bill:

    Health Care

    Millions of Americans could lose their health care coverage, and innovations that are helping to slow health care cost growth and improve quality would be blocked.  After five years of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), more than 16 million people have gained health insurance coverage, bringing the uninsured rate to the lowest level on record.  Through a combination of funding cuts and ideologically-motivated restrictions, the House Republican bill would obstruct the functioning of the Health Insurance Marketplaces, jeopardizing or disrupting coverage for the more than 10 million people currently enrolled in health insurance plans through the Marketplaces.  It would also deny assistance to States expanding their Medicaid programs under the Affordable Care Act, jeopardizing coverage for many millions more.

    The bill also seeks to turn back the clock on the progress we’ve made in containing health care costs and improving quality.  Recent years have seen exceptionally slow growth across a wide range of measures of health care costs. The ACA has contributed to these trends by reducing excessive Medicare payments to Medicare providers and private insurers and by supporting innovative new ways of paying for health care in Medicare and throughout our health care system that encourage lower-cost, higher-quality care. These effects will grow in the years ahead as successful delivery system reforms mature and are scaled up and additional innovative reforms are implemented. But the House Republican bill would block most of these innovations:

    • The bill rescinds funding for cost-saving and quality-improving delivery system innovation at the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (Innovation Center), which is actively testing new payment and service delivery models that will improve health care quality and reduce health care costs. One Innovation Center model, the Pioneer Accountable Care Organization demonstration, generated over $384 million in savings to Medicare over its first two years while delivering high-quality patient care.
    • The bill also eliminates the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, which invests in health services research that forms the foundation for delivery system reform efforts aimed at reducing health care costs and improving quality system-wide. For example, AHRQ’s research developed methods for measuring and reducing rates of patient harm in hospitals, which contributed to a 17% decline in hospital-acquired conditions between 2010 and 2013, corresponding to 1.3 million avoided patient harms and an estimated 50,000 avoided deaths since 2010.

    Education

    Young children would lose access to high quality early education. Motivated by evidence that students who spend more time in high quality early learning programs learn more, the President’s Budget provides a $1.5 billion increase for Head Start so that all Head Start children have access to a full school day and year of high-quality instruction and to increase enrollment. By contrast, under the funding provided by the House Republican bill, either more than 570,000 children in Head Start would not receive the full-day, full-year services they need to succeed, the program would serve some 140,000 fewer children as compared to the President’s budget, or some combination of both. 

    The bill also blocks major efforts to expand high-quality public preschool to more four-year-olds by eliminating Preschool Development Grant funding for the eighteen states that are creating or expanding high-quality preschool programs for low- and moderate-income children.   Pulling these funds away from communities jeopardizes their plans to provide high-quality early learning for more than 100,000 children, including nearly 60,000 children who would lose access to public preschool entirely and thousands more who will lose out on key quality improvements to existing preschool programs.  The President’s Budget, by contrast, expands the number of states that could undertake this important work.

    The bill also fails to provide an increase in child care funding to help States implement the quality improvements and reforms called for in the recently-enacted bipartisan child care legislation.

    K-12 students will be shortchanged. The House bill provides $2 billion less than current year funding and $5 billion less than the 2016 President’s Budget for our nation’s schools. It would eliminate 19 programs that serve primarily PreK-12 students and underfund core programs, including Title I, which supports educational improvements for our most vulnerable students.  These eliminations take away critical resources being used to turn around low-performing schools, enhance STEM education,  promote the arts, create safe school environments, and support educators who are doing the important work of preparing America’s students for the future.

    Among the programs slated for elimination is the Investing in Innovation Fund (i3), which is helping to identify what works when it comes to supporting effective teachers and principals, turning around persistently low-performing schools, and leveraging technology to accelerate student learning. Without this unique initiative, there would be no robust mechanism to test innovative ideas and scale proven programs so that our education dollars have the greatest impact on achievement.

    Colleges would become less accountable for providing a quality and affordable education.  Even as students across the country are reeling from the actions of failed and fraudulent career colleges, the bill includes a series of ideologically-motivated provisions that roll back important efforts to hold schools accountable to both students and taxpayers.  Recent school closures and evidence of fraud at certain for-profit institutions make it clearer than ever that we need more – not less – oversight, transparency, and accountability in higher education. Yet the House Republican bill would roll back a set of important accountability initiatives, including the “Gainful Employment” regulation, rules that are designed to bar poor performing career college programs from accessing student aid. The bill also would halt the Administration’s efforts to provide students and families with clear information about how students who attend different colleges fare.

    Workers and the Economy

    Enforcement of workers’ rights, benefits, and safety protections would be weakened.  The bill includes deep cuts and ideological riders that would hamstring the agencies charged with protecting the safety, health, wages, benefits, retirement security, and collective bargaining rights of the nation’s workers. 

    • The bill underfunds the enforcement of minimum wage, child labor, family leave, and other wage and hour laws, providing 22 percent, or $61 million, less than the President’s Budget.  This would result in weaker protections for low-wage workers who are deprived of fair pay, parents who seek to take legally-protected leave after their children are born, and underage workers who are put in harm’s way. Under the Republican bill, an estimated $70 million less in back wages would be recovered—money that would make a real difference for workers and their families.
    • Agencies that keep workers in mines and other hazardous workplaces safe from harm would see their funding cut 8 percent, or $81 million, below the President’s Budget.  This would mean fewer inspections of dangerous workplaces, a slower response to fatalities and serious injuries, and diminished protections for workers who report unsafe and unscrupulous behavior.
    • The bill cuts funding for the National Labor Relations Board to below its 2000 level, almost 30 percent below the President’s Budget, crippling its ability to protect workers from unlawful treatment on the job for taking action to improve their working conditions.

    Ideologically-motivated policy provisions would do further damage, such as:

    • Blocking the issuance of a regulation to protect retirement savers by ensuring that investment advisors are acting in the best interests of their clients.  This is a common sense rule that protects those saving for retirement from being steered into investments that are in their advisors’ financial interest but not theirs.
    • Impeding the Department of Labor’s implementation of the initiative to ensure that Federal contractors maintain safe workplaces and pay fair wages to their employees.  The federal government buys goods and services from a large group of contractors around the country and should not use taxpayer dollars to support companies that put their workers’ safety in jeopardy or fail to pay their workers what they are owed under the law.
    • Blocking the National Labor Relations Board’s common-sense rules to level the playing field for workers who want to vote on whether to have a voice in the workplace.

    Fewer workers would get job training or help finding a job. Under the Republican bill, two million fewer Americans would have access to services to help them find jobs and gain skills.  At a time when workers need new skills to succeed in today’s economy and businesses are struggling to find skilled workers, the bill provides almost $500 million less for employment and training programs than the President’s Budget.  The bill also slashes funding for grants to areas facing mass layoffs or natural disasters, denies needed support for implementation of the bipartisan Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, and provides none of the requested funds to expand apprenticeships so more workers and employers can benefit from this proven learn-and-earn model.

    Social Security beneficiaries and applicants would see poorer service from the Social Security Administration.  The House Republican bill provides $652 million less for the operation of the Social Security Administration, the agency charged with making sure retirees, people with disabilities, survivors and dependents of workers get the Social Security benefits their families have earned.  This cut in funding compared to the President’s Budget could lead to reduced field office hours of service, longer in-office wait times, and longer phone service delays and more busy signals for those who call SSA for help.  The bill also limits the resources SSA can use to conduct periodic eligibility reviews in its programs, making it harder for the agency to ensure that benefits are going to those who continue to meet the disability and income eligibility requirements.

    National Service

    The number of national service members working in communities across the country would be sharply reduced.  The House bill includes almost $500 million, or 42 percent, less than the President’s Budget for national service programs.  The Republican bill would mean that tens of thousands fewer AmeriCorps members would be able to serve their communities while earning money to cover college costs or repay student loans.  AmeriCorps members serve in more than 25,000 locations across the country--including thousands of public schools, communities hit by disaster, organizations helping veterans, tribal nations, and faith-based groups. Under this bill, AmeriCorps would have to drop many of these service areas and projects. 

    Public Health and Safety

    Our Nation would have fewer resources to effectively respond to and recover from public health emergencies and catastrophes, such as hurricanes, an anthrax outbreak, or a disease pandemic. The bill underfunds our ability to ensure safe and effective medical countermeasures are available through the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) to protect Americans and does not support increased funding to procure new medical countermeasures through Project BioShield that are needed to protect against potential chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear attacks. Further, the bill fails to provide the $110 million requested in the President’s Budget to more effectively respond to urgent public health crises, like an infectious disease outbreak, that require immediate or sustained responses.

    Millions of low-income women would not receive needed preventative and reproductive health services.  The House Bill would eliminate funding for Title X Family Planning, which serves five million low-income women each year.  These services, which do not include abortion, help avert approximately one million unintended pregnancies annually.  Additionally, the bill appears to dramatically decrease funding for the evidence-based Teen Pregnancy Prevention (TPP) program that has made strides in teenage pregnancy prevention across the Nation. U.S. teen birthrates have fallen to record lows, and the reduction of TPP funding could hamper significant progress made in this healthcare area.        

     

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

  • Prepared Remarks of OMB Director Shaun Donovan, Williams Institute Spring Reception

    Editor’s Note – The following prepared remarks were originally delivered by OMB Director Shaun Donovan at the Williams Institute’s annual Spring Reception on May 20, 2015. Director Donovan spoke about driving the President’s vision and budget for a whole range of issues confronting the LGBT community, including homelessness, poverty, HIV/AIDS and expanding and improving LGBT data collection.

    May 20, 2015

    Prepared Remarks of OMB Director Shaun Donovan, Williams Institute Spring Reception

    I want to thank Brad Sears, Chuck Williams, and the remarkable team at the Williams Institute for inviting me to speak.

    For 14 years, the Williams Institute has served as one of our Nation’s leading think tanks on sexual orientation and gender identity law and public policy.  Your rigorous, independent research has influenced legislation codified in the halls of Congress, made its way into numerous Supreme Court briefs, and has helped make extraordinary progress in improving the day-to-day lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people across the nation.

    To put it into context, in 2001, when Chuck Williams founded the Institute:

    • a majority of Americans didn’t believe in equal marriage rights for gay and lesbian couples;
    • no state in the union recognized marriage equality;
    • the U.S. government banned people from entering this country because of their HIV status; and
    • gays and lesbians had to lie to fight on the battlefield for the country they loved;

    Today, a majority of States recognize the right to marry the person you love.  Today, you cannot be fired from federal service because of your sexual orientation or gender identity.  Today, you don’t have to worry about a spouse in the hospital with the added fear of producing a legal document just to comfort the person you love. Today, because of the Matthew Shepherd and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, perpetrators will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law for crimes based on one’s actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.  And today, if you are applying for federal housing assistance, you cannot be denied that assistance or shelter you need because of who you are, who you love, or what you look like – as former HUD Secretary, this is something I take a small measure of personal pride for.

    At the Office of Management and Budget, we have a unique position in advancing and ingraining this progress into the fabric of how government serves the American people.  As the nucleus of the Federal Government, OMB’s core mission is to implement and enforce the President’s vision government-wide.  

    We carry out that mission through all three of our functions: budget, management, and regulation.

    Through the President’s budget, we have sought to support and expand opportunity for LBGT Americans.  In dozens of programs across the federal landscape – like healthcare, criminal justice, housing, and education – we have proposed expansion of the rights and benefits available to LGBT people. 

    This year’s budget, for example, proposes to amend the Social Security Act to ensure all legally married same-sex couples be eligible to receive Social Security spousal benefits, regardless of where they live.  

    This would mean that, for the first time, a couple that marries in a state that recognizes the dignity of their union, and then moves to another state that does not, is still afforded the protection that Social Security spousal benefits provides to families. During the debate on the Senate budget resolution, a bipartisan majority of Senators endorsed this proposal.

    We’ve also leveraged the budget to make more strategic investments in health-related priorities. As part of the President’s HIV Care Continuum Initiative to further the goals of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy and galvanize the national response to HIV, Federal agencies were directed to step up their related data collection efforts, including strengthening data collection to improve outcomes.  As a result, the 2016 Budget makes smarter investments by prioritizing HIV/AIDS resources within high-burden communities and among high-risk groups, including gay and bisexual men, African Americans and Latino Americans.

    Now as OMB Director I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that we’re currently engaged in a major debate about the budget – whether we’re going to take the President’s approach and fund needed investments, or follow the Republican budget framework that would lock in the harmful spending cuts known as sequestration and bring base discretionary funding for both non-defense and defense to the lowest levels in a decade, adjusted for inflation.  That choice has major implications for programs that are critical to the LGBT community.  For example, House appropriations bills considered so far would impose:

    • deep cuts on the Justice Department Civil Rights Division, which plays a critical role in protecting the civil rights of all Americans;
    • they would also cut Homeless Assistance Grants by about 12 percent relative to the President’s Budget, setting back efforts to combat homelessness, including among LGBT youth, who are particularly at risk of homelessness.  The President set ambitious goals to end homelessness, and while we’ve made progress, limited resources and the 2013 sequestration have kept us from making ever greater progress;
    • sequestration would result in 15,000 fewer at-risk individuals being provided with rapid rehousing relative to the President’s Budget, once again undermining our efforts to protect our Nation’s most vulnerable;
    • and although we have not yet seen their Labor-H bill, we know that based on the Republican sequestration budget framework and subcommittee allocations, that support for the Ryan White HIV/AIDS program would be cut, leading to 5,000 fewer patients receiving critical anti-retroviral treatments and 125,000 fewer medical visits at Ryan White clinics; and
    • finally, under the Affordable Care Act, insurance companies are no longer able to offer plans that discriminate against consumers due to pre-existing conditions, and because of the law, insurers can no longer offer plans that turn someone away just because he or she is lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender.  But Republicans would repeal the ACA, taking away health insurance from more than 16 million people who have gained coverage after five years.

    Outside of the budgetary process, OMB has also worked with agencies to act without Congress to help combat discrimination, support equality, and make other important changes.  OMB’s Management arm oversees agency management of programs and resources to achieve legislative goals and Administration priorities.  

    Through this team’s work coordinating implementation of Federal procurement policy, for example, OMB helped push forward the President’s recent Executive Order prohibiting Federal contractors from discriminating against LGBT employees and prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity in federal employment.  

    And our Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) worked with agencies across the Federal government to review and update policies to reflect the Supreme Court’s historic Windsor decision and confer benefits to same-sex married couples.

    Another role of OIRA is promoting the quality and integrity of Federal government statistics and scientific information on which public policy is based by providing leadership, coordination, and standards for the decentralized Federal statistical system.  

    OIRA’s Statistical and Science Policy (SSP) Branch promotes the quality and integrity of Federal government statistics and scientific information on which public policy is based by providing leadership, coordination, and standards for the decentralized Federal statistical system.

    Good data is often the first step toward good policy.  For example, in 2012 at HUD, I announced the Equal Access to Housing Rule which laid out clearly and unequivocally that LGBT individuals and couples have the right to live where they choose.

    As part of that announcement, I told the story of Mitch and Michelle DeShane. Michelle wanted to add her partner Mitch, a transgender man, to the housing voucher she received to find affordable housing.  The local housing authority denied her request.  They told her that the couple did not meet its definition of “family.”  Then, the DeShanes were referred to a neighboring housing authority -- because, as they were apparently told, and I quote, that housing authority, “accepts everyone -- even Martians.”

    Stories like the DeShanes’ were all too common.  So when we were looking at how to build a robust policy to combat these forms of discrimination, we knew we had to start collecting the data.  The results of that effort led to the nation’s first-ever national study examining housing discrimination against same-sex couples in the private rental market.  

    While many in this room could share countless stories describing experiences of discrimination, until this study there was no measurable government data to quantify those experiences.  The data helped us better understand how we administered HUD programs and also how we enforced our nation’s fair housing laws more broadly to see to it that future couples don’t ever have to endure the experiences of the DeShane family.

    What was clear in that process, as you know, is that there is no one “best and only” way to measure the LGBT population.  In some cases, such as measuring access to or discrimination from services, we want to know about sexual orientation or gender identity.  In other cases, such as in health research, we may want to know about sexual behavior.  

    When collecting information from young adults, we may want to ask questions about sexual attraction, rather than behavior. And we want to collect that information using language that is meaningful to the LGBT community and yet precise enough for policy needs—such as collecting information about transgender Americans.  There are harder measurement problems that need solving, too.  Differences in language and cultural understanding can mean that our measurement misses components of the LGBT population that may be most vulnerable. 

    And the way that many household studies are conducted (where one person responds to a question on behalf of another) may be a concern for accurate measurement.

    But it is important to get it right.  To help us do so, OIRA is leading on an inter-agency process to explore LGBT measurement issues, with enthusiasm across agencies.  The office is leveraging the same successful model used for the Interagency Working Group on Measuring Relationships in Federal Household Surveys that brought statistical experts across agencies together to improve measurement of same-sex couples in Federal household surveys.  

    This relies on a long-established process guided by the core responsibilities of official Federal statistics: relevance, accuracy, objectivity, and protecting the trust of data providers.

    On April 9th, OIRA held its first interagency meeting to explore LGBT Federal data collection issues.  The meeting was well-attended by statistical experts from across the government who are eager to discuss best practices around LGBT measurement, data collection and analysis, as well as research needs to inform improved measurement. 

    Attendees expressed interest in pursuing ongoing conversations to address measurement challenges in this area, and OIRA will convene future interagency meetings with the goal of eventually developing recommendations for best practices that would inform Federal statistics in the future.

    Before I wrap up, I want to acknowledge that over the last six years we have indeed made tremendous progress as a nation, but as the President often says, “we are in the 4th quarter of the Administration, and there is still work to be done.” 

    This past Sunday, we commemorated the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia.  We took the opportunity to reaffirm as a country that LGBT rights are human rights, celebrate the dignity of every person, and underscore that all people deserve to live free from fear, violence, and discrimination, regardless of who they are or whom they love. 

    As the President stated, “We work toward this goal every day.  There is much more to do, and this fight for equality will not be won in a day.  But we will keep working, at home and abroad, and we will keep fighting, for however long it takes until we are all able to live free and equal in dignity and rights.”

    We have made progress and we will make more.  I thank the Williams Institute, and everyone here tonight, for the remarkable work you do every day to ensure that LGBT rights are, indeed, human rights.  

    Thank you for having me here today.  Thank you for the privilege of serving with each and every one of you.  As you work to ensure our country is a more perfect union, President Obama and I will be standing by your side each and every step of the way.  Thank you.                                                                        

    ###

  • FACT SHEET: Enhancing and Strengthening the Federal Government’s Cybersecurity

    Editor's Note: The "Fact Sheet: Enhancing and Strengthening the Federal Government's Cybersecurity" was released on Friday, June 12.

    Cyberspace touches almost every facet of society and connects people in ways never imagined.  Rapidly emerging technologies have transformed economies and enhanced the ability of governments around the world to drive innovation and provide services and benefits to citizens.  Yet, cybersecurity risks pose some of the most serious economic and national security challenges of the 21st Century.  Technologies and systems of the past cannot keep pace with rapidly evolving and persistent cyber threats.  That is why the Administration has led a broad strategy to combat cyber threats and strengthen the Federal Government’s overall cybersecurity infrastructure.

    In 2009, President Obama named the first Cybersecurity Coordinator and directed a comprehensive Cyberspace Policy Review to assess U.S. policies and structures for cybersecurity. Since then, the Administration has taken a number of aggressive actions to upgrade the Federal Government’s technology infrastructure and protect government networks and information, implementing tools and policies in order to detect and mitigate evolving threats. And we have seen significant progress. Federal departments and agencies have implemented capabilities to better manage cyber vulnerabilities when they arise, and agencies instituting new methods of conducting business like requiring employees to log-on to networks using privileged credentials, instead of other less secure means of identification and authentication. Still, recent events underscore the need to accelerate the Administration’s cyber strategy and confront aggressive, persistent malicious actors that continue to target our nation’s cyber infrastructure.

    To further improve Federal cybersecurity and protect systems against these evolving threats, United States Chief Information Officer (CIO) Tony Scott recently launched a 30-day Cybersecurity Sprint.  As part of the effort, the Federal CIO has instructed Federal agencies to immediately take a number of steps to further protect Federal information and assets and improve the resilience of Federal networks.

    Specifically, Federal agencies must:

    • Immediately deploy indicators provided by DHS regarding priority threat-actor Techniques, Tactics, and Procedures to scan systems and check logs.  Agencies shall inform DHS immediately if indicators return evidence of malicious cyber activity.
    • Patch critical vulnerabilities without delay.  The vast majority of cyber intrusions exploit well known vulnerabilities that are easy to identify and correct.  Agencies must take immediate action on the DHS Vulnerability Scan Reports they receive each week and report to OMB and DHS on progress and challenges within 30 days.
    • Tighten policies and practices for privileged users.  To the greatest extent possible, agencies should: minimize the number of privileged users; limit functions that can be performed when using privileged accounts; limit the duration that privileged users can be logged in; limit the privileged functions that can be performed using remote access; and ensure that privileged user activities are logged and that such logs are reviewed regularly.  Agencies must report to OMB and DHS on progress and challenges within 30 days.
    • Dramatically accelerate implementation of multi-factor authentication, especially for privileged users.  Intruders can easily steal or guess usernames/passwords and use them to gain access to Federal networks, systems, and data.  Requiring the utilization of a Personal Identity Verification (PIV) card or alternative form of multi-factor authentication can significantly reduce the risk of adversaries penetrating Federal networks and systems.  Agencies must report to OMB and DHS on progress and challenges within 30 days.

    In addition to providing guidance to agencies, Federal CIO Scott also established a Cybersecurity Sprint Team, to lead a 30-day review of the Federal Government’s cybersecurity policies, procedures, and practices.  The team is comprised of the Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB) E-Gov Cyber and National Security Unit (E-Gov Cyber), the National Security Council Cybersecurity Directorate (NSC Cyber), the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and the Department of Defense (DOD).  At the end of the review, the Federal CIO will create and operationalize a set of action plans and strategies to further address critical cybersecurity priorities and recommend a Federal Civilian Cybersecurity Strategy.

    Key principles of the Strategy will include:

    • Protecting Data: Better protect data at rest and in transit.
    • Improving Situational Awareness: Improve indication and warning.
    • Increasing Cybersecurity Proficiency: Ensure a robust capacity to recruit and retain cybersecurity personnel.
    • Increase Awareness: improve overall risk awareness by all users.
    • Standardizing and Automating Processes: Decrease time needed to manage configurations and patch vulnerabilities.
    • Controlling, Containing, and Recovering from Incidents: Contain malware proliferation, privilege escalation, and lateral movement. Quickly identify and resolve events and incidents.
    • Strengthening Systems Lifecycle Security: Increase inherent security of platforms by buying more secure systems and retiring legacy systems in a timely manner.
    • Reducing Attack Surfaces: Decrease complexity and number of things defenders need to protect.

     

    Tony Scott is the United States Chief Information Officer.

     

  • A New Foundation for Technology Management

    It has been over four months since I was appointed the U.S. Chief Information Officer (CIO). In that time, I have come to appreciate both the complexity of Federal information technology (IT) as well as the unprecedented opportunity of technology to accelerate the quality and timeliness of services delivered to the American people.

    I am excited to help drive the Administration’s Smarter IT Delivery Agenda and the four core objectives across the Federal IT portfolio – (1) driving value in Federal IT investments, (2) delivering world-class digital services, (3) protecting Federal IT assets and information, and (4) developing the next generation IT workforce. The Administration launched the Smarter IT Delivery Agenda last spring in order to dramatically improve customer satisfaction with federal technology services. Smarter IT Delivery is focused on bringing the best IT professionals into government, establishing effective processes to drive outcomes and accountability, and partnering with the most innovative companies. Under this agenda, we have made great progress in delivering world-class digital services by setting up the United States Digital Service, publishing the TechFAR Handbook and Digital Services Playbook, establishing a central Cyber unit within my office, and releasing government data to inform better government service. 

    However, my past experience has taught me that without a strong foundation, it is difficult for new initiatives to fully take root. My previous work as a CIO taught me the importance of having foresight into IT spending, forging strong partnerships with program leaders, and having a solid understanding of the critical role that IT plays in serving the organization’s mission. This critical foundation does not exist consistently throughout the Federal Government. One of my top priorities going forward will be to build this new foundation for effective management of technology through full implementation of the Federal IT Acquisition Reform Act (FITARA) in a way that is workable, collaborative, effective, and consistent.

    To aid in that implementation, today OMB is releasing the guidance to agencies on FITARA implementation—Management and Oversight of Information Technology Resources. This guidance is a result of extensive outreach and collaboration conducted over the past four months, including a month-long public comment period. The guidance takes major steps toward ensuring agency CIOs have significant involvement in procurement, workforce, and technology-related budget matters while continuing a partnership with other senior leaders. It also takes major steps toward positioning CIOs so that they can reasonably be held accountable for how effectively their agencies use modern digital approaches to achieve the objectives of effective and efficient programs and operations. Over the next year, you can expect to see a major push from OMB to leverage the implementation of FITARA, implementation of Federal Information Security Modernization Act of 2014, and stronger approaches to the acquisition and management of commodity IT and data infrastructure to achieve our objectives.

    Our guidance not only fulfills the new law’s requirements but also empowers Federal executives with the means and information necessary to help Federal IT become an effective strategic partner to mission programs. As drafted, this guidance aims to establish government-wide IT management controls that will meet FITARA requirements while also providing agencies with the flexibility to adapt to agency processes and unique mission requirements. This, in turn, will ensure that IT investments align with agency mission, goals, and programmatic priorities.

    My intent is that this approach will allow FITARA to have its envisioned impact and further the Administration’s ongoing work under Smarter IT Delivery. This will ultimately result in a more efficient, effective, and secure government that better meets the needs of the American people.

     

    Tony Scott is the United States Chief Information Officer.

  • HTTPS-Everywhere for Government

    Today, the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued the HTTPS-Only Standard directive, requiring that all publicly accessible Federal websites and web services only provide service through a secure HTTPS connection.

    Unencrypted HTTP connections create a vulnerability and expose potentially sensitive information about users of unencrypted Federal websites and services. This data can include browser identity, website content, search terms, and other user-submitted information.  To address these concerns, many commercial organizations have already adopted HTTPS-only policies to protect visitors to their websites and services. Today’s action will deliver that same protection to users of Federal websites and services.

    Per the issuance of this Memorandum, all publicly accessible Federal websites must meet the HTTPS-Only Standard by December 31st of 2016.

    OMB first proposed the HTTPS-Only Standard in March and requested comment from the public. During the feedback period, OMB's proposal received numerous comments and suggestions from Internet’s standards bodies, popular web browsers, and concerned citizens. To assist with the conversion to HTTPS, technical assistance and best-practices for migration are available at https://https.cio.gov – a site that is open to contribution from technical experts around the world. Finally, a public dashboard has been constructed to monitor progress.

    HTTPS only guarantees the integrity of the connection between two systems, not the systems themselves. It is not designed to protect a web server from being hacked or compromised, or to prevent the web service from exposing user information during its normal operation. 

    An HTTPS-Only standard, however, will eliminate inconsistent, subjective decision-making regarding which content or browsing activity is sensitive in nature, and create a stronger privacy standard government-wide.

    It is critical that federal websites maintain the highest privacy standards for the users of its online services. With this new action, we are driving faster internet-wide adoption of HTTPS and promoting better privacy standards for the entire browsing public.

     

    Tony Scott is the United States Chief Information Officer.

  • Celebrating Immigrant Heritage Month: My Father's Journey to Citizenship

    June marks Immigrant Heritage Month -- and people across the country and across the Obama Administration are sharing their American stories. Whether you've recently embarked on your first day as an American or want to share how your ancestors came to arrive here, we want to hear from you. Add your voice to the conversation today.


    Immigration is sacred to our nation because our country has long been a beacon of hope and opportunity for people from around the world.  Today, 41.3 million foreign-born residents live in the United States.

    Perhaps more profoundly – with the exception of Native Americans – we are all descendants of people who came from someplace else.  Regardless of when we arrived or where we came from, Americans remain bound together by fidelity to a set of ideas that we all are created equal, and that anyone can succeed if they work hard, regardless of the circumstances of their birth. 

    I recently had the special privilege of being the first to congratulate a group of newly minted American citizens at a naturalization ceremony on Ellis Island.  Each new citizen started his or her own journey in eight different countries. But, one of the new citizen’s journey made this particular ceremony fill a special place in my heart: my father.

    Photo credit: United States Citizenship and Immigration Services

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

    House and Senate Republicans have started to show how they plan to budget at discretionary levels that are the lowest in a decade, adjusted for inflation. Compared to the President’s Budget, their budget will force cuts in areas critical to the economy and the middle-class, ranging from research to education to environmental protection, as well as in national security priorities, ranging from homeland security to 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 to date double-down on a very different approach.

    Click here to read more about the impact of the House Republican appropriations bills and funding targets on middle-class priorities. Click here to read more about how House Republicans’ short-sighted priorities will affect your State.

    • Read OMB’s letters to Chairman Rogers expressing concern about the House appropriations bills released to date:
    o   Defense
     

    Coming soon: The impact of Senate Republican appropriations bills and funding targets on middle-class priorities.

    • Read OMB’s letters to Chairman Cochran expressing concern about the Senate appropriations bills released to date:
    o   Defense
     

    Note: These fact sheets will be updated to reflect the specific impacts of appropriations bills as they are released. This post was last updated on June 29, 2015.
     

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

  • Moving Forward our Regulatory Partnerships with Canada

    U.S. Federal Departments and Agencies together with Canadian Ministries have been working to develop new frameworks for cooperation since the release of the U.S.-Canada Regulatory Cooperation Council (RCC) Joint Forward Plan last August. Collectively, these documents outline major objectives for bilateral cooperation over the next three to five years in specific areas of regulatory activity.

    The Regulatory Partnerships are a significant step toward deepening our cooperation efforts.  The newly developed frameworks outline how U.S. and Canadian agencies will manage cooperative regulatory activities moving forward.  The frameworks address such issues as governance between the agencies, means for obtaining input from stakeholders, and ways to promote more effective and efficient regulatory engagement between the two countries for the ultimate benefit of both countries’ consumers, manufacturers and producers.  As Executive Order 13609 states, in meeting shared challenges involving health, safety, labor, security, environmental, and other issues, international regulatory cooperation can identify approaches that are at least as protective as those that are or would be adopted in the absence of such cooperation while also reducing unnecessary differences in regulatory requirements.

    As I stated in my August blog post, Moving Forward on International Regulatory Cooperation, “Regulatory cooperation has to mean more than just “aligning” specific rules across the border; such a rule-by-rule approach is neither practical nor scalable enough to meet our ever-changing regulatory environments. We need to think more broadly and creatively about how to build cooperative frameworks to achieve our economic and regulatory policy goals in a more dynamic manner.” And as outlined in the Regulatory Partnership Statements and detailed Work Plans released today, the United States and Canada are already demonstrating this broad and creative thinking through cooperation activities, including:

    U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Pesticide Management Regulatory Agency

    The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Pesticide Programs (OPP) and Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) will work to establish a single application for crop protection products, like pesticides, that will be accepted in both countries. In addition, the Agencies will develop information technology to facilitate the joint review and processing of pest control product applications submitted to both countries.

    U.S. Department of Transportation and Transport Canada

    The U.S. Department of Transportation and Transport Canada will coordinate and collaborate on Vehicle to Vehicle (V2V) and Vehicle to Infrastructure (V2I) communications technology and applications development and implementation for light- and heavy-duty vehicles to ensure they work seamlessly across the border no matter the supplier. This work will include, where appropriate, joint planning and priority-setting for research supporting potential rulemaking actions, collaborative research projects, as well as information exchanges to support analyses as we develop new V2V and V2I architecture and standards.

    U.S. Food and Drug Administration – Health Canada

    The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Veterinary Medicine and Health Canada’s Veterinary Drugs Directorate will coordinate their respective submission and review processes for veterinary drug applications. The objective is to enable simultaneous product reviews and move toward simultaneous product availability.  The respective agencies will coordinate standards development and assessment activities pertaining to the pre-market evaluation of veterinary drugs, as appropriate. Further work in this area will also explore the availability of electronic templates for veterinary drug applications.

    National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration - Fisheries and Ocean

    The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) will undertake greater cooperation in the environmental management of the marine aquaculture sector, including by  comparing regulatory environmental management objectives and outcomes of net pen aquaculture, cooperating on farmed to wild fish interactions, and cooperating on regulatory oversight and management of off-short aquaculture.

    These ambitious plans will take time to institutionalize, but I am confident that together with our Canadian partners we can produce meaningful and lasting results. 

    For RCC updates and information on agency progress, or to view RPS and Work Plan documents, please visit www.trade.gov/rcc

     

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

  • 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