Reorganizing the Federal Government? Start Online!

Hope you didn’t miss this. In his State of the Union speech, President Obama talked about reorganizing government to consolidate programs/services.

“There are 12 different agencies that deal with exports. There are at least five different agencies that deal with housing policy. Then there’s my favorite example: The Interior Department is in charge of salmon while they’re in fresh water, but the Commerce Department handles them when they’re in saltwater. I hear it gets even more complicated once they’re smoked…In the coming months, my administration will develop a proposal to merge, consolidate, and reorganize the federal government in a way that best serves the goal of a more competitive America.”

Woot! He’s absolutely right. The overlap and duplication is daunting. Consolidating is a huge challenge – and absolutely the right thing to do. But how?

Start online!

This is low-hanging fruit. This is not that hard to do – with a top level mandate and ongoing support.

  • Put the Federal Web Managers Council, working with GSA and the staff, in charge of convening topic-based groups. Make sure every agency that has a program or stake in a topic is included. Involve program experts.
  • Charge agencies to work together around topics. Give these task groups reasonable deadlines and adequate support.
  • Consolidate content among agencies. Eliminate duplication. Show the audience where to start, where to go next, and what else they should consider. Make it easy to find and use top (most requested) tasks.
  • Bring in plain language specialists. Bring in usability specialists. Bring in customer service experts. Bring in citizens (great opportunity for open government).
  • Designate a lead agency to interface with citizens for each topic so customers don’t have to bounce around (and Mr. President – make them play by the rules).
  • Post it on (like they do in the United Kingdom with their DirectGov website).

Bingo – citizens see a more efficient government!

Citizens never need to see those agency silos. They don’t need to know you sit in different buildings, all over the country. They don’t even need to know you’re still working with Congress to consolidate programs. Aggregate the advice and options. Post it on one website and – viola! – the government looks like it’s got its act together.

The Pew Internet and American Life folks tell us Americans access their government through the internet more than any other way. So if you want to reorganize and make government more efficient, why not start online?

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Keith Moore

Hello Candi. As I outline my part II of the following will include some of your sage thoughts:

It truly is time for America to Change Its Business Plan and Start a Revolution. We started…Open Government TV.

This article is written in the wake of a potential Government Shut down on March 4th, and to be read by those who receive a paycheck every two weeks from your job. For those who own their own business, and do not receive a steady paycheck, and are committed to improving our economy, want to help government to do more with less, educate members of the House, and the Senate on how best to improve our economy, and increase our global competitiveness, I urge you to read this article even more carefully. This article is packed with truths that I chose to break down into a II part series.

The Middle East, and the recent public protests in both Lybia, and Egypt, prove that democracy has an appropriate place around the globe. These United States established its constitutional foundation on the principles of democracy. So while our over 200 year old democracy truly defines America to be the land of the free, the question is, are we in America any longer the home of the brave when it comes to commerce, science, technology, math, health care, or energy? We are now being put to the test, and over the next 12-18 months, this country will determine if we are brave enough to make the required changes to America’s way of doing business, and thinking about business and this must start with government. Why? Because Government is the largest buyers of goods and services in the world and the institution also is a regulating body, which means it establishes the standards by which we do business. For America, it’s time to change our business plan. And unless Democrats, Independents, Republicans, government workers, unions, and corporations, especiall

P. Mark Weaver

Re: “Citizens never need to see those agency silos. They don’t need to know you sit in different buildings, all over the country. They don’t even need to know you’re still working with Congress to consolidate programs. Aggregate the advice and options. Post it on one website and – viola! – the government looks like it’s got its act together.” This seems disingenuous to me. Sounds like you want to appear to be consolidated before (or instead) of actually eliminating the waste and duplication.

Here’s a different approach. Where there are two or three agencies doing the same thing, pick one. Take that responsibility and the money that goes with it away from the others.

Steve Radick

Candi – couldn’t agree with you more here. This seems like a no-brainer, especially to the average citizen. Idealistically, there’s no reason this shouldn’t already be happening.

However, as someone who has worked for a number of federal government agencies over the last eight years, I’m still at a loss for how to realistically implement an idea like this. Simply putting the Federal Web Managers Council in charge of convening topic-based groups won’t work because the Council still wouldn’t have any actual authority. Council members would also have to be dedicated to the effort, not just participating during their extra cycles. They would require a budget too – who would give them that? Even if they did get all of this, why would any other agency actually listen to what they have to say? I can only imagine seeing an email from the Web Managers Council to the CIO of the EPA, NSF, and NOAA saying they needed to “collaborate” together to create a website on the dangers of pollution and marine mammals (as an example) – they’d simply laugh it off and ignore it. Even if they wanted to cooperate to create such a site, who has editorial control over it? Who makes the go/no-go decisions? The agency with the bigger budget? The Web Managers Council? Who gets “credit” for the new site? Do all three agencies logos appear on the site? Look at the DNI – they were created for the express purpose of coordinating the activities of 17 different agencies in the Intelligence Community, and they struggle with exercising any kind of authority over these agencies to work together and that was an entirely new agency with a budget and a Congressional mandate. If they’re having a difficult time, I can only imagine how difficult it would be for an ad hoc task force like the Web Managers Council.

Not trying to be a wet blanket here because I DO think this is something that we need to do, and technically speaking, it IS a quick win, but unfortunately, this is on

Joe Flood

A good way to start would be to archive outdated websites. Every agency has them, sites that had been created with the best of intentions but haven’t been updated in years. Maybe the program that created them reorganized, the content owner got a new job, or the people in charge of them are too busy. I’d say that any site that hasn’t been updated in a year gets flagged for review. A committee within the agency could then review them and archive the ones that are no longer relevant.

Getting rid of “bad” content would make reorganizing the government online easier.

Dannielle Blumenthal

If we could all just get over the fear of change – and the fear that we will be forced out of our jobs in a reorganization – we would be better able to cope with reality. Fact is that people are fed up with Washington waste (if we are honest with ourselves I bet we will admit feeling the same way too) and are demanding that government raise the bar and act more like a privately run business.

I say – let’s get on board with that!

At the same time let’s retain the values and principles that make public service great: a commitment to fairness, diversity, stability of process, and so on.

The smart thing for feds to do right now is rebrand ourselves as a nimble group of entrepreneurs who can work anywhere, public or private sector, but choose public service. Rather than passively wait for programs to be shut down and budgets cut further, let’s proactively look for ways to save money and reduce duplicative efforts.

From a personal branding perspective, now is the time to automate repetitive tasks and eliminate unnecessary ones. If your job adds no value then find a problem and solve it. The boat is leaking…be the strong glue that keeps it afloat. Moving services online and consolidating and streamlining duplicative ones is a great place to focus.