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Federal Eye
Posted at 06:00 AM ET, 03/22/2011

Federal workers asked for government reorganization ideas

The Obama administration is once again asking federal employees for their input, this time in hopes of turning up new ideas on how to reorganize the government.

Eye Opener

Specifically, administration officials want ideas on how to reorganize the 12 federal agencies responsible for trade and export issues. President Obama has asked top officials to present potential plans by mid-June.

Office of Management and Budget Deputy Director Jeffrey D. Zients, who’s leading the reorganization efforts, sent the first request for ideas on Friday. Top agency bosses are expected to send out similar requests this week.

“We know that federal employees have some of the best knowledge about how our government works, and some of the best ideas of how to improve it so it best serves the American people,” Zients said in his e-mail. “We want your ideas as part of this process.”

The reorganization is necessary because overlaps among the 12 export and trade agencies “can make it confusing for American businesses to know where to turn,” Zients said.

Feds had submitted more than a few thousand ideas by Monday evening — though not all of them are directly related to trade and export responsibilities. One user suggests establishing a single federal ID card that would carry a citizen’s Social Security number, veteran’s status and driver’s license number.

“Cards would have an expiration date (say 5 years) and renewals can be made via Post Offices and SSA Offices,” the unidentified participant suggests (the site blocks each user’s identity for privacy reasons, OMB said). “Base it on the credit card issuance, club store membership or Military CAC card models that are already in place. Provide a PIN function so that point-of-service devices are usable.”

Another participant suggests a federal car-sharing program for agencies with underused fleets: “Some cities have done that and made money by selling surplus cars from fleets by downsizing their vehicle inventory,” the participant says. “Good example for using services (mobility via carsharing) versus buying goods (cars, vehicles).” (But would agency officials embrace a ZipCar program for feds?)

Some ideas are more far-fetched: One person suggests a merger of the CIA and FBI to cut travel and training costs (a near-impossibility due to conflicting authorizing legislation and missions) and someone else suggests establishing a completely online federal agency that would reduce operational costs (but would the online agency have to hire bots?)

The request for ideas is modeled on the White House SAVE Award that seeks cost-cutting ideas from federal employees. (Ironically, the winning ideas haven’t been fully implemented because of the ongoing budget impasse.) The contest is also one of several ways Zients is expected to reach out in the coming weeks to lawmakers, agency officials, federal worker union leaders and private businesses as he begins the three-month reorganization project. He’s expected to share more details later today during a speech to the Brookings Institution. (Check back later today for more on that.)

Whether you’re a federal employee or not, how might you reorganize these agencies? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

Cabinet and Staff News: President Obama presses Latin American countries for more human rights. In Russia, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates seeks closer ties. George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton are still close friends. HBO is developing a Dick Cheney miniseries. Several Cabinet secretaries and other top officials are traveling with Obama through Latin America.

ENERGY DEPARTMENT:
Tests conducted on U.S. facilities: A top-to-bottom examination of procedures at U.S. nuclear-energy facilities was under way in the wake of Japan’s earthquake-triggered nuclear-plant crisis.

FDA:
FDA revisits risks of electric shock treatment: Modern shock therapy is safe and effective, proponents argue, but others say the long-term risks are too uncertain.

FEDERAL RESERVE:
Fed to name banks that took out emergency loans: Federal courts ruled that the Fed had no compelling reason to keep the information private. On Monday, the Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal by a group representing large banks.

GOVERNMENT WORK/LIFE/OPERATIONS:
Federal jobs among most desirable: The U.S. State Department, FBI, Microsoft, CIA and NASA are among the top ten.
House spending on staff was up in 2010: Returning members paid $19 million more for their staffs in 2010 than the year before.

JUSTICE DEPARTMENT:
Overpaying for prison: Keeping some federal detainees in motels might be cheaper than renting them a cell in a local jail.

SMALL BUSINESS ADMINISTRATION:
Small Business Administration moves to let more companies qualify as ‘small’: It’s proposing new definitions for what qualifies as small in professional and technical services as diverse as accounting and computer programming. The rules would affect some fields more than others.

STATE DEPARTMENT:
U.S. makes potassium iodide available in Japan: It’s available to U.S. personnel and their dependents living in Tokyo and other parts of Japan.

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By  |  06:00 AM ET, 03/22/2011

Categories:  Eye Opener, Workplace Issues

 
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