OMB looks to get its workforce modernization effort into GEAR

The Trump administration wants to put its goal of modernizing and reimagining the federal workforce into a second gear.

As in a Government Effectiveness Advanced Research (GEAR) Center.

The Office of Management and Budget released a request for information to create a GEAR Center, which would be a “public-private partnership focused on applied research that improves mission delivery, citizen services and stewardship of public resources.”

The administration proposed a GEAR Center as part of its reform and reorganization plan issued in January.

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The center “would address operational and strategic challenges facing the federal government, both now and into the future  by engaging researchers, academics, non-profits, and private industry across an array of disciplines, such as data science, organizational behavior and user-centered design.”

In the RFI, OMB detailed two possible early focus areas.

It says one area would seek to reskill the federal workforce to focus on modern, technology-driven jobs. This would be inline with the President’s Management Agenda’s goal of moving employees to high-valued work from low-valued.

“Live-testing innovative reskilling models is a tangible example of how the GEAR Center would help translate the latest knowledge and practice about effective adult learning into a real-time federal environment,” the RFI states. “It would provide the federal government with the opportunity to catch up with where private-sector services and capabilities are today and lay the  groundwork for where government operations and services need to be in 5, 10, or 20 years.”

Under the PMA, the modernizing the federal workforce goal reported all six of its fiscal 2018 goals for the fourth quarter are on track. The goal leaders — OMB, Office of Personnel Management and the Defense Department — say two goals for second quarter of fiscal 2019 include developing a plan for the reskilling and redeploying talent in the federal workforce by identifying both ways to provide employees impacted by automation to do other work and identify skills needed in the future, and conducting a pilot to assess high demand skills that can be used for reskilling existing employees.

Utilizing data

The second area of focus is part of another PMA goal—leveraging data as a strategic asset.

The RFI asks vendors to help better use federal data to meet consumer demands.

“Results could potentially be scaled across government more broadly and would inform federal policy and practice,” the RFI states. “This work would be an important, high-level complement to existing ways that the private sector and academia already inform federal work.”

OMB wants feedback across eight questions in the RFI broken down across establishing the GEAR Center, governance and the two early focus areas.

Responses are due Sept. 14, but before the responses are due OMB expects to hold an industry conference to discuss the written responses to the RFI as well to determine next steps in establishing the GEAR Center, which may include issuing a challenge or pursuing another open type of competition.

OMB said it anticipates providing start-up funding for the center, but the public-private partnership would have to come up with a longer term funding strategy.

“Through applied research and live pilot testing, the GEAR Center would connect cutting-edge thinking with real-world challenges the federal government faces in serving Americans in the digital age,” the RFI states. “This means re-imagining possibilities for how citizens interact with the government; rethinking the delivery of citizen services and data; reforming core processes (e.g., procurement, budget, IT investment and capital allocation); and exploring how the public-sector workforce can be developed, reskilled and redeployed in creative ways. The focus would be on the federal government, but we expect it could also involve interested State and local governments.”