Does “Budgeting at the Brink” Encourage or Discourage Transparency?

Earlier this week in Washington DC I attended a meeting cosponsored by George Mason University and the Bipartisan Policy Center. Speakers, current or former members of the executive or legislative branches, addressed historical and current events surrounding sequestration, government shutdowns, and management uncertainties in Federal agencies. The discussions were not pretty and present a grim view of the US government’s ability to govern.

My immediate interest was to get a better understanding of what project and program managers need to do to manage IT and technology related projects in such an uncertain/chaotic environment. I wrote up a discussion of the meeting here:

“What I Learned About “Budgeting At The Brink”

One major question I have is how transparent and open to the public discussions about project and reprioritization can or should be. It is likely that many projects, despite thier linkage with legislated programs, will either have to be cut, delayed, or seriously cut back. One school of thought is that how decisions are made will have to be conducted “behind closed doors” as has often been the case in the past. Another school of thought — which I am partial to — is that we all benefit when stakeholders and the public are able to see and participate in “how the sausage is being made.”

Some wise and experienced people feel that encouraging improved openness in such a chaotic environment is naive. Others feel that the traditional lack of access to operational details is one of the reasons we are at such loggerheads because legislators and key decionmakers are so divorced from an understanding of the implications of their actions (and inactions).

I’ll be interested in what people have to say about this. Also, if you know anyone inside or outside the US Federal government who has familiarity with how projects are managed at the program or PMO level, I’d appreciate a referral.

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