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Peter Orszag: Putting the 'M' back in OMB

President Barack Obama's budget director, Peter Orszag, produced one of the least covered but most important stories of the week on Tuesday. Speaking at the Center for American Progress, a liberal Washington think tank, Orszag sketched out a broad agenda for attacking federal waste and improving employee productivity.

The Obama administration has already rolled out a number of initiatives to improve federal productivity, including a faster hiring process, greater government transparency, and an attack on wasteful contracts.

Drawing inspiration from Alexander Hamilton, Orszag upped the ante Tuesday, promising to eliminate duplication across the federal organization chart, increase efficiency through "cloud computing" and other IT investments and impose a permanent five-percent cut in the federal discretionary budget. He also promised to attack the $100 billion the federal government wastes each year through improper payments to the wrong person at the wrong time or in the wrong amount.

If he can get it all, the federal government could reap hundreds of billions in savings, if not a $1 trillion or more over the next 10 years. That would make a real dent in the federal debt, and it stands as a direct response to conservatives who are clamoring for pay and hiring freezes, personnel cuts, and random winnowing of key federal programs.

Orszag's most important proposal involves the so-called "IT gap." His favorite example is the Patent and Trademarks Office, which received more than 80 percent of applications electronically, but prints them all out for processing. His answer? Use electronic records to accelerate everything from collecting Census data to making benefit decisions at the Veterans Affairs Department.

Hopefully, Orszag's aggressive proposal is just the beginning of a sweeping overhaul of the federal bureaucracy. At least by my own back-of-the-envelope calculations, there is another $1 trillion waiting to be harvested through the long-overdue flattening and consolidation of the antiquated federal organization chart.

The president could reap $1 billion by cutting the number of presidential appointees, for example. Indeed, Senators Russ Feingold and John McCain have already introduced a proposal to cut the number by from 3,000 to 2,000. Add in the savings from improving the government's ability to connect the dots and move appointees into office faster, and the total might reach $100 billion over ten years.

The president could save another $100 billion by eliminating needless management layers throughout the federal hierarchy. The flattening of government should not be restricted to the just to the dozens of needless layers at the very top of the hierarchy. It should also target the middle- and lower-level layers that produce constant problems connecting the dots. Cut those layers in half, and the savings are obvious.

The president could save another $200 billion by eliminating many of the federal jobs about to be vacated by the baby boomers. Tempting though it will be to fill the roughly half million vacancies with the next federal employee in line for promotion, many of posts may turn out to be superfluous.

The president could save $200 billion by cutting the contracting workforce as its baby-boom employees retire, too. My estimates put the contractor workforce at 7.6 million in 2005, and it can only have grown sense. Alongside its plan to capture nearly $40 billion in contractor waste, a 20 percent cut in contractor employment would produce much more.

The president could save $200 billion by eliminating programs that do not produce what Hamilton called "extensive and arduous enterprise for the public benefit." These are not the programs on Orszag's proposed "do not work" list. Rather, they are the programs such as agriculture-price supports that provide private benefit at the expense of taxpayer burden.

Finally, throw in an effort to collect the $300 billion in delinquent taxes and the savings easily reach $1 trillion.

Orszag may already be considering these kinds of proposals, although they all carry huge political risks. The Tea Party would have a field day attacking the Obama administration for hiring enough Internal Revenue Service agents to get at the delinquent debt, for example.

One thing is certain, however. Orszag has already eclipsed his predecessors at OMB in leading government reform. He is well on his way to putting the "M" back in OMB by making management a core of his budget agenda. That is a signal accomplishment, a sign of courageous leadership, and a harbinger of a much more productive bureaucracy.

By Paul Light

 |  June 9, 2010; 10:33 AM ET |  Category:  Federal government leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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Orszag is a darn fool... the government can't make anyone work after their 1 year... don't get me wrong, but a good percentage of govies after their 1 year just don't give a crap, a lot of them do work, but even if 5% don't then how efficient is that... on top of it they are paid more than the private sector and have king benefits for life... I am supposed to believe that the contractor's who make less, get worse benefits (note for life too) and can be kicked off the job for no reason are a worse deal???! Are you kidding me, how does the Kool-Aid taste Peter, because you drank it all.

Posted by: Strocity | June 10, 2010 9:23 PM

All sounds great, lets see how its implemented, by those it effects. Ergo the problem with administration changes, we are smart enough to build a International Standard Organization for industry, why not governments. Now that would save and allow funds to get greater impact where needed to take back our economic global leadership

Posted by: gordon9 | June 10, 2010 1:11 PM

Still waiting DOJ for the 5 USC 552a(2) reports to OMB and the public

From: Tham, Mo-Yain
To: kaysieverding
Subject: RE: status of request
Date: Thu, May 6, 2010 12:11 pm
Dear Kay,

The reviewer is looking over the final response to your request.

FOIA Specialist
Office of Information Policy

From: kaysieverding@aol.com [mailto:kaysieverding@aol.com]
Sent: Thursday, May 06, 2010 10:50 AM
To: Tham, Mo-Yain
Subject: status of request

What is status of this request?

Kay Sieverding
641 Basswood Ave
Verona WI 53593
608 848 5721

FOIA/PA Mail Referral Unit
Department of Justice Room 115 LOC Building
Washington, DC 20530-0001

Dear USDOJ FOIA Referral

I am requesting:

1.) Privacy Act complaint log for USDOJ for 2005-2009. I saw that USMS released an FOIA complaint log to “governmentattic.org” but there is no similar Privacy Act Complaint log that I could find.

2.) USDOJ actions taken in response to Privacy Act complaints.

3.) USDOJ discussion or memos about Privacy Act complaints.


Kay Sieverding

Posted by: kay_sieverding | June 10, 2010 11:41 AM

I sued DOJ for imprisoning me without an arraignment or criminal charge. (I don't have a criminal record.) Since DOJ did this multiple times, I had complained to DOJ about it, and then they did it again. They didn't acknowledge my complaints. They used matching systems to do so, since they held me in contract jails that defined prisoner as a person charged with a criminal offense. I filed for injunctive relief to get the Privacy Act reports. DOJ opposed that motion, saying I didn't have "standing". See D of Col federal court 09-cv-0562.

Posted by: kay_sieverding | June 10, 2010 9:33 AM


(u) Data Integrity Boards.—
(1) Every agency conducting or participating in a matching program shall establish a Data Integrity Board to oversee and coordinate among the various components of such agency the agency’s implementation of this section.
(2) Each Data Integrity Board shall consist of senior officials designated by the head of the agency, and shall include any senior official designated by the head of the agency as responsible for implementation of this section, and the inspector general of the agency, if any. The inspector general shall not serve as chairman of the Data Integrity Board.
(3) Each Data Integrity Board—
(A) shall review, approve, and maintain all written agreements for receipt or disclosure of agency records for matching programs to ensure compliance with subsection (o), and all relevant statutes, regulations, and guidelines;
(B) shall review all matching programs in which the agency has participated during the year, either as a source agency or recipient agency, determine compliance with applicable laws, regulations, guidelines, and agency agreements, and assess the costs and benefits of such programs;
(C) shall review all recurring matching programs in which the agency has participated during the year, either as a source agency or recipient agency, for continued justification for such disclosures;
(D) shall compile an annual report, which shall be submitted to the head of the agency and the Office of Management and Budget and made available to the public on request, describing the matching activities of the agency, including—
(i) matching programs in which the agency has participated as a source agency or recipient agency;
(ii) matching agreements proposed under subsection (o) that were disapproved by the Board;
(iii) any changes in membership or structure of the Board in the preceding year;
(iv) the reasons for any waiver of the requirement in paragraph (4) of this section for completion and submission of a cost-benefit analysis prior to the approval of a matching program;
(v) any violations of matching agreements that have been alleged or identified and any corrective action taken; and
(vi) any other information required by the Director of the Office of Management and Budget to be included in such report;

OMB doesn't have these required reports for DOJ and many other agencies.

Posted by: kay_sieverding | June 10, 2010 7:31 AM

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