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A High-Performing Government of the Future

Since the beginning of the Administration, the President has made it a priority to identify and eliminate inefficient or unnecessary spending, and advance efforts that help sustain a high-performing, cost-effective Government for the American people.

Since the beginning of the Administration, the President has made it a priority to identify and eliminate inefficient or unnecessary spending, and advance efforts that help sustain a high-performing, cost-effective Government for the American people.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) is a key partner in the Administration’s efforts to create more efficiencies and cost savings.  Every year, GAO releases its report identifying opportunities for Congress and the Executive Branch to reduce or eliminate inefficiencies and achieve savings across programs.  In addition, GAO provides helpful updates on actions the Administration and Congress have taken on recommendations from previous reports.  In today’s 2015 annual report, GAO’s findings recognize the overall progress the Administration has made since the initial 80 areas of fragmentation, overlap, or duplication were identified in 2011. For example:

  • GAO found that Congress and the Executive Branch have made progress on addressing 348 of the 440 (76 percent) broad areas needing attention over the past four years.
  • GAO found that the Executive Branch addressed or partially addressed 317 of the 384 (83 percent) recommended actions directed to the Executive Branch.
  • GAO found that Congress addressed or partially addressed 31 of the 74 (42 percent) recommended actions directed to Congress.

Many of GAO’s recommendations deal with some of the most complex and challenging areas across the Federal government. Fully addressing them is a long-term process that in many cases will take years to implement – a fact that GAO recognizes.

Under the President’s Management Agenda, we are accelerating progress made to reduce administrative overhead, improve training and job programs, reduce the government’s real estate costs, institutionalize data-driven reviews, reform acquisition, and driver smarter IT delivery.  A more complete picture of this Administration’s progress in reducing duplication, fragmentation, and overlap across the Federal Government can be found HERE.

A few examples where the Administration has made progress on GAO’s recommendations as well as the President’s Management Agenda include:

  • Saving on Real Property Costs.  In 2013, the Administration issued the Freeze the Footprint (FTF) policy to freeze the Federal Government’s real estate footprint and restrict the growth of excess or underutilized properties.  Freeze the Footprint was the first government-wide policy that established and required federal agencies to identify offsets (i.e., disposals) of existing property to support new property acquisitions, and that set a timeline for agencies to freeze their real property footprint. The policy was a success. Now federal agencies have frozen, reduced, or are on a path to freeze their baseline by the end of FY 2015.  For example, Agencies achieved a 21.4 million square foot reduction in office and warehouse space between FY 2012 and FY 2014. And in FY 2014 alone, for all domestic owned building types, the government disposed of 7,350 buildings, 47 million square feet of space, and eliminated $17 million of annual operation and maintenance cost as a result of Freeze the Footprint.  Building on this success, just last month the Administration issued the National Strategy for Real Property (National Strategy) and the Reduce the Footprint policy. Agencies will be required not only to continue to freeze but also reduce their real property footprint over the next several years beginning in FY 2016.
  • Reorganizing STEM Education Programs.  The Nation's competitiveness depends on the ability to improve and expand STEM learning in the United States.  Over the past two years, the Administration has made considerable progress toward creating a more cohesive framework for delivering STEM education.  Guided by the Federal STEM Education Five-Year Strategic plan and a significant reorganization of programs, agencies are increasing coordination, strengthening partnerships, and identifying ways to leverage existing resources to improve the reach of agency assets.  The number of different STEM programs has been cut from over 220 to fewer than 140, a reduction of roughly 40 percent.  The Budget builds on these efforts and continues to reduce fragmentation, ensuring that investments are aligned with the Strategic Plan.  The President’s FY 2016 Budget invests more than $3 billion in this critical area, including $200 million for K-12 education in the Department of Education's Math and Science Partnerships and National Science Foundation programs providing $338 million for graduate fellowships, $62 million for graduate traineeships, and $135 million for improving undergraduate education.
  • Improving Employment and Training Programs. The Administration, in partnership with Congress, has taken a number of steps to improve coordination and alignment across Federal training and employment programs.  Last year’s passage of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) made significant improvements in integration and coordination of the Federal workforce system. The Administration recently released the WIOA draft Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, which presents a vision of the law that furthers the goals of enhanced coordination across Federal programs.  These rules, developed jointly by the Departments of Labor and Education, lay out a common set of performance measures that will improve accountability in the workforce system and improve transparency.  Last year, the Vice President also led an across-the-board review of job training program to identify ways to make them more job-driven and ensure that they train people for jobs that exist today. This effort culminated in a report that includes a set of principles of job-driven training. Agencies across the government, including DOL, ED, HHS, DOD, and USDA, are using these principles to make their programs more aligned with one another and more responsive to the needs of jobseekers. In addition to taking steps to improve coordination, the Administration has recommended several targeted consolidations that would reduce overlap without adversely affecting vulnerable populations. And several of the 47 programs GAO identified have already been eliminated or consolidated. 

In each of the President’s first six Budgets, the Administration identified, on average, more than 150 cuts, consolidations, and savings averaging more than $23 billion each year. Many of these proposals have now been implemented, and the Budget built on this success by including 101 cuts, consolidations, and savings proposals projected to save over $14 billion in 2016. The President’s FY 2016 Budget shows that we can avoid the harmful spending cuts known as sequestration, and instead invest in economic growth, mobility, and national security, while still putting the Nation on a sustainable fiscal path. Overall the Budget achieves about $1.8 trillion in deficit reduction, primarily from reforms in health programs, the tax code, and immigration.

The Budget also supports the President’s plan to reorganize the Federal Government so that it does more for less, and is best positioned to assist businesses and entrepreneurs in the global economy.  Specifically, the President is renewing his request for the Congress to revive the reorganization authority given to nearly every President from Herbert Hoover to Ronald Reagan. This authority would allow the Administration to submit plans to consolidate and reorganize Executive Branch Departments and agencies for fast track consideration by the Congress, but only so long as the result would be to reduce the size of Government or cut costs, a new requirement for this type of authority.  The President’s FY 2016 Budget includes examples of cross-government consolidations intended as a blueprint for reorganizing and reforming the Government.  As the President first indicated in 2012, if he is given Presidential reorganization authority, he would propose to consolidate a number of agencies and programs into a new department focused on fostering economic growth and driving job creation.  This proposal would consolidate six primary business and trade agencies, as well as other related programs, integrating the Government’s core trade and competitiveness functions into one new department.  The President’s Budget also proposes consolidating food safety functions, as an essential step to reforming the Federal food safety system overall.  The Administration will continue to work with Congress and stakeholders on these proposals and to identify opportunities to make the Government more efficient and effective.

Improving the effectiveness and efficiency of the Federal Government is not an easy endeavor.  It requires dedication and commitment throughout agencies, from the Secretary at headquarters to the employees on the front line.  It requires sustained support from both the Executive and Legislative Branches.  Our success to date shows that we can improve the way Government works and provide the American people with an efficient, effective, high-performing Government.  We look forward to continuing to work with Congress, GAO, and other stakeholders to identify opportunities to create a Government of the future that makes a significant and tangible difference in the economy and the lives of the American people. 

Beth Cobert is Deputy Director for Management at the White House Office of Management and Budget.