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Justice, Fairness, Inclusion, and Performance.

President Trump's Government Reform Initiatives

April 26, 2017

Summary of April 26, 2017 EOM Panel Meeting


Media reports on the various reform announcements focused on potential staffing and budget reductions, but OMB staff noted upfront that their observation from the inside is that “there is genuine, sincere interest in fixing things that are broken,” and that the goal of the Administration is not to just make incremental progress on what is currently underway but to identify and fix fundamental problems. Echoing public statements by OMB’s political leadership, they noted that this is not a disguise for budget-cutting. That will happen, but on a separate track within OMB. They noted that they’ve been told: “don’t leave anything off the table,” but to start with a blank page and look for bold actions. The vision is to develop a “comprehensive plan for reforming the government.”

Background Reading

  • Presidential Memorandum: Hiring Freeze (January 23, 2017)
  • Executive Order 13781: Developing a Comprehensive Plan to Reorganize the Executive Branch (March 13, 2017)
  • America First: Budget Blueprint for FY 2018 (March 16, 2017) – see esp. pp. 7-8.
  • Presidential Memorandum: White House Office of American Innovation (March 27, 2017)
  • OMB Guidance: M-17-22, Comprehensive Plan for Reforming the Federal Government and Reducing the Federal Civilian Workforce. (Apr 12, 2017)

To date, there have been four presidential actions that outline the Trump Administration’s management reform initiatives:

  1. A memo calling for a restructuring of the federal workforce, and reducing it by attrition.
  2. A set of management priorities to be achieved by 2020, accompanying the fiscal year 2018 budget.
  3. An executive order to “reorganize the executive branch,” which encourages agencies to take a fresh look at what they do and how they do it.
  4. An executive order creating a White House Office of American Innovation headed by Jared Kushner, which is charged with working with private sector executives to “improve government operations” in part by “scaling proven private-sector models.”

These four actions were tied together by OMB via guidance for “reforming the federal government and reducing the federal civilian workforce,” which was sent to agencies in mid-March. That guidance creates a framework and timetable for action that is rooted in the use of existing management, planning, and budget decision-making processes, rather that creating a separate effort.

Elements of the President’s Management Agenda

By 2020, the Administration hopes to achieve another four sets of initiatives:

  1. Manage programs and deliver services more effectively by taking “an evidence-based approach to improving programs and services – using real, hard data to identify poorly performing organizations and programs.”
  2. Eliminate costly, unproductive compliance requirements because “Governmentwide policies often tie agencies’ hands and keep managers from making commonsense decisions.”
  3. Fix mission support services in order to “make federal agencies more effective and efficient in supporting program outcomes.” The agenda notes that this initiative will: “Use available data to develop targeted solutions to problems Federal managers face . . . by sharing and adopting leading practices from the private and public sectors.” Target areas would include “how agencies buy goods and services, hire talent, use their real property, pay their bills, and utilize technology.” Report critical performance metrics and show demonstrable improvement at the agency level. The agenda notes: “OMB will also regularly review agency progress in implementing these reforms to ensure there is consistent improvement.”
  4. Establish a timetable for action. The OMB Guidance sets a deadline of June 30th for each agency to submit high-level drafts of their Agency Reform Plans to OMB for review, along with their plans to maximize employee performance. As part of their plans, agencies are to identify their major programs, who manages them, and identify ways to focus support on helping them. OMB has asked agencies to designate a senior accountable official. Many have designated their Performance Improvement Officers.

Final agency plans are due to OMB in mid-September, along with their FY 2019 budget requests. These plans will be submitted to Congress and made public in February 2018, along with the President’s budget request for FY 2019. OMB staff recognizes there will be a need for some upfront investments to realize longer-term savings. That’s why the reform initiative is being linked to the budget process.

In early July, OMB will charter teams that will develop cross-cutting reform initiatives. The idea is to identify a handful of major initiatives and create task forces this summer that will flesh them out as part of a Governmentwide Reform Plan. It will likely include things that could be done now, as well as things that need additional work and could be done later. For the most part, the President’s Management Council will own and drive these initiatives forward.

Routine Actions Placed on Hold.

OMB staff said that OMB itself has undertaken a 60-day review of its requirements placed on agencies to determine which should be eliminated, including statutory requirements. In addition, OMB is putting on hold some of its routine processes and reviews, which had been previously scheduled, in order to provide agencies “room” to do these reviews. This includes:

  • Not conducting the planned annual agency strategic review meetings in May-June.
  • Not conducting the planned annual FedStat reviews with each agency.
  • Postponing the development and submission of agency priority goals for FY 2019-20.
  • Not conducting Enterprise Risk Management Portfolio reviews this year (but will still collect submissions and OMB will make an assessment as to quality/maturity)