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Obama Appoints Government Performance Officer

By Ed O'Keefe

Barack Obama and Nancy Killefer, his pick to serve as chief performance officer, during a news conference at transition headquarter in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Linda Davidson, Post)

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.

By Ed O'Keefe  | January 7, 2009; 11:20 AM ET
Categories:  Agencies and Departments, Revolving Door  
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Next: Bush Makes More Last-Minute Appointments


American friends tell me the best "performer" they know of is Bill Clinton.

Posted by: HassanAliAl-Hadoodi | January 7, 2009 11:46 AM | Report abuse

Unless she has the power to close agencies or fire people, this will be a figurehead "feel good" position with no purpose, it's the same as Al Gore's "reinventing government role" he had with the Clinton admin. A waste, just headlines, she should just fire herself and save us at least her salary.

Posted by: 206driver | January 7, 2009 11:49 AM | Report abuse

You could instantly save untold millions by clearing out the armies of GS 12 through 15 hacks hiding in back offices with make-believe job portofolios, and pushing out the nepotism and personal connection hires who dominate the middle managment via the supposedly management-blind hiring system. There are heaps of highly educated and motivated people who will flock to work in the government once the dead wood is evacuated. The entire logic of federal hiring and budget allocation needs to be overturned.

Posted by: wharwood | January 7, 2009 11:50 AM | Report abuse

Too funny.

A CPO selected to root out waste and inefficiency BUT the position itself is a duplication of the Deputy Director for Management and Performance at OMB!

Way to go. Create a redundant position to improve inefficieny.

What jokers.

Posted by: fomby1 | January 7, 2009 12:18 PM | Report abuse

I think it's a step in the right direction. At a minimum, making organizational structures and business practices transparent will help reduce redundancy, even with those career civil service types trying to hide in the shadows.

How often do duplicate functions within an agency occur, just because people feel their career is tied to one of the programs vs. the other? And how often do multiple agencies compete to perform the same function? The answer to both of these questions is often. I applaud ANY honest effort to reduce duplication in government.

Posted by: postfan1 | January 7, 2009 12:21 PM | Report abuse

Earlier cynical comments on the appointment hold some water, but we need to give this a chance. The major challenge will be ensuring that the existence of this new (old? OMB Dep for Mgt?) position does not persuade agencises to wait for NK to architect and pursue change. The executive management chain needs to feel empowered and expected to strengthen govt org and ops. NK's public record doesn't say much about her views on contracting and contractors. Treasury did not do so well them on her watch. She has got to grapple with contractor questions and find a compelling way to reach the right mix with govt emps. Incompetent, negligent program mgt and contract oversight by emps needs to end. And contractors need to be motivated to do more than just act like feds, which is the decided trend. The best tool is competition. It's too bad O. needed to create a czar for govt performance. Lord knows there are plenty of careerists and appointees who are supposed to be making progress on that. Good luck.

Posted by: axolotl | January 7, 2009 12:36 PM | Report abuse

In many respects the government as a whole does not know its objectives, in the sense that the objectives- intra and interagency- are working at cross-purposes.So the first high level task is to review agency objectives for consistency/ROI and consonance with national goals before getting to program level.Sit down with the folks who do that stuff.
Secondly, we might look to the British civil service for improvements to ours. We need to re-expand entrance testing.
Third,organic expertise has to be re-built
over time.
Forth,you want to shake things up ? Try putting a national scorecard on the web for greater government transparency - kind of a government wikipedia.
Fifth, many institutional inefficiencies are there because Congress "wants" them there.
Three years at Treasury Dept- better than no government experience at all, but sounds like a babe in the woods. The last thing we need is a SWAT team, which shows naivete. I suggest after the last calamitous 8 years that the trains running on time is not such a bad goal. After that, by all means, feel free to fly to the moon.

Posted by: steveandjanereed1 | January 7, 2009 12:41 PM | Report abuse

How much overlap will this position have with the GAO? Will this office have all the CTO in all branches of government reporting to them?

Just a couple of things that need to be ironed out in the job description first.

Posted by: ahashburn | January 7, 2009 12:43 PM | Report abuse

True change has to be legislated. Many of our most wasteful programs are created that way by ill-conceived bill language. Career gov't employees can tinker around the edges, but can't make major, sweeping reforms without legislation.

Posted by: GroovisMaximus61 | January 7, 2009 1:31 PM | Report abuse

gao is part of the legislative branch of government ... the cpo and omb are part of the executive branch ... so there wont be overlap. that said, i would hope that the CPO does work with gao.

i hope they do away with the dep dir for performance at omb, otherwise this is truly stupid. or is this position just the old one with a new name and a formal reporting relationship into the oval office?

Posted by: fomby1 | January 7, 2009 1:42 PM | Report abuse

Here's the key:
"The CPO will report directly to Obama."
GWB can "burrow" all the neo-cons and "Christian fundamentalists" he wants into the government structure.
They will receive marching orders and, should they decide to mis-read those orders to suit their own agendas, or otherwise impede the management of this bureaucracy, while hoping to hide their misbehavior, they will be called out and dealt with in short order.
Obama, by this appointment, is issuing a clarion notice to these hacks that he will not tolerate fools trying to be mistaken for real workers in his administration.
Good for him.
She's going to be there for many who will be able to observe, report and blow the whistle on these Bush leftovers.
The "change" she can effect will be astounding.
We've forgotten what it's like to have a functioning government.
We're about to find out what that means.

Posted by: Judy-in-TX | January 7, 2009 2:00 PM | Report abuse

Wake up folks. This is how a new administration gets around the Bush Administration "burrowing in." Any new administration takes steps to ensure that its policies are properly executed. The former administration has an interest in trying to hold on to the changes they made. The creation of new positions and reorganizations are the logical result. Who's fault? They're fault, our fault, everybody's fault.

Posted by: edubbya | January 7, 2009 3:08 PM | Report abuse

And when exactly was it that someone from McKinsey actually succeeded in the execution a plan?

Don't get me wrong, they are very good at what they do BUT .... their MO is do a bunch of great analysis (and it is typically better and their powerpoints are prettier than other consultants) and then run away as fast as they can when it comes time for execution.

This then leaves the folks with a vested interest (or not!) to execute a plan that often results in them losing their job/career/professional reputation. Silly me for asking the question, but how do you think those implementations go???

But I can understand how a decision like this could be made, Barry O has been in goverment his entire career so he may not be aware of this well known SOP that the private sector considers when they bring in a consulting firm

Posted by: jmrshaughnessy | January 7, 2009 3:15 PM | Report abuse

Scores of Federal employees are incapable of performing up to the level of their GS grades. Agencies that Killefer has served in the past continue to employ many of them. Her appointment is nothing other than *lipstick*. For starters: Get rid of the EEOC, diversity enforcement positions and the union. Then, make everybody who is left prove (through formal assessments and exams) that they can perform their jobs. Fire those who fail. Audit the usefulness of every single position, and eliminate all that are not critical. Then, bring in a real consultant.

Posted by: rhodesia | January 7, 2009 3:23 PM | Report abuse

As someone who has seen NK in action, I can tell you she is almost always the smartest person in the room and will cut several miles ahead to the critical point. Stupid people can't stand her. Bright people worship her. She surrounds herself with "known commodities." She has dealt with the government enough to know what doesn't work. After eight years of Bush hacks, I'm overjoyed to hear that she's joining the Obama team, and I wish her all the luck in the world.

Posted by: wilderfield1 | January 7, 2009 3:43 PM | Report abuse

What a crock! She did such a good job in the predator's administration that no one knows about her. Please give me a break. If she really wants to eliminate waste and fraud, have her axe the dumocrats stimulus package. The affirmative action phony already admitted that it won't work. With all the spending of the last few years, why isn't the economy booming? Duh, maybe it's because the private sector needs to stimulate it, not the stupid liberals in government.

Posted by: LarryG62 | January 7, 2009 4:59 PM | Report abuse

My Federal agency has a 3% overhead rate. I challenege any private organization to match it or even come close.

Posted by: Cosmo2 | January 7, 2009 5:02 PM | Report abuse

Oh Good God here the Lunatic Elect From The
Chicago Political Cesspool Barack Obama has
not even been swore in yet and here the little punk is off and running by creating
new top level fancy titled un-necessary
positions that will have no real duties or
actual impact on improving the operation of
our US Government such as this latest Play for Pay Goofy "Performance Officer" nonsense position. How much did she give to
the Obama Political Campaign or is she just
another long time Obama Crony?

It is high time the Yes Barack Sir Do Nothing Democrat Congress Just Say No To Obama and his wasteful spending practices.
We cannot afford this kind of out of control lunatic spending just to give more
worthless Obama cronies jobs and let them
sit around shuffling red tape to look important and act busy therefore Congress
should refuse to Confirm this latest Obama
loser and cut off all funds for it.

This country needs to wake up and demand
that the little Chicsgo Dictator be removed
from office by Impeachment on Jan 21 2009.

Posted by: claudinelong | January 7, 2009 5:59 PM | Report abuse

When will Congress step in on Chicago Crime
Boss Wannabe Barack Hussein Obama and force
Obama to stop setting up somekind of Chicago Crime Family in the White House?

This new position will definite undercut the effectiveness of the GAO and OMB as well and this Preformance Office Obama BS
can only be that "Pay to Play" Obama is
reawarding yet another Crony with a fancy
sounding and high paying do nothing job.

So Good God does Obama plan to bring his whole 300 "Advisors" to the White House too
then? Or do they and his 6000 College Kid
ACORN Army Stay In Chicago to man the Obama
fake "Office of the President Elect" Chicago Crime Family Office too now then?

Posted by: Donna78 | January 8, 2009 6:36 AM | Report abuse

I see some of the neo-con blog thugs are out and about this bright and wintery morning. Oh! and the really funny one that is so stupid it is pathetic is by none other than neo-con claudinelong! [big applause] And rhodesia, I am most positive you don't work for the feds and you are clueless how anything operates. So why are you posting spew?

That said, I agree with a few that commented about this newly created position. If it has authority and power, not just another smoke and mirror, then it might be effective. There are thousands upon thousands of middle and upper management (both civilian and military) that live and die for thier program(s). Just in my agency with the Navy, I see too many pot-belly clowns called SESers, navy LtCmdrs and Cpts walking around with sheer and absolute power. They would start WWIII before losing their program money and budget.

Nancy needs the authority and the power along with strong whistle-blower protections... and she can start right across the Potomac, at the Pentagon. Oh! but every is classified for the sake of security.

The GAO has exposed all the federal agencies of how incompetent they are/were with their budget and finances. Did anyone do anything to fix or improve that. Barely!

I wish her the best, but I see this position swirling around the mix of "just another" executive position that does nothing or get anything done... but she'll go home every night with that SES pay! There are tons of them all over the DoD... why should this position be any different.

Posted by: darmar40 | January 8, 2009 7:20 AM | Report abuse

Here we go!

As a part of the announcement of a Chief Performance Officer, which I consider innovative, class warfare raised its head.

The question has been where we are going to get the fantastic amount of money to pay for the social programs. Now we know two sources -- "The Rich" which even if you taxed them at 100% would make a difference -- and the old folks.

So all that money that you have been paying in every week for your lifetime ... stolen for other programs and now about to be gone. The Medicaid program will merge with Medicare and Social Security because that is the only way that the new President's supporters can be rewarded. The money you thought you would get under the most long standing goverment program is shifted to another class.

To me the "Joe the Plumber" comments just hit a lot more Americans -- Not just the "rich", but now the elderly. What comes next? Folks with blue eyes? It is time to wake up to the class warfare and use the tool democracy gives us -- the vote. Hint -- in less than two years a third of the Senate and all of the house seats are up to be filled. Watch how your representative votes.

Posted by: tommariner | January 8, 2009 7:54 AM | Report abuse

Please do a review of the Army and Air Force Exchange Service headquartered in Texas. Something went very wrong under Bush. High prices, sorry merchandise, no service. AAFES cannot compete anymore. Their accounting will most likely be skewed to contradict any complaints. The Bushies wanted to make as many agencies as possible "corporate in nature". It doesn't work. AAFES needs a change of leadership.

Posted by: pkbishop | January 8, 2009 8:23 AM | Report abuse

If Ms. Killefer wants to cut waste, the first thing she should do is have agencies send her a list of useless reports agencies have to produce as required by executive orger, regulation and congressional mandate. There are hundres of them and they consume many staff hours, but the reports provide no value to the agencies nor to the agencie's customers. If she can get rid of those, she will have helped improve Government efficiency quite a bit.

Posted by: Backstrap | January 8, 2009 11:54 AM | Report abuse

I have an immediate suggestion: Ms. Killefer should suggest Congress and the states repeal the 16th Amendment, doing away with the 160,000 employees of the IRS and sparing American businesses and individuals billions of dollars and millions of hours contending with the onerous task of complying with an outmoded tax code even the Treasury Dept. doesn't fully understand.

Replace it with a national sales tax no one can dodge with "tax shelters" or clever tax-lawyer or accountant tricks. It's time for American taxpayers to stop gaming with their government to keep more of the money they earn.

Posted by: srpinpgh | January 8, 2009 12:02 PM | Report abuse

Unleashing the whistle blowers is certainly one important thing the CPO could do to improve our government. Ms Killefer should urge Congress to pass a real Whistle Blower Protection Act ASAP, because very few people are willing to end their careers to report waste, fraud, and abuse. I base that observation on over 35 years of contractor, military, and civil service employment.

Posted by: Draldiehl | January 10, 2009 4:29 AM | Report abuse

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