Weekly Round-up: April 12, 2013

Gadi Ben-Yehuda

This week, I've notice a lot of articles about the future. And in that future:

Dan Chenok

An update in three movements:

John Kamensky

  • President’s FY 2014 Budget. Here’s a link to the Performance and Management section of the budget. Almost in parallel, the Senate held a confirmation hearing for Sylvia Burwell to be the director of the Office of Management and Budget, where she said more emphasis needs to be placed on management issues.
  • GAO: There’s More Duplication, Overlap. GAO released its third annual report on duplicative and overlapping programs. Comptroller General Gene Dodaro testifies that, after 3 years, it has completed its sweep of the government and catalogued 162 areas where there is duplication and overlap. This year’s report highlights overlaps in catfish inspection programs and competing camouflage uniform designs in the military. The President’s budget offers some response to the GAO report, offering cuts and consolidations to the tune of $25 billion . . . starting with the catfish programs. . . .
  • VA Funding Increased Dramatically. The Department of Veterans Affairs stands out in the President’s budget request – it has the largest increase – a 21 percent rise. In fact, funding is quadrupled for fixing the perennial delays in the VA benefits determination system.
  • CFO Muscle. Federal News Radio is running an interesting series on the changing role, and increasing power, of agency chief financial officers in the midst of fiscal austerity. Worth visiting their series!
  • Big Data Scientists are Sexy Yodas? Federal Computer Week highlights agencies’ demand for “big data” scientists, calling their jobs “sexy,” but in a related article, it refers to them as Yodas. The juxtaposition is intriguing!
  • Big Science: The “Mapping the Brain” Project. President Obama announced a $100 million commitment to a project which could take more than a decade to complete, according to FedScoop’s David Stegon. The project would examine the workings and build a map of the human brain. The federal government has sparked large-scale science efforts in past decades, such as the Human Genome Project and the Race to Mars. How important is this project? It is being launched amidst a huge austerity push, led by the sequester, and on the same day the President announced he would forego 5 percent of his own salary as a symbolic part of this austerity campaign.
  • New Defense Secretary Announces Study to Cut More Costs. In his first policy speech, at the National Defense University, Sec. Chuck Hagel says he is launching a Strategic Choices and Management Review, stating:

    “it is already clear to me that any serious effort to reform and reshape our defense enterprise must confront the principal drivers of growth in the Department's base budget – namely acquisitions, personnel costs, and overhead. . . . More broadly, despite good efforts and intentions, it is still not clear that every option has been exercised or considered to pare back the world's largest back-office. . . . We need to relook at funding for these activities, which won't be easy.”

    He went on, noting: “The military is not, and should never be, run like a corporation. But that does not mean we don't have a good deal to learn from what the private sector has achieved over the past 20 to 30 years, in which reducing layers of upper and middle management not only reduces costs and micromanagement, it also leads to more agile and effective organizations and more empowered junior leaders.”

    Government Executive’s
    Charles Clark, reports that Hagel also proposes to shift some resources to the State Department.

  • Obama Administration Releases Self-Assessment of Progress on Open Government. The Obama Administration released its assessment of its progress toward the implementation of the National Action Plan on Open Government. It concludes that it has fulfilled 24 of the 26 commitments President Obama made at the UN in September 2011. The report concludes that there is “still much to be done” and the Administration will develop a new plan with new commitments in the coming year. (Note: an outside assessment was released a few weeks earlier came to similar conclusions).
  • Congress Legislates New Reporting on Conferences. Buried in the FY 2013 consolidated appropriations act (see p. 238, section 3001) is a provision that requires agencies to prepare an annual report on conferences costing more than $100,000. And: “Within 15 days of the date of a conference held . . . for which the cost to the United States Government was more than $20,000, the head . . . shall notify the Inspector General or senior ethics official for any entity without an Inspector General, of the date, location, and number of employees attending such conference.”

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