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A Thousand Cuts

Government Executive magazine’s cover story, “A Thousand Cuts,” by Joseph Marks, paints a graphic picture of what it is like to be in government today. Here’s a list of the various directives that direct many of these cuts.

President Obama’s Campaign to Cut Waste was launched in June 2011, but it started earlier than that. It was presaged in his 2011 State of the Union address, when he said the government needed to be reorganized. While that hasn’t happened yet, there are a number of initiatives federal managers have been inundated with to develop plans and implement. . . . A thousand cuts begin with directives, memos, and orders, so here’s a list from the past year (there are more that go back further!):

(if you know of more, please add in the comment box below!)

What’s been the impact? Washington Post’s Ed O’Keefe writes about the latest executive order to reduce administrative expenses by 20 percent (saving about $4 billion a year to be re-directed to higher priorities). The order targets travel, technology, and “swag” promotional items. He quotes the reaction of one employee at the Agriculture Department’s headquarters office, who said the agency “has removed every other light bulb in the halls, consolidated office space, barely heats the space enough to keep pipes from freezing, has cut cleaning to the bone (creating a vermin problem), and leaves many employees to purchase their own office supplies.”

Trying to be helpful, the Government Accountability Office even wrote a report, “Streamlining Government: Key Practices from Select Efficiency Initiatives Should Be Shared Governmentwide.” GAO recommends that OMB share best practices between agencies on how to cut!

A more hopeful lens for how to approach the cuts, though, was offered by GSA Administrator Martha Johnson in her remarks at the Executive Leadership Conference in Williamsburg, VA several weeks ago: “Tight budgets should trigger innovation, not fear.”

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