|Some federal agencies are no longer accomplishing their mandated missions. Other agencies are working towards missions that are no longer relevant to 21st century challenges. Agencies are already engaged in strategic planning and self-evaluation through the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA) and Performance Assessment Rating Tool (PART) processes. However, this information is used infrequently. Furthermore, such efforts generally focus more on quantifiable measures of success, and inadequately measure the quality and relevance of the work of the agency – in other words the output of an agency rather than the impact of its work.
||The Presidential transition team should review each agency by assembling agency-specific teams of long-time civil servants, former political appointees from both parties, and stakeholders of the agency’s work to determine how well or how poorly each agency is accomplishing its mission, and whether that mission addresses modern public policy needs. In the first 100 days of the Administration, those teams should hold a public comment period and regional town hall meetings to allow the public to voice grievances and suggest improvements for the agency’s operations. While it will also be important to review the useful agency performance data collected through GPRA and PART, it is essential to put that information in context.
|Essential public services that are arguably “inherently governmental functions” are frequently privatized. POGO is concerned that the aggressive outsourcing of government functions may have allowed private contractors to be in the improper position of advancing private interests ahead of the public good.
||The new President should make it a priority to assess the extent to which outsourcing of previously governmental functions has undermined accountability, effective management, and policy-making in federal agencies. Transition team members and new appointees should review FAIR Act inventories, protests, and job descriptions over the past decade, as well as interview career employees and agency ethics officers, to identify instances of improperly privatized inherently governmental functions. Regulations need to be strengthened to prevent future instances of problematic outsourcing, and any identified inherently governmental positions should be promptly filled by public servants.
|Some political appointees are undermining the effectiveness of critical agencies. In fact, some political appointees are inadequately qualified or not qualified at all for their positions. Others might have the requisite administrative experience but do not believe in the mission of their agency. Still others are negatively qualified, having lobbied and worked to undermine or defeat the missions of the agencies they have been appointed to lead.
||The President should emphasize qualified and un-conflicted experience when appointing individuals to office. The President should also review whether a number of the current 4,000 political slots should be converted to civil service status in order to enhance senior level institutional memory and competence at the agency.
|The federal government is struggling to retain skilled employees because those employees can frequently make more money doing comparable work as federal contractors. In some cases the federal government expends resources to train an employee to work for an agency, only to have that employee go through the “revolving door” to work outside the government for a contractor, private law firm, industry association, or lobbying shop. As a result, the government ends up with “brain drain” while paying more for contractors to do work that could have been done by federal employees.
||The President should change the culture of what it means to be a civil servant in order to make federal employment more attractive to the most skilled individuals. Policies to consider include changing pay scales to make them competitive with those in equivalent private-sector jobs, instituting agency honors programs, paying student loans in return for a period of civil service, allowing retired civil servants to retain their pensions even if they are rehired by the government, and limiting the total cost paid by the government for a contractor employee performing the equivalent work of a federal employee. Recognizing that the contractor workforce is a de facto part of the government, this effort should actually shrink the total footprint of the government.
|Many federal employees look the other way when they recognize waste, fraud, mismanagement, and abuse because they lack sufficient whistleblower protections against retaliation. Absent such protections, the federal government cannot expect its employees to disclose mistakes and practices that must be corrected in order for the government to operate efficiently and effectively.
||The President should issue an Executive Order to strengthen federal employee whistleblower protections, including strict administrative, civil, and criminal penalties for officials that retaliate against whistleblowers. The Executive Order should also include rewards such as commendations, public recognition, and monetary awards for federal employees who disclose waste, fraud, and abuse, or who suggest ways to improve the operations of their agency.
|Inspectors General (IG) have been encouraged through the past two Administrations to be part of the agency management team, rather than to be “junkyard dogs” in seeking out waste, fraud, and abuse at their respective agencies. As a result, some IGs have moved more towards program management, rather than functioning as the independent and objective watchdogs envisioned by the IG law.
||The executive branch should reinvigorate the independence of Inspectors General by recognizing the need for them to be strong in-house watchdogs, not an arm of agency management.