The 59 OMB policies your agency no longer has to worry about

The Office of Management and Budget is cleaning out its policy closet and in its first sweep found 59 data reporting requirements that are no longer necessary.

Of those 59 requirements, 50 have been rescinded and nine have been modified or suspended for the near future.

“Our first phase release of what we’ve been calling reducing the burden. Reducing the burden means OMB has been looking at over 250 management directives that we’ve issued to see which ones are duplicative, obsolete, redundant or just low value,” said Linda Springer, a senior adviser at OMB during a press briefing on June 15. “This is something we’ve required ourselves to do as part of the broader reorganization and assessment of what we are doing. OMB is not exempt. So this is really our first part.”

In new guidance to agencies signed June 15 by OMB Director Mick Mulvaney, the administration detailed the 59 policy requirements that it is rescinding, of which 32 were information technology related. These included seven from the Year 2000 migration, a policy from 1997 around capital planning and investment control (CPIC) processes and one from 2008 when agencies were transitioning to the Networx telecommunications contract.

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This first round of policy cleanup efforts focused entirely on back-office functions, including acquisition and financial management. Springer said this was the first time OMB had ever reviewed existing policy requirements and decided which ones still were necessary.

Springer said OMB was not ending oversight or management of several these areas, such as conference spending or charge card, but rather ending reporting requirements that either no longer made sense or were deemed not to be worthwhile.

“This fits in on this war on waste, and also the idea of having government get out of the way of government in the same way the president talks about government getting out of the way of business,” Springer said. “There are tens of thousands of hours, we estimate, just associated with the requirements of this group of 59 requirements from OMB.”

Springer highlighted one example of this burden on the Department of Defense. Every agency has to report quarterly to OMB every payment invoice to small businesses and whether it occurred in 30 days or not.

Springer said it took DoD 300 hours a quarter to put together this report.

“We are still [requiring prompt payment], but we are changing with this memo by not asking each agency each quarter to give us a list of all their bills paid,” she said. “There is a mechanism for us to periodically test and do some oversight work with agencies to find out how they are doing. We could do spot audits. But to just say send us a report each quarter that is not accomplishing anything.”

Over the last four months, a OMB team of four people worked with the CXO councils and career OMB staff to determine which non-statutory policies were duplicative, obsolete, redundant or just low value. The resulting list is a direct reflection of their input.

“The obsolete ones are easy to talk about like Y2K or the BP oil spill. How are you going to deal with these things or prepare for an IT interruption?” Springer said. “Realistically are people still reporting on these things? No. But there is still a requirement out there or still guidance. All of these aren’t just reporting and some are just procedural and guidance.”

The federal chief information officer’s office initiated this look back last fall and Springer said she thought it was a such a good idea that OMB expanded it across all management areas.

Springer said phase 2 of this program will focus on statutory requirements such as the annual E-Government report to Congress. She said OMB already had initial discussions with oversight committee staff members and hope to provide some legislative proposals later this fall.

“We deliberately started with ones that did not involve Congress. So we can say we have 59 we’ve gotten rid of as a community, and then we can go to them with credibility and say now it’s time to turn our attention to the ones you are requiring and here is what we think about those,” she said. “I think it gives us credibility and that’s maybe one of the differences this time. We are not just going up cold and starting with them and more or less dumping it in their laps and telling them to do something. We are doing something for ourselves first.”

Additionally, OMB is encouraging the General Services Administration and the Office of Personnel Management to work with the related CXO council on a similar exercise to reduce the number of acquisition and human resources requirements.

She said the Government Accountability Office and the Federal Accounting Standards Advisory Board (FASAB) also are looking at their respective requirements to see which ones are no longer necessary.

Springer said she talked to Comptroller General Gene Dodaro and the head of the IG Council Michael Horowitz about this burden reduction effort as well.

“This is really a new way of thinking about not just letting things just pile up and only thinking about how can we add on, but how can we get rid of things that really are obsolete or duplicative,” Springer said. “Our motivation was just good government. And if we are asking other agencies to be more effective and efficient at what they do, it’s like charity begins at home.”