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Obama to federal managers: Get to work

By Ed O'Keefe

Eye Opener

Bosses in the private sector may send memos to middle managers on a regular basis, but President Obama on Tuesday will take the rare step of reaching out directly to almost 8,000 career government managers.

The president will tell members of the Senior Executive Service that his administration will use a new Web site to track how quickly federal agencies are implementing a series of budgetary and management reforms, according to a draft version of an e-mail memo acquired by The Washington Post. (See it below.)

In the next two years Obama's Accountable Government Initiative aims to cut wasteful government spending and no-bid contracts while also implementing rigorous government transparency requirements, information technology upgrades and a faster federal job application process.

"This is not just about lines on a spreadsheet or numbers in a budget," Obama wrote in the draft memo. "When government does not work like it should, it has a real effect on people's lives."

"As the most senior managers in the federal government, you know how essential the work you and your colleagues do is to the nation," Obama says. "You also are aware what happens when your best efforts are thwarted by outdated technologies and outmoded ways of doing business."

The Web site, Performance.gov, is already in use among top administration officials and should be available for public use by November, according to the Office of Management and Budget. Directly communicating with the government's top career managers should help accelerate the ongoing reforms, said OMB Deputy Director Jeffrey Zients.

"These career managers are the people on the front lines managing these agencies day to day," Zients said in an interview. "We need them to work with their staffs, the front line workers to improve performance among agencies."

Obama's memo is the first direct presidential communication with SES members since President George H. W. Bush met with career managers in the early days of his administration, according to Carol A. Bonosaro, president of the Senior Executives Association. The group represents about one-third of SES members.

"I hope it will be just the first in a series of steps to establish communication with career executives, to recognize their accomplishments, and to see them as real partners in accomplishing the administration's goals," Bonosaro said.

Is this a good move by Obama or would it take more than a memo to win you over?

Leave your thoughts in the comments section below

Question of the Week: How do you think your federal benefits stack up against benefits offered with a comparable job in the private sector? E-mail your answer to federalworker@washpost.com and include your full name, home town and the agency for which you work. We might include your response in Friday's Washington Post.

Cabinet and Staff News: President Obama formally re-nominates several recess appointments, including Alan Bersin to lead Customs and Border Protection, Donald Berwick to lead Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Elisabeth Ann Hagen to serve as undersecretary for food safety and Mari Carmen Aponte to serve as ambassador to El Salvador. Valerie Jarrett laughs off suggestions she'll replace Rahm Emanuel. Elizabeth Warren might serve as interim director of the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton diving back in to the Middle East peace process.

DEFENSE DEPARTMENT:
Army band to get a $4.4 million home in Ala.: The 16,000-square-foot brick building will include a large rehearsal room, individual practice rooms, a music library, uniform locker rooms, band administration offices and an instrument storage, cleaning and repair shop.

EPA:
EPA regulations face markup showdown: Thursday may be high noon for efforts to block the Obama administration from regulating carbon dioxide emissions.

GOVERNMENT CONTRACTING:
News rater, anti-Palin group get govt Gulf work: The federal government hired a New Orleans man for $18,000 to appraise whether news stories about its actions in the Gulf oil spill were positive or negative for the Obama administration.

GOVERNMENT WORK/LIFE/OPERATIONS:
Why so many SES jobs go unfilled: Experts say it's a problem that has come into sharp focus recently because of the Obama administration's efforts to reform the federal hiring process.

JUSTICE DEPARTMENT:
DOJ expects to file civil suit in gulf oil spill: The agency cited several statutes under which the federal government could bring suits and claim damages, including the Clean Water Act and the Oil Pollution Act.

Violent crime declines, FBI says: Violent crime was down 5.3% and property crime declined 4.6%, according to its full-year statistics released Monday.

Probe in New Black Panther case: The Justice Department's internal watchdog is investigating allegations that its civil rights division enforced voting laws in a racially discriminatory manner.

SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION:
Disability claims rising sharply at Social Security: It's heightening concern that the jobless are expanding the program beyond its intended purpose of aiding the disabled.

TREASURY DEPARTMENT:
Rising number of small banks are becoming TARP 'deadbeats': The latest report from the agency shows that more than 120 institutions - nearly all of them small banks - have missed their scheduled quarterly dividend payments.

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OBAMA'S LETTER TO SES MEMBERS (DRAFT VERSION):
20100908165716783

THE FULL MEMO (DRAFT VERSION):
Memo to the SES on the Accountable Government Initiative

By Ed O'Keefe  | September 14, 2010; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  Administration, Eye Opener  
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Comments

Will we actually be able to see the report on the internet or will it be another "See it on CNN" that we were promised in the past?

Posted by: Utahreb | September 14, 2010 7:43 AM | Report abuse

Why does it take the Cincinati HR office 2 months to process my grade increases?

I'm short $5K because of bureaucratic largess.

Posted by: anarcho-liberal-tarian | September 14, 2010 8:13 AM | Report abuse

This is nothing new. Every Administration tries a new initiative and recent ones have put up a website to "track" it.

PS--on the headline, maybe try something like "Obama to All Federal Workers: Get to Work"?

Posted by: capsfan77 | September 14, 2010 8:26 AM | Report abuse

After 15 1/2 years in the Fed at upper grades, it's my opinion that it will take more than a memo from the Prez to get the SESs' attention. However, some of Obama's goals are the responsibility of political appointees, the ultimate decision-makers. He should ride herd on them first, so that they, in turn, can do the same to their SESs.

Posted by: frankatty | September 14, 2010 8:26 AM | Report abuse

Utahreb -- It's Ed. I just posted the memos. See above!

Posted by: Ed O'Keefe | September 14, 2010 8:27 AM | Report abuse

Obama doesn't have a clue about how to get things done. On the one hand he's asking managers to quickly implement change, on the other he slavishly kowtows to government employee unions (his political supporters) who oppose any change that doesn't involve more pay, more benefits and less work. Is it any wonder the public has lost confidence in this administration and congress?

Posted by: maxtel1910 | September 14, 2010 9:32 AM | Report abuse

@maxtel1910 - speaking for myseld the problem is not lost confidence in Congress and the administration. They can be lobbied, voted out and so on. The six-figure deadwood in the SES is a more intractable problem.
They have pay and benefits approaching $200k and need to be nudged to become effective and accomplish basic goals?
Wow.
I am glad the issue is out in the open but frankly everyone I know in the 'real' world thinks they could cull the herd by 50% and things would still clank along. Wasteful use of Monopoly money (taxpayer money,) empire-building and budget-padding and endless maneuvers to foster careers of friends. Yawn.
Dilberts of no interest to me. Silly to even call them "executives." They are just paper-pushers who are burrowed into GS levels like babies to mommy.
Disgusted by them all.

Posted by: FloridaChick | September 14, 2010 10:19 AM | Report abuse

maxtel...you're a fool.

Posted by: anarcho-liberal-tarian | September 14, 2010 10:31 AM | Report abuse

"Obama to federal managers: Get to work"

WOW! Obie the clown is such an AWESOME exec. LMAO

Posted by: illogicbuster | September 14, 2010 10:49 AM | Report abuse

"You also are aware what happens when your best efforts are thwarted by outdated technologies and outmoded ways of doing business."

...so, is that why we're still using Windows XP, blocking social media, and leashing employees to the office with Blackberries?

Posted by: trambusto | September 14, 2010 11:33 AM | Report abuse

Why doesn't he tell those Federal Managers to contract more work out to small businesses. He's a sham and liar. He and his administration HATES small business.

Posted by: question-guy | September 14, 2010 11:36 AM | Report abuse

This kind of approach is very unlikely to produce any useful results. The President is struggling to do his own job. He will not succeed in doing everyone else's. It is hard enough to change a bureaucracy when all the management within the tree is committed to the changes. One time events from the top are just the President's attempt to feel a little better and get some publicity in the media.

Posted by: dnjake | September 14, 2010 11:58 AM | Report abuse

The memo is pointless. There's a reason why the last such communication came over 8 years ago... SES 'managers' are career politicians within their agencies who outlast the president and their agendas.

Most of them that I've met are just about useless, and equally clueless. They're arrogant, obnoxious and really don't give a damn about their agencies or their jobs aside from the political capital their next meeting nets them. They make decisions based on personal gain instead of technical knowledge or experience.

Granted, this is a gross over-characterization, and I've met some SESr's in my career who actually work hard and care about what they're doing. But those are few and far between.

This memo is probably already sitting in the trash can of 90% of the 'managers' who received it, mainly because these people are either too stupid or too out-of-touch with the 21st century that they still print out emails because they can't read them otherwise.

Posted by: mika_england | September 14, 2010 12:34 PM | Report abuse

anarcho-liberal-tarian, you're "short" 5k because you can't get a real job.

Posted by: jiji1 | September 14, 2010 1:04 PM | Report abuse

You want to motivate these lazy bureaucrats?

Start by laying off every other one without health care and retirement.

What an incredible scam. Jobs for life by just showing up. Raises by COLA proxy. Bonuses for what? Doing your job?

And finally, can't get fired. But the above isn't an entitlement problem??

HA!

Posted by: wesatch | September 14, 2010 1:18 PM | Report abuse

There should be no doubt that an organization as large as the Federal government has inefficiencies. Any communication at any level that focuses on improving performance and reducing costs is welcome, regardless of the source and/or personal affiliation.

Huge savings await if Congess would permit a restructuring of the Federal workforce to align compensation with skills. The current system of compensation, essentially life employment, overpays many Federal employees for the services they provide. Federal employees should be "at will" employees like the private sector. The current benefits and salaries in the Federal sector are more than competitive and attracts talented professionals.

LArge savings also await if Federal budgetary accounting was replaced with simplified budget to actual comparisons similar to private sector corporations. We spend billions of dollars each year on core financial systems and personnel to accomodate a convoluted Federal budgetary accounting process. There are simplified time tested methods to monitor and control spending that would provide OMB and Congress all the information needed for them to manage the Federal checkbook.

Posted by: RobertAngel | September 14, 2010 1:51 PM | Report abuse

I love this part of the new legislation "while also implementing rigorous government transparency requirements"
.
So ironic. From the administration who held months of closed-door negotiations on the healthcare shafting (Pelosi "You have to pass it to know what's in it") he wants transparancy.
.
From the president who has fought every attempt to verify his place of birth, he want transparancy.
.
Legislation which 'aims to cut wasteful government spending' yet an administration which has extended unemployment to 99 weeks. People - that is almost TWO YEARS. And yet, the administration says (with a straight face, no less) that illegal immigration isn't a problem (would we need 99 weeks of unemployment if there were fewer illegals working here?), or are you just looking to get another vote?
.
Wow, it must be great to tell others to 'do as i say, not as i do'.

Posted by: Disbelief | September 14, 2010 2:05 PM | Report abuse

A Washington ‘newspaper’ ran a story recently about Obama's inheriting a huge deficit from Bush. Amazingly enough,...... a lot of people swallow this nonsense. So once more, a short civics lesson.


Budgets do not come from the White House. They come from Congress, and the party that has controlled Congress since January 2007 is the Democrat Party. They controlled the budget process for FY 2008 and FY 2009, as well as FY 2010 and FY 2011. In that first year, they had to contend with George Bush, which caused them to compromise on spending, when Bush somewhat belatedly got tough on spending increases.


For FY 2009 though, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid bypassed George Bush entirely, passing continuing resolutions to keep government running until Barack Obama could take office. At that time, they passed a massive omnibus spending bill to complete the FY 2009 budgets. Remember?


And where was Barack Obama during this time? He was a member of that very Congress that passed all of these massive spending bills. He signed the omnibus bill as President to complete FY 2009.

If the Democrats inherited any deficit, it was the FY 2007 deficit, the last of the Republican budgets. That deficit was the lowest in five years, and the fourth straight decline in deficit spending. After that, Democrats in Congress took control of spending, and that includes Barack Obama, who voted for the budgets. If Obama inherited anything, he inherited it from himself.


In a nutshell, when Obama says he inherited a huge deficit, what he is saying is "I inherited a deficit that I voted for and then I voted to expand that deficit four-fold since January 20th."

Posted by: wheeljc | September 14, 2010 4:28 PM | Report abuse

Barack Obama is the most antibusiness president in a generation, perhaps in American history. Thanks to him the era of big government is back. Obama runs up taxpayer debt not in the billions but in the trillions. He has expanded the federal government's control over home mortgages, investment banking, health care, autos and energy.

Two facts are now becoming increasingly evident: first is that Obama is clueless about business. The second is that Obama is a socialist--not an out-and-out Marxist, but something of a European-style socialist, with a penchant for leveling and government redistribution.

November can't come soon enough!

Posted by: 2012frank | September 14, 2010 7:24 PM | Report abuse

Obama wrote in the draft memo. "When government does not work like it should, it has a real effect on people's lives."
===========================================

Especially when the Govenment forces people to purchase healthcare in clear violation of the Constitution. If this law is not unconstitutional what is to stop future presidents from mandating we purchase other products and/or services?

It is just wrong and unconstitutional to mandate that anyone must purchase something they feel they do not need or want.

Posted by: sanmateo1850 | September 14, 2010 11:22 PM | Report abuse

Wow wheeljc, seems like its you who needs to civic lesson. While it is Congress that passes budgets, we were brought into a war with Iraq under FALSE pretenses and that war costs the US hundreds of billions of dollars. Yes, the meek Congress was complicit for not digging deeper into the Bush lies, but it was the Bush Administration that put us there and while there, we had to spend and THAT put us in the hole.

Posted by: commentator3 | September 15, 2010 6:35 AM | Report abuse

While I'm not a certified "Obama basher" (I believe all career politicians are inherently corrupt due to the nature of the job position), he's certainly not as supportive of small businesses as he attempts to portray.

In the past year, I've seen a few hundred government positions, which were once held by contractors, federalized. In each case, the company losing the work was a small business, usually either 8(a) or minority owned. I've seen few of those positions held by contractors for the large systems-integration companies (CSC, Lockheed, etc) be federalized.

The companies being hurt most by this rush to expand the Federal government are the same companies we're being told the administration is being supportive of.

Posted by: mika_england | September 15, 2010 11:04 AM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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