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Open letter to the new chairmen of the government oversight committees in both chambers

Before the dust has even settled, the new Congress needs to begin addressing big issues that past Congresses have failed to tackle. Reforms in social insurance programs, tax law, civil service, immigration, and many others are critical for the American people and the health of our Nation. These issues need to be addressed by Congress as a whole, but the committees on Oversight and Government Reform in the House, and Homeland Security and Government Affairs in the Senate need to take on real reform to improve the health of our government. 

The mere thought of reforming our government for efficiency and effectiveness is daunting given its shear mass. More hearings, laws, and OMB initiatives may help focus, but is the answer. We already have a program inventory (somewhat): GPRAMA, FMFIA, VA management reforms, Presidential initiatives, and the good work of GAO and IG’s. We need decisions, focus, forward movement and accountability. 

{mosads}Therefore, I urge the chairmen of both the Senate and House committees’ of jurisdiction to consider the following three things as soon as the committees are reformed under the new Congress. 

Acquire the tools. The oversight Committees need better tools to carry out their missions. I strongly suggest Congress pass the Government Transformation Act currently before both Houses (H.R. 2675 and S.1297). Following on the success of passing the Data Act, the new Congress can begin its tenure by quickly addressing this legislation to establish a Government Transformation Office or Board.

Leveraging OMB’s program inventory, and the good work of the GAO and the IG’s, it’s imperative we begin a systematic assessment of government programs to make the hard decisions required to eliminate or realign programs that no longer serve their original intended purpose. Eliminate inefficiency and ineffectiveness of programs by requiring they be reengineered, redundancy eliminated, and their management approach strengthened so they can better serve the American people and save money. 

Focus on the practical, not the political. Management reforms required to create a more responsive, efficient, and economical government are not partisan, they are just common sense. They are necessary to reduce the cost of government and make it more efficient. 

The midterm elections clearly demonstrated that the American people are longing for Congress to do something different; work together to achieve meaningful and measurable results.  Ensure you are measuring the Committees’ effectiveness along with that of the agencies, and reporting the findings every six months to the American people. Use a website, perhaps in conjunction with the CBO or GAO. 

Allow the agency heads to manage and lead. And to keep the top talent, require OPM to establish an easy transfer program across agencies with preferential treatment for highly qualified Federal employees. And by all means ensure managers have the ability to hire, fire, and develop right! 

There are many opportunities to serve people better and reduce the cost of government by reducing complexity, reengineering processes, sharing systems and eliminating duplication. I understand that some waste is inevitable but it should not be due to ineffective management, poor decision making, or playing budget games with Congress. Hold agencies accountable for results, ethics, efficiency, and working together.  

Provide for a leadership structure that is lasting and systemic across agencies. As new political appointees at multiple levels across an agency take over, agendas change, good intentions abound, and waste and inefficiency happens. Few pay attention to what is really going on in the hallowed halls, as the immediate consumes the important and strong management is taxed or disintegrates. Good people and programs need good leadership. 

I propose a refinement to the selection of Chief Operating Officers (COO’s) that provides for 10-year appointments, requiring specific skill and experience, and the appointment of deputies solely focused on efficiency, effectiveness, and economy with required reporting on achievements to OMB and the Congress. This change should also focus on Inspector General (IG) reform allowing them full access to all agency records and sharing findings across agencies as well as public reporting of their results. IG’s should work with COO’s as a team to effect change. 

Mandate agencies to share best practices, systems, and purchases with each other. Shared services must be fully implemented. Changing to a two-year budget cycle would reduce tremendous pressure and burden on the agencies. 

Requiring agencies to reduce management, process, and decision making complexity across their agencies will reap dividends and get things accomplished faster. While the biggest part of the budget is mandatory spending, it is the discretionary spending that makes government effective or gets it in trouble. It’s time for the Committees of jurisdiction to take immediate and bold action letting the American people know it is time for reform. 

Dear chairmen, I urge you to establish a two-year agenda selecting critical systemic reform requirements and implementing the changes above. Don’t be distracted by the politics of the day, stick to an agenda and get meaningful work accomplished. This is critical to our nation’s economy, addresses our budget struggles, and can help regain the trust from the American people. 

Goodrich is the CEO of the Center for Organizational Excellence and the vice chair of the Government Transformation Initiative. He can be reached at


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