OMB seeks approval for agencies to ante up $15M for cross-agency goals

The White House is asking Congress for permission to “pass-the-hat” to pay for cross-agency priority goals.

Instead of just using existing authority under the Clinger-Cohen Act to take money from agencies, President Barack Obama is trying an approach his predecessor never did or felt he needed to.

“The budget proposes authority for the Office of Management and Budget director, with prior notification to the Congress, to transfer up to $15 million to support these cross-cutting management initiatives,” the budget stated. “This proposal institutionalizes a capability to fund cross-agency efforts, rather than handling the challenges on a case-by-case basis.”`

Traditionally, OMB told agencies to find the money to pay for common priorities under the e-government program. Under President George W. Bush, agencies had to “find” anywhere from tens of thousands of dollars to millions of dollars to pay for these governmentwide initiatives.

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But the Obama administration took a different approach to high-priority goals, asking each agency to come up with three-to-eight objectives. It has been only in the last few years since the White House added governmentwide goals around mission and management categories.

As agency leaders made progress such as the benchmarking initiative, the cost to run and keep these programs going grew, causing the President to ask for this authority from Congress.

“While impressive progress has been seen on CAP goal priorities, overall performance delivery across agency boundaries remains a challenge, and in many cases significant management improvements require investments that cut across agencies and bud­get accounts,” the budget stated. “The government can and should be more effective and efficient, and this proposal will provide a powerful tool to turn management reform ideas into real and lasting results for the American people.”

Beth Cobert, OMB’s deputy director for management, said Monday during a press briefing that the performance goals are developed through the Government Performance and Results Act Modernization Act (GPRAM). She said through these goals, agencies and OMB are focused on improving coordination across multiple areas.

Increasing the SAT

The White House detailed several CAP goal-related initiatives in the budget request, starting with the strategic sourcing goal.

OMB highlighted its focus on category management, which is a new approach to take advantage of data to help agencies buy more efficiently and effectively, in the budget.

“This new approach will build on the progress made in the strategic sourcing initiative, lever­aging the consolidated purchasing power of the Government to buy smarter and reduce dupli­cation,” the documents stated. “Increased use of strategic sourcing has saved over $417 million since 2010, and reduced some areas of contract duplication by up to 40 percent.”

As part of this new approach to buying, the administration is proposing to Congress to raise the Simplified Acquisition Threshold to $500,000 from $150,000.

This was one of two acquisition related legislative proposals the White House plans to submit to Congress.

Cobert said this would change would enable agencies to buy products and services more easily.

“We think that is a great way to bring some more companies in the marketplace and make the process easier for contractors and agencies as well,” she said. “We also have a pilot program around some innovation set-asides at a modest scale, which would help us as well to bring in some more innovative companies. As part of our training and as part of our thinking about requirements, we also want to encourage — and we have — to think about who can really best fulfill those requirements, how do you think about experience outside of the government when it’s relevant to use that in making decisions as well.”

The White House is expanding its customer service cross-agency goal. In the budget documents, the administration stated it created a community of practice around customer service to develop standards, practices and tools for agencies to improve. The President announced in November during a speech before the Senior Executive Service (SES) that he is establishing an award for customer service. In the budget, the White House said that program would begin this fall.

“We know that the government must be able to keep pace with the innovation and user experiences that the American people and businesses expect in their everyday life. Americans are increasingly relying on technology for basic services and information,” Cobert said. “Their interactions with government should be as simple and straightforward as using their smartphone or buying something online. This is especially true when it comes to improving common government-citizen transactions like veterans pension and disability applications, social security benefits, applying for a small business loan or getting information about opportunities to work for the government.”

Another call for a civilian BRAC

Outside of the cross-agency goals, the White House is trying once again to change how the government disposes of excess property.

Obama said the government has shed almost 10.2 million square feet of office and warehouse space since 2012.

“In 2015, the administration will implement a five-year national strategy to continue reducing the size of the portfolio, and agencies will be re­quired to set annual reduction targets for office and warehouse space and annual disposal targets for all building types to further reduce costs,” the documents stated.

One way the government will continue to reduce its underutilized office space is through a new initiative that would give the General Services Administration $200 million collected from annual rent payments from agencies to consolidate office space.

Congress gave GSA $70 million in 2015 to begin the process.

“This will allow the government to more effectively use real property by relocating federal agencies into more efficient, lower cost or consolidated locations that also enable improved delivery of government services,” the document stated. “More than a dozen consolidations were implemented in 2014, the first year of the program, and the changes be­gun in that year alone will ultimately yield more than $16 million in annual cost avoidance to the taxpayer each year that the government leases or owns the properties involved. Over time, this will result in significant avoided cost for this port­folio and will reduce the federal real property footprint by approximately 500,000 square feet.”

The administration, once again, is asking Congress to pass the Civilian Agency Property Realignment Act (CPRA) as a second way to reduce excess property.

The President proposed the legislation in his 2012 budget, and a bill passed the House, but died in the Senate that year.

Under the 2016 request, the White House is asking for $57 million, down from $87 million in the 2011 version.

“If enacted, CPRA would create an independent board of private and public sector real estate experts that would perform governmentwide, independent portfolio analysis and make recommendations to the Congress on properties that should be disposed, consolidated, co-located, or reconfigured,” the document stated. “Enactment of CPRA would help consolidate government operations, streamline the disposal process, generate an estimated $1.2 billion in sales proceeds over 10 years, further re­duce operations and maintenance costs associated with excess buildings, and provide funds for real property reinvestment.”

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