GAO Poses Important Questions for Incoming Administraton
If you had the opportunity to quiz President-elect Obama's top government nominees, what would you ask? And if you're an Obama nominee who wants to study hard before your nomination hearing, where might you turn for guidance?
Perhaps you should consult a new report from the Government Accountability Office that serves as a cheat sheet of sorts for members of Congress, the Obama-Biden transition team and the actual nominees, basically mapping out the top issues of concern and suggested management priorities at the 28 major executive branch departments and agencies.
Some of the proposed questions simply seek to assure that the nominee has the proper understanding of his or her new job and the proper work experiences. The GAO, for example, cites "enhancing employment and training programs" as a top issue of concern at the Labor Department. So, one might ask the labor secretary-nominee, "Based on your experiences, what policies have you found to be effective in encouraging employers to engage and retain older workers or encouraging workers to work longer, and what role can job training programs play in this effort?"
At other agencies, however, it gets really specific. At the Transportation Department, the GAO notes that, "Freight tonnage carried by freight railroads is forecast to increase by about 73 percent between 2006 and 2035. This situation has led to calls for increased federal investment in the U.S. railroad network." Members of Congress thus might want to ask the next transportation secretary, "What information and factors should be considered in determining the appropriate role the federal government should play in investing in freight railroads?"
You get the idea.
Perhaps most importantly for bureaucrats, this new report also lists seven different areas of government management that GAO believes should be discussed with every nominee: acquisition management, collaboration with other departments or agencies, financial management, human capital management, information and technology management, results-oriented decision making, and real property management and security.
When it comes to property management, GAO notes that the federal government is responsible for more than 3 billion square feet of space, much of it underused, deteriorating or costly to lease. It suggests asking nominees: "Long-standing problems such as excess property, repair backlogs, security concerns, and reliance on leasing have made real property management a problem area at many agencies. Could you describe a specific example where you have had to deal with these types of problems?"
Nobody expects Obama's nominees to have all the answers (or know the floor plan for each of his agency's buildings), nor should these questions be the sole determining factor in approving one's nomination.
“We don’t expect the nominee to answer these questions in the same way as someone who’s been at these agencies for 15 years," said George H. Stalcup a director of the GAO's Strategic Issues Team who helped compile the report. "We don’t expect that they’re going to have as much in-depth knowledge of the agencies. These are new folks coming into place."
Regardless, there's only question some nominees might have after reading this report: "What am I getting myself into?!"
| November 26, 2008; 11:30 AM ET
Categories: Agencies and Departments, Revolving Door
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