The Administrative Conference of the United States is an independent federal agency dedicated to improving the administrative process through consensus-driven applied research, providing nonpartisan expert advice and recommendations for improvement of federal agency procedures.
Or, as Paul Verkuil, the Chairman of ACUS, told Federal News Radio, “President Obama, when he revived us by appointing the council last August, said we are a public-private partnership designed to make government work better, which is a pretty good way to put it.”
Verkuil explained, “our job is to look at the way government operates, it’s processes and and procedures and make them more efficient, make them more fair, and save money in the process if we can.”
The ACUS was established in the 60s and ceased operations in 1995 when it went unfunded, but not repealed, by Congress.
“Coming back to business is a little bit like, as I had said to the Congress, it’s like Rip Van Winkle waking up after 15 years. We went to sleep in ’95, we woke back up now in 2010,” said Verkuil.
One of the biggest changes in the meantime has been the explosion of technology. “There was no such e-mail when we went out and now we’re back and we’re in the middle of social media and we have wonderful opportunities to explain with you how we stream our public meetings and we keep ourselves interactive and available to the public.”
Federal Drive anchor Amy Morris asked Chairman Verkuil if the change is more of a blessing or a curse. “Well, you know, it’s a little of both actually Amy. I think the technology is, of course, a tremendous asset not only for us, we’re just a small agency, but for government generally. On the other hand, it’s such a complication because there’s enormous transition, enormous educational requirement and we have to get up to speed technologically in government, and we’re not always in that condition. We don’t have the resources that we need, so it’s a little bit of both.”
What hasn’t changed much, according to Verkuil, is the Conference’s prestige in the federal community. “It’s amazing,” said Verkuil. “Government officials who have been around over that time remember us very well.”
The people in government know us and they come up to us frequently and connect us. We’ve been welcomed back, I have to say. It’s a very gratifying feeling to see, not only on the Hill, but also in government agencies how much they’re happy to see us back and sort of being an honest broker in the policy world these days.
Tom Temin is the host of The Federal Drive, which airs from 6-8 a.m. on 1500 AM in the Washington, D.C. region and online everywhere. Tom has 30 years experience in journalism, mostly in technology markets. Before coming to Federal News Radio, he was a long-serving editor-in-chief of Government Computer News and Washington Technology magazines.