GAO: OMB should help unify agencies' siloed efficiency strategies
Fueled by budget pressure, federal agencies have launched an array of efficiency initiatives that could be adapted and repurposed by other federal agencies. But the efforts--such as the Defense Department's efficiency drive, the Department of Housing and Urban Development's transformation initiative and the Veterans Affairs Department's project management accountability system--are so siloed they are not applied broadly in the federal government, according to a Sept. 30 report (.pdf) from the Government Accountability Office.
The report identifies common, key practices within successful efficiency strategies that could benefit other agencies' efforts. Change management is important to implementing and sustaining efficiency initiatives, find report authors. Agencies are handling this by tapping top leadership to drive the transformation, standing up an implementation team, creating implementation times lines and involving employees in the transformation process by soliciting feedback. Other key efficiency practices include targeting both short- and long-term initiatives, and building capacity to scale out and standardize efficiencies.
The Office of Management and Budget is in the best position to unify agency strategies and share these best practices, write report authors. GAO recommends OMB share with agencies the key practices identified in the report. It also recommends OMB "develop proposals for funding mechanisms to support upfront investment costs of longer-term efficiency projects that could result in greater cost savings or other efficiencies in the future."
According to GAO, OMB responded to the report recommendations in a Sept. 12 email, saying the report did not give sufficient weight to efficiency efforts--such as quarterly reviews of progress on priority goals and SAVE award competitions--already underway at OMB.
GAO notes that the report did mention several OMB efforts, but the primary focus of the report was on information sharing, and "we are unaware of the extent to which lessons on these practices are being shared, since OMB did not provide this information to us during our audit."
"OMB did not comment on our second recommendation that it develop proposals for funding mechanisms that can assist federal agencies with the upfront costs associated with some longer-term efficiency improvement projects," adds GAO.
- see GAO-11-908 (.pdf)
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