Business of Government Blog Index

The Business of Government Blog has moved to a new address, as of May 10.  Please visit us in our new location at:

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.

Implementing the Recovery Act: The Blog

The Recovery Act is quietly influencing federal-state-local relations.  Not only is the money being used to save jobs as states and localities cut back their budgets, but the ways states and localities are choosing to use and report on the funds are creating different ways for getting “the business of government” done.

In an essay for the IBM Center, George Mason University professor Paul Posner describes this as “an accountability test” for the federal system.  He talks about new governance models in addition to the new reporting requirements imposed by the Recovery Act.

But since things are changing so fast in the Recovery Act arena, the IBM Center is experimenting with new ways of keeping up with what is going on.  So rather than just rely on research reports, the Center is now sponsoring a new blog — focused on what is happening with the implementation of the Recovery Act – at the state level.  This blog is being written by two well-regarded journalists who have focused on state and local management happening for several decades – Katherine Barrett and Richard Greene.

Recent topics on their Recovery Act blog:

Barrett and Greene are interviewing dozens of officials at the federal and state levels on what is going on, how the monies are being used, and what the actual impact is on-the-ground.   We hope you enjoy their blog and include its RSS feed in your daily reading!

Topic 2: Implementing the Recovery Act

Congress passed the $787 billion Recovery Act in early 2009.  The Act – sometimes referred to as the stimulus bill – focused on job creation, but it does so through hundreds of existing and new federal programs.  Implementing these programs falls on the shoulders of thousands of state, local, non-profit, and private organizations.  The Act also spawned new governance models.  What are the implications of these models for national policy leadership, accountability, and our federal system?

Progress to Date. The Act has helped fill about one-third of projected state budget shortfalls.  But it also created a series of daunting management challenges, thanks to a highly specific, and sometimes conflicting, set of federal goals and objectives.  For the most part, the Act relies on a wide range of third parties – over 130,000 entities reported on their spending in October 2009 in the first-ever required progress reports stipulated by the Act.

Key Challenges in Implementation. Implementing the Recovery Act has sparked a series of management challenges:

  • Complex federal program structures and reporting requirements for over 300 new and existing programs.
  • Conflicting purposes in the Act, such as starting projects immediately, but also developing long-term, thoughtful implementation designs.
  • A heavy reliance on third-parties to implement programs, where the third parties have different priorities.
  • High political stakes at all levels of government in sharing responsibility for failures or shortfalls.
  • Increasing centralization of authority over program implementation in the White House and by governors
  • An accountability “stress test” created by the Act in terms of accountability, transparency, and oversight requirements

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

  • Which program design features (such as maintenance of effort and segregation of Recovery Act funds from other funds) have worked?
  • How has the Recovery Act strengthened the role that states and governors play in the intergovernmental process?
  • How has the Recovery Act changed the audit function in government?
  • What elements of the Recovery Act might be appropriate to extend to all intergovernmental programs in the future (e.g., increased public transparency)?

(Note:  the background discussion paper for this topic was prepared by Paul Posner, George Mason 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 Stealth Management Revolution

“Where is Obama’s big-bang reform of government?” laments an insightful article by University of Maryland public administration dean, Donald Kettl, in a forum on President Obama’s management initiatives in the current issue of The Public Manager.  He says that President Obama is quietly reshaping the way government works and dubs it a “stealth revolution.”

Kettl calls Obama the “first post-bureaucratic president.”  Kettl says the hierarchical approach to government, which he calls the “vending machine” (insert cash, push a button, and out comes a service), failed profoundly with Hurricane Katrina in 2005.  He has concluded “The vending machine is broken, and more presidential tinkering cannot fix it.”  He says the Obama administration is “hitching up their governance strategy to transparency and working organically from the bottom.”  A good example is the recently-released Fiscal Year 2011 management initiatives in the budget that are built on agency-generated high priority goals and commits to creating governmentwide problem-solving networks. 

Kettl offers several observations in his article:

  • The Obama Administration will use Web 2.0 technology to virtually connect with citizens.
  • It will use “czars” to sidestep bureaucratic roadblocks.  He notes this approach has been used selectively in the past but that “this is a revolutionary-in-scale move to maneuver past the permanent bureaucracy.”
  • It will “herd cats when dealing with Congress” in that the Administration is willing to let Congress take the lead in developing significant legislation.
  • And that it will redefine accountability through the use of greater transparency.

In relation to this final point, Kettl says “Team Obama quickly concluded that it couldn’t steer the government through the usual mechanisms.  No one would pay attention to more rules, and traditional authority broke down.” This happened, in part, because the budget was no longer a control mechanism since so much money was being shoveled out via the Recovery Act and the various bailout programs.

He concludes that “This stealth revolution is an incredibly high-risk venture . . . .“If the federal government is post-bureaucratic – and no agency can control any program it’s given to manage – solutions can’t come through spontaneous combustion produced by dumping information into the Internet.”  However, he says there is a glimmer of hope offered by the post-Katrina recovery effort.  “When Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen replaced Michael Brown as coordinator-in-chief, things started to move. . . “  Government, in this case, began to work when it focused on problem-solving, rather than boundary-protecting, and when there is a leader driving relentlessly toward results.