Chances to Innovate

Two departments received special authorities this past year that are intended to improve their abilities to manage.  It will be interesting to watch to see how they use these authorities.  If these agencies can demonstrate success, then there’s a good chance that Congress might extend these authorities to other agencies.

HUD’s  One Percent Set-Aside for Transformation. The fiscal year 2010 budget for the Department of Housing and Urban Development was not approved until mid-December.  Its budget, though, had an innovative provision allowing Secretary Shaun Donovan to set aside a total of about one percent of the department’s budget (nearly $230 million) to support a new “transformation initiative.”

The monies are to be used in four areas that have been historically underfunded in HUD as well as most other agencies:

  • Research, evaluation, and program metrics
  • Program demonstrations
  • Technical assistance and capacity building
  • Information technology

VA Forward Funding Bill. About 20 years ago, the British began to fund their agencies’ administrative budgets in three-year rolling increments.  The idea was that a stable budget environment would allow better resource allocation and spending.  This idea was adopted by Vice President Gore’s reinventing government initiative but went no where.

The idea, however, has finally returned, and the first agency to benefit is the Department of Veterans Affairs.  In mid-October, Congress authorized VA to budget its medical accounts a year in advance.  As a result, VA hospitals can plan their resources for a two-year period instead of the typical one-year that most other agencies face.

I’ll provide more details about each of these two opportunities to innovate in subsequent blogs. . . .

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