Correction to This Article
An earlier version of this article included a photo caption that misidentified one of the sponsors of the Government Efficiency, Effectiveness and Performance Improvement Act. It was sponsored by Reps.Henry Cuellar (D-Tex.), pictured, and Dennis Moore (D-Kan.). This version has been corrected.

Federal Diary: A move, eventually, for making government more efficient

Reps. Henry Cuellar (D-Tex.), pictured, and Dennis Moore (D-Kan.) are behind the efficiency bill.
Reps. Henry Cuellar (D-Tex.), pictured, and Dennis Moore (D-Kan.) are behind the efficiency bill. (Harry Cabluck - AP)
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By Joe Davidson
Friday, June 18, 2010

In a display of what passes for government efficiency, the House didn't manage to approve the Government Efficiency, Effectiveness and Performance Improvement Act of 2009 until 2010 was half over.

Eager to jump on the efficiency bandwagon, even a slow-moving one, House members approved the legislation with a unanimous voice vote Wednesday.

The legislation, which must be considered by the Senate, would require agencies to increase efforts to evaluate the effectiveness of government programs, submit strategic plans for achieving goals and designate performance improvement officers within each agency.

"This bill is a significant step forward in preventing waste, fraud and abuse in federal agencies and in improving the efficiency and effectiveness of federal programs," said Edolphus Towns (D-N.Y.), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

Under the bill sponsored by Reps. Henry Cuellar (D-Tex.) and Dennis Moore (D-Kan.), federal agencies would establish measurable guidelines for improving programs. Each agency head, along with the director of the Office of Management and Budget, would be required to assess agency programs at least once every five years. Those assessments would be submitted to Congress.

"This clear-cut plan will rein in spending and reduce government waste by shining a light on how federal agencies perform," Cuellar said. "Better information yields better results, and this bipartisan legislation represents the biggest leap forward in reducing the nation's deficit by measuring results. Americans know it's time to stop unnecessary, wasteful spending, and this common-sense concept will save taxpayer dollars and ensure our government is more effective and accountable."

Training better managers

One measure of the desire of federal employees to improve their efficiency, effectiveness and performance is their eagerness for more and better training. Enhancing training for government supervisors is the aim of legislation introduced this week by three Northern Virginia members of Congress.

Under the Federal Supervisor Training Act, managers would be required to have initial training within one year of taking their supervisory positions and at least once every three years after that. It would also mandate mentoring programs for new supervisors so they can learn from their experienced colleagues.

"Proper training is critical to improving delivery of government services, reducing costs associated with mitigating employee grievances, and enhancing morale throughout the entire civil service," said Rep. James P. Moran Jr. (D). "Whether it be processing tax returns or providing immigration services, the men and women who comprise the federal workforce need the proper institutional support and management training to do their jobs effectively."

Joining him as sponsors are Democrat Gerald E. Connolly and Republican Frank R. Wolf. The Senate is considering a similar measure that was introduced by Sen. Daniel K. Akaka (D-Hawaii).

The Federal Managers Association supports the legislation.

"An agency's ability to meet its mission directly correlates to the quality of workforce management. There is a clear need for training in order for managers to be fully successful," said FMA President Patricia Niehaus. "If an agency promotes an individual to managerial status based on technical prowess but then fails to develop the individual's supervisory and leadership skills, the agency severely jeopardizes its capability to deliver the level of service the American public expects and deserves."

Work-family lessons

The ability to balance career and family responsibilities was a major focus of a forum Thursday on "Building a Community for Women in the Federal Government," sponsored by the Homeland Security Department at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

The keynote speaker was Kathleen Martinez, the Labor Department's assistant secretary for disability employment policy. Often with humor, she used her experiences as a blind Hispanic woman to make points about the need for greater diversity.

"Disability is a women's issue," she said, because most caregivers are women and they care for people who may have a disability or who are elderly.

In prepared remarks, she talked about the $3 billion that Labor estimates corporations lose annually because of child-care issues.

"Of those employers who do offer child-care programs, many of those programs are not accessible, either physically or programmatically or both, to children with disabilities, even 20 years after the passage of the Americans With Disabilities Act," she said. "With few child-care or after-school program options for children with disabilities, many women choose to stay home to care for their children."

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