Business of Government Blog Index

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Please re-set your RSS feed to the new blog site address, as well. . . .

Following is an index of blog entries between the start, September 1, 2009, and the end of April 2010, organized around some major themes:

Web 2.0 and Social Media

Launching the BizGov Blog (09-01-09)

Blogs as Public Policy Forums (09-02-09)

Cloud Forecasting: A New Report (11-12-09)

Social Media Trends for Government in 2010 (11-25-09)

Gov/Web 2.0 Predictions for 2010 (01-06-10)

Virtual USA and Web 2.0 (03-19-10)

Middle Managers in a Web 2.0 World (03-31-10)

Using GIS to Increase Citizen Engagement (04-16-10)

Open and Transparent Government

What Do You Do With 110,000 Data Sets? (09-04-09)

New Transparency: Recovery.Gov (09-30-09)

Open Government: Implementation Guidance from OMB (12-09-09)

Implementing the Open Government Directive (12-15-09)

The Open Government Dialogue (Agencies launch 5-week effort) (02-09-10)

Making Sense of Open Gov Dialogues (02-10-10)

Virtual USA and Web 2.0 (03-19-10)

Congressional Transparency Caucus Formed (03-25-10)

Open Gov Plans Countdown (04-02-10)

Open Gov Plans Released, And . . . (04-09-10)

Scorecarding Agency Open Gov Plans (04-27-10)

HUD’s Open Gov Plan Focuses on Mission (05-05-10)


Using Czars to Govern (09-11-09)

Creating Spirit Communities (09-30-09) (based on book by Rosabeth Kantor)

The OMB Prize Memo (03-09-10)

Harnessing Informal Networks (03-10-10)

Virtual USA and Web 2.0 (03-19-10)

Passionate About Collaboration (04-23-10)

Citizen Participation

Blogs as Public Policy Forums (09-02-09)

Citizen Participation: An Update (09-15-09)

Using Crowdsourcing in Government (09-16-09)

Engaging Citizens in Oversight (09-22-09)

Citizen Engagement Newsletter by GSA (10-01-09)

On-Line Town Halls (10-26-09) Congressional Management Foundation Study

Citizen Participation: Other Countries Are Stepping Out (12-07-09)  UK and Australian Initiatives

Redefining the Role of Citizen in a Gov 2.0 World (02-04-10)

Using GIS to Increase Citizen Engagement (04-16-10)

Congress and Citizen Engagement (04-22-10)

Government Performance

The New Obama Performance Team (09-25-09)

Jump-Starting Performance Management (09-28-09) (Senator Carper Hearing)

Priorities and Principles for Performance (10-06-09) (OMB’s Zients Debute)

New Senate Task Force on Performance (10-23-09)

OMB’s New Performance Principles (10-29-09) (Zients’ Senate Budget Testimony)

More on the Senate Performance Hearing (10-30-09)

Data-Driven Performance: Senate Budget Hearing (12-11-09)

Happy Birthday GPRA! (12-16-09) by Jonathan Breul

Performance Reporting: Rhetoric vs. Reality (12-18-09) by Jonathan Breul

Using Performance Measures (12-22-09)

Managing Performance: A Series (12-23-09)

Model 1:  Performance Administration (12-24-09)

Model 2:  Siloed Performance Systems (12-28-09)

Model 3:  Performance Management Framework (12-29-09)

Model 4:  Performance Governance (12-30-09)

Obama’s FY 2011 Management Initiatives (02-02-10)

Obama’s Stealth Management Revolution (02-11-10)

The OMB Prize Memo (03-09-10)

Key National Indicators Are Now Real (03-23-10)

IRMCO 2010 (04-12-10) by Jonathan Breul (conference panel examining Obama Administration management initiatives)

Workforce and Employee Engagement

Federal  Jobs:  A New Era (09-03-09)

Recognizing Civil Servants (09-18-09)

Ask Employees How to Fix It, Part I (09-17-09)

ISO Good Ideas:  Ask Employees, Part II (09-23-09)

Governing by Suggestion Box (10-20-09)

Dealing with Poor Performers (10-16-09)

Motivating Workers (01-04-10)

Chances to Innovate (01-08-10)

Managing Guerrilla Employees (02-12-10)

Balancing Innovation, Risk, and Control (03-03-10)

How Leaders Make a Difference (03-04-10)

Middle Managers in a Web 2.0 World (03-31-10)

Mocking Public Service (04-29-10)

Labor-Management Forums and Performance (05-04-10)

Health Care Reform

Health Care Reform Implementation (Part 1)  (11-30-09)

Health Care Reform Implementation (Part 2) (12-03-09)

Doing Big Things in Government (12-01-09)

Sustaining Health Care Reform (12-02-09)

But will it work? (03-29-10) by Jonathan Breul

Implementing Health Care Reform (04-26-10)

Recovery Act

Engaging Citizens in Oversight (09-22-09)

New Transparency: Recovery.Gov (09-30-09)

Recovery Act: Shifting Mindsets (11-06-09)

Recovery Act Reporting (02-15-10)

Research Topic 2: Implementing the Recovery Act (02-24-10)

Implementing the Recovery Act: The Blog (03-17-10)

Contract Reform

The Insourcer’s Apprentice: OMB’s Jeff Liebman (10-8-09)

Out- and In-Sourcing: True Confessions (11-11-09)

Bottom-Up Procurement Reform (10-13-09)

OMB: Trying a Change in Tone to Collaborating with Agencies (10-22-09)

Acquisition 2.0:  OMB’s Latest Acquisition Guidance (10-28-09)

Signs of Procurement Revolution (11-24-09)

Obama Procurement Agenda (03-12-10)

Program Evaluation and Use of Analytics

New OMB Program Evaluation Guidance (10-07-09)

Davenport:  Make Better Decisions (10-27-09)

Risky Business:  What is Enterprise Risk Management? (10-15-09)

Financial Management

Fiscal Sanity: Lessons from Around the World (12-08-09) by Jonathan Breul

FY 2009 Financial and Performance Reports (12-10-09) by Jonathan Breul

Debt Commission in the FY 2011 Budget? (01-04-10) by Jonathan Breul

Fiscal Summit and America’s Fiscal Challenges (05-06-10)

Presidential Transition, the First Year

Link to the IBM Center’s Presidential Transition Blog, 2008-2009

Falling Behind on Appointments (09-24-09)

Searching for a New Comptroller General (12-14-09) by Jonathan Breul

Improving the Presidential Transition (01-12-10) by Michael Keegan

TWOFER (two new reports: Assessment of Presidential Transition and Fiscal Future) (01-14-10) by Jonathan Breul

Leadership Matters (Rajiv Shah, USAID, and Haiti Earthquake) (01-15-10)

Lessons on Reform

Lessons of Reinvention (09-07-09)

Dispatch from Saudi Arabia (11-2-09) an International Conference on Public Administration

Reinventing Saudia Arabia (11-03-09)

Saudi Conference: Lessons for Us (11-05-09)

Recovery Act: Shifting Mindsets (11-06-09)

Calling on Corporate Leaders: Now vs. Then (White House CEO Forum on Modernizing Government) (01-19-10)

Finding Bright Spots (01-25-10)

Doing What Works (a new initiative by the Center for American Progress) (02-18-10)

Why Execution Stalls (03-08-10)

Modernizing Government: Forum Results (03-24-10)

Australian Management Reform (04-06-10)

White House Management Advisory Board (04-21-10)

Agency Transformation

HUD Transformation Initiative (01-12-10)

HUD’s Open Gov Plan Focuses on Mission (05-05-10)

Veterans Affairs: “Transformation 21″ and Beyond (01-21-10)

Public Management Research

Framing a Public Management Research Agenda (02-22-10)

Topic 1: Performance Improvement and Analysis (02-23-10)

Topic 2: Implementing the Recovery Act (02-24-10)

Topic 3: Federal Contracting and Acquisition (02-25-10)

Topic 4: Technology, Transparency, and Participatory Democracy (02-26-10)

A High Performance Government (04-13-10) Volcker’s new reform campaign


Engaging Citizens in Oversight (09-22-09)

Searching for a New Comptroller General (12-14-09) by Jonathan Breul

Final Four to lead the GAO? (03-22-10) by Jonathan Breul

Congressional Transparency Caucus Formed (03-25-10)

5 (not just 4) names to be Comptroller General (03-26-10) by Jonathan Breul

Deperately Seeking a Watchdog (04-05-10) by Jonathan Breul

Conversations with Leaders and The Business of Government Magazine

The Business of Government Magazine: Fall 2009 (12-09-09) by Michael Keegan

Conversation on Human Service Delivery in New York City (02-05-10) by Michael Keegan

Allen, Thad (12-11-09)  by Michael Keegan

Childs, Robert (12-29-09) by Michael Keegan

Clancy, Carolyn (02-01-10) by Michael Keegan

Fauci, Anthony (12-10-09) by Michael Keegan

Fugate, Craig (02-17-10) by Michael Keegan

Hunter, Christine (01-08-10) by Michael Keegan

Thompson, Alan (01-06-10) by Michael Keegan

Triay, Ines (01-23-10) by Michael Keegan


IRMCO 2010

This week the General Services Administration (GSA) is hosting its 49th annual Interagency Resources Management Conference.    An estimated 300 Chief Acquisition Officers, Chief Financial Officers, Chief Information Officers, Chief Human Capital Officers, Inspectors General, program managers and other senior executive leaders are attending.   It is the most well known government-wide, government-only conference where leaders delve into emerging management issues and how they are being confronted.  You can learn more about IRMCO at

This morning I moderated a panel “Expanding on the Management Agenda” with the four senior Office of Management and Budget officials who are leading the Obama Adminstration’s management efforts:

  • Vivek Kundra, Chief Information Officer and Administrator for E-Government and Technology,
  • Danny Werfel, Controller, Office of Federal Financial Management,
  • Dr. Shelley Metzenbaum, Associate Director for Performance and Personnel Management, and
  • Daniel Gordon, Administrator, Office of Federal Procurement Policy

Together they addressed the 6 strategies that according to OMB’s Jeff Zients “offer the greatest potential to improve performance”

  1. Eliminate waste,
  2. Drive top priorities,
  3. Leverage purchasing scale,
  4. Close the IT performance gap,
  5. Open government to get results, and
  6. Attract and motivate top talent.

Importantly, they did not dwell on each of the 6 strategies so much as explain how they are working together, in what I would describe as a pragmatic, problem-solving approach – looking to take the best of what works – in other governments, the private sector and recent federal efforts – to transform the way government works.   It is apparent from their individual priorities as well as the way they describe how they are working together that the current OMB team is operating in a very coordinated and integrated fashion – where fixing problems and improving mission performance is no longer “someone else’s  job,”  but instead, everyone’s  job.

Topic 3: Federal Contracting and Acquisition

Over the past two decades, a series of trends have resulted in a chorus of voices in Congress, the media and the public concluding that the current federal contracting system is broken.  Between 1989 and 2000, Congress mandated deep cuts in the Defense acquisition workforce.  During the 1990s, the federal government shifted its contracting approach from one focused on buying supplies to one buying services, using new flexible contracting vehicles.  Beginning in 2000, federal contracting increased from $220 billion to over $530 billion in 2008, with no increase in contracting staff.  Finally, the focus on awarding this increased number contracts resulted in less focus on managing the contractual relationships.  This led to unethical actors exploiting the system.

Progress to Date. The Obama Administration issued a series of directives focusing on defense acquisition, an examination of the use of outsourcing of government work, the use of cost-reimbursement contracts, and insufficient competition.  It set a goal of cutting $40 billion in contracts.  It also increased investment in the contracting workforce, starting with Defense.

Key Challenges. Five significant challenges must be addressed if the Administration wants different outcomes from the federal acquisition system:

  • Restore and stabilize the acquisition workforce.  Start with attracting the right talent and ensuring they are trained and have the resources to do their jobs.
  • Achieve responsible outsourcing by deciding which tasks the government should do internally and which tasks could be outsourced in ways that can be appropriately managed by the government.
  • Focus on best-value outcomes in the context of cost and the use of the contracting system to achieve various social goals.
  • Neutralize the “toxic” environment in ways that balance between concerns about integrity and corruption, and purchasing efficiency.
  • Undertake major system acquisition reforms that include metrics for success, mitigating the uncertainties created by the appropriations process, and use incentives and disincentives for performance.

Research Questions Based on Forum Discussions. Following are highlights of some of the research questions developed:

  • What types of skills and training will be needed to manage complex products and services?
  • How should government train, integrate, and allocate tens of thousands of new acquisition professionals?
  • How significant are the transaction costs associated with Administration commitments to transparency, and who will bear those costs?
  • To what extent, and in which areas, should reliance on contractors be reduced or increased?
  • How can government develop and define better metrics on acquisition outcomes?

(Note:  the background discussion paper for this topic was prepared by Steven Schooner, George Washington University)

Framing a Public Management Research Agenda

The IBM Center for The Business of Government hosted a forum in November 2009 to examine the Obama Administration’s themes for a high-performing government and to frame a public management research agenda.

Participants included nearly 50 of the nation’s top public management researchers, scholars, and distinguished practitioners.  The forum was an effort to help bridge the gap between research and practice, and to collectively develop a research agenda that would help government executives move things forward.

The forum was organized around key management priorities reflected in the Obama Administration’s early months in office.  To inform participants in the forum, the IBM Center invited four scholars to each prepare a discussion paper providing context and issues related to one of these priorities.  These draft papers were shared in advance with participants and they formed the foundation for the conversations during the forum.  Authors used the feedback from the participants in revising their papers, which are summarized in subsequent blog entries.  In addition, participants helped develop a series of research questions they thought would be useful to both researchers and practitioners over the next few years.  These are also reflected in the following blog entries.

Noted public management scholar Michael Barzelay has written that “knowledge building is much more of a team sport than contributors to the current literature seem to appreciate.”

With this in mind, we are hopeful that the following topics, and their associated research questions, can help foster such team play by all of those involved in and committed to improving government performance.

Topic 1:  A New Performance Improvement and Analysis Framework (by Kathryn Newcomer, George Washington University)

Topic 2:  The Recovery Act:  An Accountability Test for Our Federal System (by Paul Posner, George Mason University)

Topic 3:  Federal Contracting and Acquisition (by Steven Schooner, George Washington University)

Topic 4:  Transparency, Technology, and Participatory Democracy (by Joseph Goldman, AmericaSpeaks)

Recovery Act Reporting

The Recovery Transparency and Accountability Board posted its second set of updates onto its Recovery.Gov website last week.  The new data covered Recovery Act spending in the last quarter of 2009 (October – December).  There were some public reports with mild complaints about inaccuracies, but for the most part, the new data did not seem to create much of a stir.

The “Recovery Funded Jobs” number for the quarter was reported at 595,263.  The new method for calculating “jobs” seems to be less controversial. 

However, my quick visit to the site left me with two observations.

First, I could not figure out the differences between three bottom-line figures posted on the site for grants, contracts, and loans.  There is a total of $275 billion authorized to be spent for grants, contracts and loans, via hundreds of programs.  The website reported the following aggregates on its homepage, which their FAQs and glossary of terms don’t clarify:

  • Funds awarded = $199 billion (is this “obligated?”)
  • Funds received = $57 billion (is this “disbursed?”. . .)
  • Funds paid out = $74.4 billion (. . . or is this “disbursed?”)

In contrast, a competing (but unofficial) website, Recovery.Org, reports 54,714 projects “valued at” $169.4 billion. Maybe not much clearer, but at least they don’t create confusion by reporting more than one number!

I’m guessing that if I’m a bit bewilderd, others may be as well . . . 

And second, they’ve included a really cool functionality, “Where Is the Money Going?,” that allows you to type in your zip code and up pops every grant, loan, and contract awarded in your zip code, along with a street map to show where it was awarded.  There is also a page for “Recipient Reported Data” that allows you to look at the data in different ways (by state, by types of grants, etc.)

Have you visited the Recovery Act website recently?  What are your impressions?

Obama’s FY 2011 Management Initiatives

Most of the news media focused on the size of the budget and which agencies gained or lost.  However, the budget also included an overview of the Obama Administration’s management initiatives, as well.

The overall emphasis of these initiatives is on achieving defined mission-oriented results.  It de-emphasizes (but still addresses) improvements to mission-support functions and the reporting of performance information.

The section on “Performance and Management” describes three mutually reinforcing performance management strategies:

  • Use performance information to lead, learn, and improve outcomes.
  • Communicate performance coherently and concisely for better results and transparency.
  • Strengthen problem-solving networks.

What’s New?

The sole mention of OMB’s Program Assessment Review Tool (PART) states that it “increased the production of measures in many agencies, resulting in the availability of better measures than previously existed; however, these initial success have not lead to increased use.”  So, it’s probably dead.

In its place, the Administration offers a series of interesting initiatives:

  • 130 high priority agency-level performance goals. These goals will be tracked quarterly by agencies and OMB.  Bureau-level goals will be developed in coming year.  It also hints at use of the “Citi-Stat” approach.  For example, it notes that Federal Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra recently held a “Tech-Stat” meeting at EPA, using the IT Dashboard, to detect IT investment problems. (scroll to “Chapter 19, Information Technology,” starting on p. 321 to find the budget’s technology initiatives).
  • Creation of a “performance portal” to track performance goals, and a series of mission-support dashboards.  These would be in addition to the existing IT Dashboard.  Dashboards will be created for procurement, improper payments, and hiring.  It also committed to developing a “Citizen Services Dashboard” to display the quality of government services, by “service delivery touch points” for each major agency.
  • Creation of — or expansion of existing — problem-solving networks. Communities of practice will be organized across agencies by (a) problems (e.g., climate change), (b) types of programs (e.g., regulatory or credit programs), and (3) methods (e.g., Lean Six Sigma).  For example, the performance management network will be led by the government-wide Performance Improvement Council, comprised of agency performance improvement officers.  There was also a commitment to create an electronic, cross-government collaboration platform.

What’s Intriguing?

In addition to these key initiatives, there are a number of other interesting elements:

  • A commitment to increase tele-work by 50 percent by the end of FY 2011 (the 2009 baseline = 102,900 tele-workers)
  • Creation of an interagency program evaluation working group.  The budget also invested an additional $100 million in program evaluation, in 17 agencies
  • There was a long discussion of “personnel analytics” in budget, with an emphasis on employee feedback, and a table reporting agency rankings in the last OPM workforce survey.
  • The budget announced a $158 million initiative to improve capacity of non-DOD acquisition workforce.  Previously, the Administration committed to increasing the DOD acquisition workforce by 20,000 positions.
  • Federal civilian employment increased 15 percent between FY 2007 – 2011 (the percent change was the same in DOD vs. civilian agencies)
  • The Administration says it will leverage (created to feed data to the Recovery Act’s site) to expand reporting to the sub-recipient level.
  • The Administration will create web-based platforms to host challenges and incentive prizes for innovations.

Was there anything that caught your eye that should be added?

Cutting Contractors

 OMB released a report today, “Acquisition and Contracting Improvement Plans and Pilots:  Saving Money and Improving Government,” which follows up on its July 2009 directive that agencies trim 7 percent – about $40 billion — from their contracting budgets over the next two years by improving their buying processes.

OMB says that agencies have undertaken several steps to achieve $19 billion in savings for the first year:

  • The 24 largest agencies, covering 98 percent of contract spending – have submitted plans with specific actions they will take to cut contracting costs and improve efficiencies.
  • Agencies have identified initiatives to save 10 percent of money spent through new high-risk contracts (noncompetitive, cost-reimbursement, or time-and-materials/labor-hour contracts).
  • Agencies have identified at least one pilot initiative where over-reliance on contractors may affect performance and then reassess the workforce mix.

OMB also reports that the Chief Acquisition Officers Council is “identifying new strategic-sourcing approaches, and how to structure contracts so as to provide better value for a lower price for commonly acquired goods and services.”

In a related story, the Washington Post’s Ed O’Keefe reports OMB deputy director Jeff Zients said “The government is the world’s largest total buyer of goods, but has permitted agencies to act as separate customers for too long, contributing, in part, to wasteful spending” and that OMB will increase most agencies’ acquisition workforces by about 5 percent in the coming fiscal year.

OMB offered several examples of how agencies are trimming their contracting costs:

  • Homeland Security standardized department-wide its desktop operating systems, e-mail, and office automation.  These standardized requirements allowed the Chief Information Officer to award a single contract, resulting in expected savings of $87.5 million over the next six years.
  • Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) launched a contracting tool that puts a service need up for bid “like e-Bay” that serves as a reverse auction where bidders offer their lowest price.  NNSA is seeing an average cost savings of 18 percent so far.
  • IRS switched from cost-reimbursement to a firm-fixed-price contract vehicle for processing support services, saving $6 million over the old approach.
  • Labor is investigating the potential benefit of in-sourcing a subset of contracted workers who currently process foreign labor certifications to see if this allows increased efficiency.

OMB says it will launch an on-line dashboard in spring 2010 to “allow the public to track whether agencies are progressing in their efforts. . . . Where progress is insufficient, OMB will work with agencies to develop aggressive steps to meet their targets.”

The Washington Post article also noted: “One item missing from the report is eagerly anticipated guidance on the definition of “inherently governmental functions,” a critical term in the contracting community that would clarify the tasks and services contractors should no longer conduct. Obama asked OMB to provide guidance on the matter in March. The agency promised to deliver an answer by year’s end, but officials said they need a few more weeks.”