Reorganizing Uncle Sam: Missing Out on Retiree Input?

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By on March 29, 2011 in Current Events, Human Resources with 5 Comments

On March 11, the President in a memo
directed Deputy OMB Chief and Chief Performance Officer Jeffrey Zients to
create a plan to reorganize a number of Agencies involved in trade by June 11
of this year.  In what was a great idea,
Mr. Zients established a website to get the views of Federal employees. (See this related article)

I thought it might consider Federal retirees
ideas as well so I tried using it. 
Sorry, but it won’t let you play unless you have a Federal email
address.  So aren’t they interested in
the ideas of Federal retirees or other stakeholders?  I sent an email to OMB asking that question
but they haven’t responded. So I thought, let’s look at some ideas and see how Fedsmith readers might respond as many, if not all, are folks with a Federal interest. 

Fedsmith’s survey asks six
questions. Here they are:

Should the
government use a BRAC (Base Closure and Realignment Commission see type effort to assess civilian Agencies, programs
and facilities?

Virtually everyone involved believed the BRAC effort was bipartisan, operated under a specific criteria and
was accomplished within a reasonable time. The BRAC Commission didn’t cherry pick (as appears the case in the
current effort) but looked at DoD-wide needs and through a comprehensive
process decided what facilities should and shouldn’t be closed.  While BRAC, as constituted, wouldn’t work for reorganization, its model certainly would.

2. Should civilian Agencies consolidate services (Such as Human Resources, Agency
Counsel, EEO, Inspectors General, Information Systems, Finance/payroll,
Security etc) wherever doing so would save money?

Scroll through WIKI’s list of government agencies
BRAC (above) was part of a determined
effort, very painful at the time, to eliminate as much duplication of effort as
possible in DOD.  In that effort, human
resources offices were consolidated as were a number of other common
services.  For example, my favorite
Federal Agency, the Federal Labor Relations Authority according to its 2011
report, has its own IG, Human Resources, Budget and Finance staff and other
administration to the tune of at least 13 FTEs to provide common services to
101 other staff.  The Merit Systems
Protection Board, in its budget, says it has 29 management support people to
provide common services to 184 staff.  These
folks are blocks apart in DC. If you drew a circle with the FLRA as the center
and having a one mile radius, I bet you could save tens of millions a year
consolidating common services among only the small agencies in that circle.  Get smart, Mr. Zients, here’s some low
hanging fruit.

3. Should small
Agencies, Boards, Commissions (there are lots of these)be consolidated wherever doing so saves money and
makes sense?

Did you know that there are
separate Federal commissions dealing with marine mammals, migratory birds, and
endangered species?  Now I’m up for
saving the whales, ducks and snail darters but do we need a slew of these
little Agencies and the EPA, the Fish and Wildlife Service, Forest Service and
whoever else deals with these issues to each have their own separate organization? 

4. Should there be a
single government-wide system for such matters as granting security clearances,
contracting, police and guards, travel, etc.?

Just about every Agency has a
sizable contracting function, lots of these Agencies do their own security
screening and I once read that there are thirteen different Federal police
departments in DC. I mean, now really!

5. Should all
Federal Agencies be required to use government office space when available?

I’ve done a bunch of training over the years and spent a lot of time in
Federal space.  The one rule that
appeared consistent was that there was no consistency in the management of
space.  GSA does try to rein in the
players but enabling legislation often lets people off the hook.  I was always amazed, by the way, at how very
little is done to share training space and, as a result, how much hotel space
(Expensive!) is used as a result.  The
company I work with offers lower prices or free tuition in exchange for an
Agency sponsoring a program by allowing it to be held in its space.  Everybody saves everybody wins.  I’ve also noticed that when established
agencies lost people, frequently the space went unused.  Couldn’t we house the Morris Udall
Foundation, Millenium Challenge Corporation or maybe the Denali Commission in
an unused office at USDA or Interior?

6. Should there be a
required up or down congressional vote on each government program periodically?

Perhaps year, on the day before they go home for Christmas, the
Congress could set up a process whereby it took, let’s say, 1/5 of Uncle Sam’s
programs and voted whether we should continue, modify or end them.  If we did that, every 5 years we’d have a
shot at putting no longer relevant programs behind us.  Of course, the Congress is no friend of
government reorganization.  For example,
when the Dept. of Transportation was set up, its component Agencies were still
overseen by the same old Congressional committees.  When my spouse and I worked in DC, there was
talk of a furlough at DOT but my wife’s Agency, the Maritime Administration,
wasn’t worried since it wasn’t covered by the appropriations bill that funded
the rest of DOT.  I wasn’t worried either
because my employer at the time, the National Transportation Safety Board,
wasn’t part of DOT, go figure.

All of what has happened to construct the inherent wackiness of
government organization wasn’t created in three months or three years or even
three decades.  If I still worked in a
Federal Agency, I’d be worried about the wisdom of Mr. Zients, the private
sector wonder boy, trying to unscramble it on the fly.  Mr. Zients isn’t trying, of course, for good
government but rather political fodder. 
Few administrations try to understand how government got where it is as
a primer to try and make it better and these guys are no exception.  I just hope Mr. Zients does more good than
harm for once.  Go talk to the BRAC folks
Jeff!  They actually tried to understand
the problem before they started to dismantle Humpty Dumpty’s wall.

As always, the above is my opinion and mine alone.

Fedsmith’s survey asks six
questions. Take this survey today and send in your views. We will publish the results next week.

© 2017 Bob Gilson. All rights reserved. This article may not be reproduced without express written consent from Bob Gilson.


About the Author

Bob Gilson is a consultant with a specialty in working with and training Federal agencies to resolve employee problems at all levels. A retired agency labor and employee relations director, Bob has authored or co-authored a number of books dealing with Federal issues and also conducts training seminars.