Obama Appoints Government Performance Officer
Updated 4:02 p.m. ET
President-elect Barack Obama has picked Nancy Killefer to serve as the federal government’s chief performance officer (CPO), a newly created post designed to help improve government efficiency and reform budget practices.
“We can no longer afford to sustain the old ways when we know there are new and more efficient ways of getting the job done,” Obama said during a news conference this morning at his transition office. “Even in good times, Washington can’t afford to continue these bad practices. In bad times, it’s absolutely imperative that Washington stop them and restore confidence that our government is on the side of taxpayers and everyday Americans.”
The new chief performance officer will also serve as the Office of Management and Budget's deputy director for management, according to two congressional sources. During the presidential campaign Obama originally proposed having a CPO report directly to the president.
Obama said Killefer is “uniquely qualified” to serve as the nation’s first CPO, calling her “an expert in streamlining processes and wringing out inefficiencies so that taxpayers and consumers get more for their money.”
To illustrate her strong desire to enact reforms, Obama said that when she was offered the opportunity to serve in the Clinton administration, Killefer said “If you’re willing to embrace significant change, then you’re looking at the right person. But if you just want to keep the trains running on time, don’t ask me to do this job.”
Killefer served as assistant secretary for management and chief financial officer and chief operating officer at the Treasury Department from 1997 to 2000. At McKinsey, Killefer worked with the retail, hotel and pharmaceutical industries on management, marketing and efficiency issues. She also chaired the IRS Oversight Board from 2001 to 2005 and has served on the board of the Partnership for Public Service since 2006.
In a brief statement, Killefer made it clear she understands the personal element of government service -- a comment sure to bring praise from federal workers unions and the rank-and-file.
“The people who deliver those services, the government employees themselves, will be central to this effort,” she said. "I am convinced that the success of every policy of this administration will be influenced by the people executing it. And I am committed to engaging and drawing on the talents of the federal workforce in order to deliver on our promise of a new, more efficient and effective government."
Killefer has drawn wide praise from colleagues.
“You couldn’t design a better person for this job,” said Max Stier, president and CEO of the Partnership for Public Service.
“You often find management consultants who are amazingly adept in the private sector, and McKinsey certainly has a lot of them, but the translation to government is a challenging one,” he added. “What Nancy brings is a wealth of experience of working in the government on management issues. That combination of expertise from the public and private sectors will be what she needs to draw on to do a very challenging job.”
"Improving the performance of public sector organizations is an important objective at a time when governments everywhere are being challenged to do more with less," McKinsey managing director Ian Davis in a written statement. "Nancy brings a unique blend of skills and experience to the task."
In a written statement, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg praised Obama's pick, saying it demonstrates "real commitment to changing Washington by ensuring lofty campaign ideals are not forgotten when governing begins."
As for what Killefer might do with her new job, she wrote in a 2006 Business Week article that:
"Government is a sector -- structured and regulated in ways that can foster or stunt productivity growth at its "firms" (agencies). And while it may not be possible to use competition in government to exert pressure to perform, Congress and the White House or state legislators and governors have plenty of tools to improve public agencies."
In that article, Killefer also proposed a model for measuring government performance:
“A body we call 'Gov-Star,' modeled after fund-rating agency Morningstar, to provide completely independent measurement of government program performance; to develop comparable program data over time – between programs, between governments, and with the private sector; and to make the data and their implications clear to appropriators and citizens.”
During the presidential campaign, Obama proposed the creation of a “SWAT team” composed of “top-performing and highly-trained government professionals” that would work with government agency leaders and the Office of Management and Budget to eliminate government waste and improve efficiency.
"The CPO will work with federal agencies to set tough performance targets and hold managers responsible for progress," according to the campaign proposal. "The president will meet regularly with cabinet officers to review the progress their agencies are making toward meeting performance improvement targets."
Obama said that Killefer will work on “identifying where there are areas that we can make big change that lasts beyond the economic recovery plan and save taxpayer money over the long term.”
But observers say the CPO will need at least some budget control of government agencies in order to make a meaningful impact.
"The chief performance officer has to have some linkage, some control of the budgets of the agencies,” said Ken Mead, a former inspector general at Treasury. “That’s what gets their attention.”
“I think the challenge for her is to figure out what are the good aspects of the way the government currently evaluates government performance, and where are the bad parts," said Adam Hughes, director of federal fiscal policy at OMB Watch.
“History has shown us that’s not an easy task. Plus, whatever recommendations she develops, she’s going to have to get them through Congress.”
Killefer's appointment requires Senate confirmation and will be handled by the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, which promises to consider the pick "as quickly as possible so the President-elect has his budget team in place at the earliest possible date," said committee spokeswoman Leslie Philips.
| January 7, 2009; 11:20 AM ET
Categories: Agencies and Departments, Revolving Door
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