Warner seeks to 'clean house' on outdated agency reports

Thursday - 1/10/2013, 5:35pm EST

Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) on "In Depth"

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The federal government currently produces nearly 400 reports — often at the behest of Congress — that the Office of Management and Budget says are redundant or in need of significant streamlining.

But the reports, which Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) likened to agency "busy work," will continue unless Congress explicitly authorizes their elimination.

All told, OMB has listed 376 duplicative or unnecessary reports, 269 of which could be eliminated altogether.

Now, Warner says he plans to introduce legislation allowing for the elimination or consolidation of these reports.

Identifying the reports is part of the Government Performance and Results Modernization Act, which Warner sponsored and which President Barack Obama signed into law in January 2011. The law required agencies to better align annual performance goals with the long-term aims identified in their four-year strategic plans.

Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.)

Warner seeking legislative fix

While GPRA also directed agencies to identify the unnecessary reports, because most of them are congressionally-mandated, only official legislation can completely nullify the reporting requirements.

"So, we have to kind of end up coming back and then clean house in effect to fully implement what was identified by GPRA," Warner said in an interview on In Depth with Francis Rose.

Warner said he's still considering the proper legislative fix.

"We're not saying we're going to go in and endorse all of OMB's requirements," he said. "But we want to comb through this, figure out which of these .... we concur with OMB on in terms of either elimination and consolidation."

Warner said the bill would "show to the federal workforce that we're not just simply trying to be additive, that we're actually trying to eliminate some of the outdated and some cases repetitive, ridiculous requirements we, as Congress, have put before folks."

'Cleaning out the underbrush'

Over the years, Congress has been too quick to add to agencies' workload, he said. As circumstances and situations evolve, Congress isn't shy about asking agencies to provide more data, he explained.

"But what we're not very good at is ever going back through and cleaning out the underbrush of programs, regulations and — in this case what we're focused — reporting requirements that outlived their usefulness," he said.

The broader aim of the bill — as with GPRA modernization — is to help agencies further refine their policy goals and allow them enough time and resources to go about implementing them as opposed to being chained to strict reporting requirements.

But there's nothing to stop Congress from continuing to pile on the requests for reports further down the road.

"My hope is what we're doing is a good first step here by eliminating some of the burdensome activity that isn't towards full mission," he said.

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