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Eye Opener: Cutting the government's paperwork

By Ed O'Keefe

Eye Opener

WILLIAMSBURG, VA. -- Happy Tuesday! The government is seeking ideas on how to cut the red tape -- specifically, the paperwork the government asks you to fill out or other documents required when applying for government services.

The number of hours spent responding to requests for information from the federal government has climbed steadily in recent years, according to the Office of Management and Budget. The amount of paperwork is up despite the 1995 Paperwork Reduction Act, which was designed to the load. OMB will publish a formal request for suggestions in Tuesday's Federal Register and plans to incorporate the best suggestions in a Congressional report next year. The agency will also use the feedback to evaluate how other government agencies collect information from citizens.

So how would you cut the government paperwork? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

Friendly reminder: The Eye is hosting a panel discussion at the 19th annual Executive Leadership Conference later today in Williamsburg. Track the conference's proceedings by following #elc09 on Twitter.

In other news...

Sesame Street, HHS release more flu ads: Governors and senators from 13 states will appear in public service announcements with Elmo, urging their constituents to get the H1N1 vaccine and take precautions to avoid the disease.

FDA, NOAA sign new seafood inspection plan: The two agencies will work together more closely on seafood inspections, according to a new agreement announced Monday. The deal formalizes how the agencies will work together at the headquarters and field levels. Americans eat an average of 16 pounds of seafood per year, according to Jim Balsiger, acting NOAA assistant administrator for NOAA’s Fisheries Service. The new partnership follows GAO recommendations that FDA rely more often on NOAA seafood inspections.

GAO, IRS officials win award: Acting GAO Comptroller General Gene L. Dodaro and IRS Deputy Commissioner Linda E. Stiff will receive the 2009 Roger W. Jones Award for Executive Leadership Tuesday night from American University's School of Public Affairs (The Eye's alma matter!).

Cabinet and Staff News: Energy Secretary Steven Chu, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson and Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Chairman Jon Wellinghoff testify before a Senate committee on the climate change bill. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks out against anti-defamation laws.

Defense Department's top auditor forced from post: April Stephenson, director of the Defense Contract Audit Agency since February 2008, has been reassigned to a new position inside the Pentagon and replaced by a senior civilian Army official.

IRS to focus more on the rich: The Global High Wealth Industry group will launch "a small number" of audits of individuals with assets or income in the tens of millions of dollars.

Coalition seeks investigation of homeland security privacy office: Privacy advocates have asked lawmakers to investigate the Homeland Security Department office in charge of protecting Americans' privacy, saying it has shown "an extraordinary disregard" for its duty.

The challenge in counting stimulus returns: With unemployment up, the economic impact might not be known for years.

Program to offer cash incentives for carpooling to work: D.C. area federal employees -- listen up! Commuters who drive on some of the region's most congested highways will be eligible to earn $2 a day by carpooling to work.

NRC to build Bethesda office tower: The agency will construct a 14-story, 362,000-square-foot office tower across from its headquarters in Bethesda, a welcome project for local developers who have been grappling with plunging demand for commercial real estate space.

For labor and management, rebalanced interests: President Obama wants to issue an executive order creating panels that would foster greater collaboration between management and labor in federal agencies, but it's hard to craft a document that pleases both sides.

Prospects for higher federal raise remain murky: The House passed an appropriations bill in July that would give civilian employees a raise of 2 percent -- but the Senate has yet to consider its version, with a 2.9 percent hike.

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By Ed O'Keefe  | October 27, 2009; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  Eye Opener  
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Many federal FOIA websites still require the FOIA requester to submit their FOIA request via fax or mail. This begins a process that contributes to more, not less, paper being used. Web-based FOIA systems like AINS, Inc.'s FOIAXpress have an online Public Access Link that allows FOIA requesters to submit their requests via the web, receive a tracking number and monitor the progress of their request online, thereby greatly reducing the amount of paper involved in the process.

Posted by: DDFootballFan | October 27, 2009 12:59 PM | Report abuse

Arbitrary programs like this and Al Gore's government reinvention simply don't work. Their emphasis is on reducing things like paperwork and not on making things work better. So we eliminate thousands of regulations and don't bother measuring whether things have improved or gotten worse because we took away some important guidance that promoted consistency and effectiveness. Sometimes the best solution may be to increase the paperwork, or change the way it is submitted, or make the form easier to understand, or collect different information. People who come up with programs like this assume they know the solution before they have even identified the problem.

Posted by: bigtom6156 | October 27, 2009 1:43 PM | Report abuse

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