Government Reorganization? Why? How? LIVE NOTES!

Back here at NAPA again on this beautiful Spring-like morning for another great discussion. This time we’ll be tackling the President’s SOTU comments about reorganizing the federal government. Tough topic so hopefully we’ll get some great information about how this process is already being implemented, as well as the challenges it faces.

Much like yesterday’s notes, I will update every so often so feel free to check back. Also, these are just notes so please excuse any lack of commentary, spelling mistakes, and incomplete sentences. Follow up blogs and discussions are to come, I’m sure, but go ahead and leave any thoughts or questions in the comments section below in the meantime! Enjoy!

Opening Remarks

Kris Marcy- Pres. and CEO of NAPA

-Lisa Brown will not be coming today as expected- took a pass due to Congress’ intense struggle with SOTU reorg plans. Supposedly too busy fighting on behalf of the reorg.

-Innovation and “winning the future” came up a lot in the SOTU, this will be one of the main topics of today’s discussions.

-Today- speculation about what a reorganization might look like

–Dept. of competition?

Panel 1- Thinking about Reorganization in a Governance Context

Paul Posner, MPA Dir., Dept. of Public and Int’l Affairs, GMU

Jim Locher, Pres and CEO, Project on National Security Reform

Beryl Radin, Scholar-in-residence, School of Public Affairs, American Univ.

-Reorg attempts in the past decades have historically not gone well. Nixon and Carter both attempted and failed. Clinton also tried but from a different perspective- not reform, not going to just “change all the boxes around,” work with what we’ve got

-4 methods by which you can reorganize- purpose, location, clientel

-there is a difference between government (reorganization) and governance- what to move away from gov reorg towards the context of governance

-Has gov reorg ever worked? If so, where and why?

-reorg appears to be a metaphor for simply improving gov

-must first consider-what are the reorg’s goals? Policy goals, efficiency goals, symbolic goals, personnel goals…what is it we’re trying to achieve

-horizontal and vertical perspectives- horizontal is what goes on mostly here in DC. We need vertical meaning the need of input and collaboration with state and local gov- everything outside the beltway basically

-Goldwater Nichols example

-Are we just treating the symptoms? What is the core illness?

-structure is not the most important element of organizational effectiveness- even though much of the western world equates the two

-there are many models of success out there, but many are tough to follow- National Security being one

-We need to look outside the beltway, yes, but we also need to look inside the beltway, BUT outside the executive branch

-we live in a society where there is a great ambivalence to the federal gov- a major stumbling block

-successful reorgs have usually been within specific agencies, not the whole dept.

—they have also involved interest groups and congress- essentially a policy change

-DoE creation example

-great clash between Pres and cabinet, and Congress- impedes process

-Why doesn’t reorganization work? Why has it failed in the past?

-DHS is an example of success and failure- span of control problems

—DHS creates new overlap and creates more problems as it tries to solve them

-Illustrates that there is no one best way to change organizations

-We have to have modest expectiaons- there will most likely be no clear immediate savings

-this is meant to be a long term work in progress

-DHS is also an example of structure not being the answer- they created hollow, structural shells essentially

-myth- if we create structure, everything else will fall into place

-another thought- homeland security is not an issue for the fed gov alone- we need state local and private- but fed is too noninclusive

-we worship the god of efficiency- it is not that simple- there’s politics and plenty of other things

-reorganization brings new costs

-reorg is not the only answer in tackling the deeper issues- interagency collaboration and tech in recent years is just as good at solving the greater problems

-there can’t be a perfect reorg- someone will always disagree

-don’t get caught up in structure being the only way to do reorg

-is there a new governance context today than 30 or 50 years ago? Are past examples even applicable?

-match programs with problems

-we cannot put this whole thing together at the top- beware of hubris- must consult local govs. They know how these programs actually work as well as their challenges

-facilitate innovators no matter where or at what level they are

-national security systems- a system of systems- not just DoD and IC- includes energy, law enforcement, environ, economics, many things

-the US is not very good at engaging the rest of the world at helping us

-we need to be more like business- rapidly solving problems by bringing the best minds together- horizontal success

-not so easy with gov- everyone operates on their own agendas- horizontal collaboration is difficult- if we can do it however, that’s the reorg we need

-for every complex problem, there is a clear and simple solution, and it is always wrong

-“blame the beurocrat” and private sector always does things better are 2 very pervasive myths that still stand in the public minds, and stand in the way of change

-what are the variousreorg options?

–competitiveness, econoomics, prosperity, international trade- all on the table, R&D

-misplaced aesthetics- charts and graphs are easy to look at and analyze- we need to move beyond that and get inside the programs and agencies and think about practical application

-The National Attic- if you dissolve a department, where do the programs/agencies go? Somebody has to take them on, so who?

-the more we create and diversify, often we just fragment

-form follows function- applicable to policy and gov too

-like ambassadors have chief of mission powers, what if we take that idea and apply it to competitveness and horizontal collaboration in fed gov

-dept of food safety idea- bring it all in under one roof

-reorganization is NOT the only answer to deal with complexity

-costs are not only immediate financial, but disruption. This leads to actual monetary problems.

-theoretically, down the road, there can be efficiency savings, but unfortunately there is little to no past examples to support this

-National Security on the other hand, could definitely stand to save millions through reform- perhaps actual savings are realized only when reform is taken on through a case by case basis- not gov wide.

Panel 2- How Do You Reorganize?

Dwight Ink, President Emeritus, Institute of Public Admin.

John Kamensky, Associate Partner and Senior Fellow, IBM Center for the Bus. of Gov.

Hannah Sistare, Former Exec. Director, National Commission on the Public Service

Alan Balutis, Dir. and Distinguished Fellow, Cisco-Business Solutions Group

Bob Tobias, Dir., Pubic Sector Executive Ed., American Univ.

-An official reorganization most likely isn’t going to happen any time soon- Congress just has too much on their plates right now.

-When is the right time? Wait until there is a crisis- that will get people interested enough to actually make things happen

-Timing with reorg is important- A new pres needs to move immediately upon entering office

-we cannot study gov reorg in isolation- teamwork between political and career people

-career people in particular should be looked to in order to know the design of the policies- they know implementation and risks, BUT they have to be willing to enact the policy when it comes out no matter what

-most reorgs, no matter how big, have a large number of stakeholders- it’s important to keep them in the loop

-outreach is also important- especially with Congress in one way or another- can do it quickly and effectively if you have the right people working with you

-if you were put in charge of a gov reorg, what would you do first?

-ask, who should be included in defining the goal? those who are going to be impacted by the reorg

—objection: this takes too long

—answer: if the goal is real implementation, you need inclusion, and time to do it successfully

-once the goal is defined, how should it be implemented, and how is success going to be defined?

-DoC- like Noah’s ark…except they only have one of everything.

-let’s not try to move the boxes, but change what’s in the boxes- how will this affect interaction at the lower levels

-need to inspect the systems and outcomes

-national strategies (not federal)- provides overarching goals to include multiple agencies and help with oversignt

-GAO list of overlapping and duplicitous programs.

-need to look at practical examples- is the duplication really costing extra money or impacting an agency or people negatively? If not, don’t touch it. Analyze the trade-offs

-overlap is not necessarily bad- need to look at what they actually accomplish- there can be overlap and still serve very different functions

-duplication- when 2 programs serve the same purpose- not so good according to GAO

-again, not study has ever been able to document savings as the result of a reorg- only costs (again, speaking of the broad, presidential, interdepartmental kind, not agency specific)

Panel 3- The Creation of the Department of Homeland Security- Lessons Learned

Melissa Allen, Exec. Advisor, Booz Allen Hamilton

Janet Hale, Dir., Deloitte

Thomas Reinhardt,

-when we thought that the transition was going to be easy…not sure why we thought that

-you need to move as fast as you can, and build teams of human capital, and then let them run with it

-be prepared for ridiculously long hours- you staff will wear out very long hours

—people were enthused by the mission at DHS which helped. Not always the case in other departments-need to listen to those people

-expect some serious micro-management especially when it comes to personnel

-surprised about how pride and walls were broken down as agencies came under the DHS umbrella

-co-location was incredibly important for DHS early development

Thanks for reading! Please leave comments and questions below if you feel so inclined. It was disappointing that we were unable to hear from Lisa Brown, but there was still some interesting exchanges and discussion by the panelists. I will be honest, however, and note that the concrete examples and solutions were few and far between. For the most part, the problems that most everyone in government already understands were merely expanded and elaborated upon. As a result, I believe there is still much to be developed in the area of Government Reorganization and there is nowhere better to do this than on GovLoop!

Watch for additional blog posts and discussions on this topic. Don’t be afraid to share your thoughts and feelings. The government needs to hear from people like you!

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