Fixing the Beuro-crazy (Part 1 of 4)
- The Department Heads that make up the Cabinet should be specifically differentiated from each other and cover all of the various aspects of American life home and abroad — especially in areas that have no representation or are over-represented today.
- Each Agency/Department within the government has its own Shared Services area which should actually be *SHARED* across the whole Federal Government in order to reduce redundancy and waste.
While we have established that there are Departments and that Congress controls what they are, what should these Departments be? What should the top layer of executive government in the Cabinet look like? And how does everything else fit underneath it?
What this does is make the Cabinet a decision-making body and process that has a top-level look at any impact areas. If the President is considering an action or Congress has passed or is considering an action, this group of people can present a specific perspective where one has an equal weight for consideration. Going down the list from the first Department we can ask the question:
- What changes to operating the government will be needed?
- Does this impact relations between States and the Federal Government? If so, how — and how will the Federal Government respond?
- Does this impact relations between the United States and a Foreign Government or organization? If so, how — and how will the Federal Government respond?
- Is there a danger to the safety and security of the United States, its people, and/or its property?
- How does this impact the various people of the United States?
- Does this in any way limit or add to the ability of goods, services, and data to easily move between people and organizations?
- Is there a technological and/or environmental impact to consider? What does scientific analysis say about this decision?
- Does this impact existing Government resources that are currently in use?
- Is there an economic or labor consideration?
- Is there an impact on arts and culture?
- What are the legal considerations and potential impacts?
- What are the monetary considerations?
While not every decision will have a bearing on all these areas — and many will impact only one — it provides the ability to have these distinct perspectives that cover a large range of subjects. Meanwhile, within each Department will be a variety of Agencies that cover the further wide ranges of the portfolios. Now, HUD would not make a decision on running a program without consideration for the impacts in all other social services. In a similar vein, all of the disparate military and intelligence agencies would speak with one voice and share information between themselves to come with a common perspective to the President instead of four that are currently sitting on the President’s Cabinet.
Beyond these Departments, other Portfolios would belong to the Vice President and the President directly. Specifically, the Vice President would consist of a “quality assurance” check on all other Departments to make sure they are living up to their mandates and are not trying to skirt the system. These checks might be anything from making sure environmental inspectors are doing their jobs correctly to investigations on military leaders (and deploying the military police, if necessary).
At the top of the chain is the President who is given a CEO role of setting the strategy and vision for the entire Federal Government. Because the President is ultimately in charge, his portfolio would also include all communication channels so that anything coming out of the government to the people or the press would be cleared by him and considered to be official. Along those lines, the President would be responsible for being the conduit to the other Branches of government because he ultimately represents everything Executive and all other people are flowing up to him. In other words, the buck starts and stops with the President.
United States, Inc: A Mess
Nobody knows how big the government is… not even the government!
As mentioned before, there are hundreds of Agencies (depending upon the definition) throughout the Federal Government. Going through each Department and many of the major Agencies that would now be a part of it is not the exercise for today. As such, I will invite you to read a future book to see a complete reorganization of theses agencies in as accurate as a manner as possible. In the meantime, please keep in mind that vast amounts of Agencies would need to move out of other Agencies/Departments or independent areas to end up inside the hierarchy and aligned to their purposes.
Meanwhile, something else to consider is that the U.S. Government budget (at the surface) is around $4.1 trillion (with a “T”), and often goes on to spend more. These expenditures may be closer to the $6+ trillion range depending on definitions of what is the government and what is revenue. For instance, rail passenger service Amtrak is a for-profit corporation that just happens to be 100% owned by the Federal Government. In Fiscal Year (FY) 2018, Amtrak took in $3.4 billion in revenue, of which it spent all of that and then some (the rest of its $4.8 billion costs were covered by various governments — including the federal government — as well as loans). However, that $3.4 billion does not show up in the Federal Budget, never touches the Treasury, and is missing from expenditures. Even though the Supreme Court ruled in 2015 that Amtrak is part of the Federal Government, each of these actions happen within the stand-alone entity and are therefore not put into the Budget created by Congress. Amtrak is hardly alone in this designation, leaving many questions as to what the government truly takes in and spends. We will return to this very point later in this document.
For now, let us take a deeper dive on the potential structure Federal Government…
Department of Government Operations
Right now, the question of how to run the operations of the government are left to each individual agency. Some have answers, other do not, and among the ones that have answers some are more efficient and realistic than others. It is an inconsistency seen across the board and makes it difficult to manage the government as an organization in general. If the Federal Government is one single overarching entity, then it needs an area that has a singular focus on making sure things run as smoothly as possible across all other areas.
“Shared Services” is the idea that there are certain compartments within an organization that can be shared among all other compartments. For instance, whether you work in sales, the custodial staff, or are the CEO, you are going to use the same payroll department. So instead of each of these areas having their own payroll, payroll is shared between them. You might be asking yourself if the government has taken this common-sense approach? The answer is: sort of.
Administrative Conference of the United States (ACUS)
Sourcebook — Second Edition (December 2018)
Pages 38 to 39
Congress has mandated the creation of four “chief officer” positions (financial, information, human capital, acquisition) in major agencies, leading to the creation of new and similar offices in different agencies across the executive establishment. Other government-wide managerial mandates… lead to additional common offices across departments and agencies (e.g., FOIA offices, faith-based initiatives offices, and equal employment opportunity or civil rights offices). Common agency tasks and requirements such as the need for legal advice and review, congressional and public relations, budget, and program evaluation also lead departments and agencies to have common features (e.g., general counsel, office of legislative affairs, office of public affairs, budget office).
As you can see, they understood the idea of a shared service and to have accountability on common functions, but they still put it down at a very low level. Furthermore, Congress added other features:
Administrative Conference of the United States (ACUS)
Sourcebook — Second Edition (December 2018)
Pages 112 to 113
Congress has enacted a number of government-wide management and transparency laws to facilitate political control of federal agencies, to improve performance, and to root out waste, fraud, and abuse… The Chief Financial Officers Act of 1990 was intended to improve the financial management practices of federal entities. It required the designation of a chief financial officer (CFO), appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate, with an appropriate managerial and financial management background in all large agencies. The statute also mandates that a CFO be installed in other, smaller agencies, but in these agencies CFOs are appointed by the agency head and are career political appointees either from the competitive service or the Senior Executive Service.
The Information Technology Management Reform Act, mandated the designation of a chief information officer (CIO) in federal agencies. The CIO is responsible for: (1) providing advice to ensure that each agency acquires information technology and manages information resources effectively; (2) developing, maintaining, and facilitating an information technology architecture for each agency; and (3) promoting effective and efficient design and operation of all major information resources management processes for each agency. The statute’s information technology requirements apply broadly to “executive agencies” as defined in 41 U.S.C. § 133: any executive department, military department, independent establishment, or wholly owned Government corporation.
Finally, Congress enacted the Inspector General Act of 1978 to help root out waste, fraud, and abuse in federal management. The Act and its amendments mandated the creation of Offices of Inspector General in various large agencies, designated “establishments,” across the executive branch. Each establishment’s Inspector General (IG) is appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate solely on the basis of “integrity and demonstrated ability in accounting, auditing, financial analysis, law, management analysis, public administration, or investigations.”
Thus, the basis for having Shared Services already exists by law, but it is spread out all over the place and has lost any high-level ability to review the government in its entirety. Instead of having a CFO for the entire government that appoints lower level managers for various Departments and Agencies, there are instead dozens of CFO’s littered throughout the government. This is seen on the Information Technology (IT) side as well, to the point where each and every government agency has its own technological approach and purchasing. As such, instead of the entire government buying the same Accounting Software or Cloud services, each part of the government decides its own Accounting Software and Cloud Services and often buy competing or incompatible products. There is no common approach from the top-down to these decisions besides guidelines and rules for acquisition processes and it has resulted in a further fractured government. At the same time, it has led to waste where the government could be using its mass buying power to get volume discounts that it cannot get because purchasing is being done piecemeal.
What the Department of Government Operations does is reverse that and brings all central needs into a single pass-through place. At the same time, it creates an area that is specifically responsible for managing the interactions between all of the other Departments and Agencies. This would include all Project Management (i.e., any initiatives that required the use of more than one Agency in order to be deployed would be coordinated from this group). Meanwhile, it would take over responsibilities from the Legislative and Judicial Branches for managing their day-to-day needs. All of this would also allow the other Departments to focus on their primary missions.
Currently, if one looks through the budgets and spending of the government Agencies, functions like HR, IT, etcetera are not broken out or are buried so deep to the point where it is unrecognizable. Suffice to say, each agency within the government can and should have all funds allocated for these Shared Services moved to this new department and then from there the cost could be reduced because — as you can imagine — there is significant overlap and redundancy.
Furthermore, the only department not to be included here would be the Office of the Inspector General. Recall from before that the Vice President would oversee and be in charge of anything that is dealing with quality assurance, ethics, and reviews in general. This creates an agency above all other agencies in order to review them. We will return to the Vice President and those offices shortly.
TO BE CONTINUED…