OMB to set new real property policy

Tuesday - 4/13/2010, 6:52am EDT

Danny Werfel, OMB controller

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Vivek Kundra, Federal Chief Information Officer

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By Jason Miller
Executive Editor
Federal News Radio

CAMBRIDGE, Md. -- The Office of Management and Budget is working on a new policy for managing and disposing of federal real property.

OMB controller Danny Werfel says the guidance will help agencies better understand how to address this growing problem.

The administration says agencies own more than 20,000 assets from office buildings to labs to hospital to runways that are considered excess, and 65,000 assets that are considered under used.

"We are planning in the near future to issue a policy that really focuses agency efforts to look closely at their real estate footprint, find opportunities to get rid of real estate they no longer need, maybe pushing it to the market in a sales transaction or consolidating it with another agency's real that overall gets us to a more efficient point," says Werfel during an exclusive interview with Federal News Radio at the IRMCO conference. "Fortunately we have a pretty robust inventory that was put in place over the last five years. But that puts us at a point in time where it is now important to manage against that inventory and now it's time to clean it up."

Dealing with excess real property is among Werfel's top priorities because agencies have little or no incentive to dispose of real property and the law regulating how the process works is 60 years old and arduous.

Werfel did not say when exactly the new policy would be issued.

Along with managing and disposal of real property, Werfel continues to spend a lot of time overseeing how agencies are reducing improper payments.

"We know where the errors are and we need to deploy solutions to fix them," he says. "Technology will play a big role here. A lot of these errors can be addressed by sharing data."

He says long standing problematic programs such as Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security are starting to find the seeds of innovation solutions such as data mining and forensic auditing, to find errors.

While Werfel is focusing on lingering problems, OMB also is trying to address some recent challenges.

Federal chief information officer Vivek Kundra says the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FEDRamp) will make sure cloud computing makes economic sense for agencies and companies, who provide these services.

"Right now, if you were to get certified you would have to through a certification process agency by agency or bureau by bureau to sell your solution," he says. "It doesn't make sense and it costs a fortune. For the first time, this centralized certification will allow the government to certify products in the cloud that agencies can leverage. So the board that will be certifying these products will be made up of permanent members that are the Defense Department, the Homeland Security Department and the General Services Administration, in addition to the agency that is requesting the technology solution. Once that happens, any other agency can go out there and leverage that certification."

FEDRamp will look at the first set of products in a matter of weeks, adds Kundra in an exclusive interview with Federal News Radio at the IRMCO conference.

And agency progress in reducing real property or moving to cloud computing will be tracked quarterly by OMB.

Shelley Metzenbaum, OMB's associate director for Personnel and Performance Management, says the administration's performance portal remains under development, and eventually will communicate performance information and strengthen agency problem solving.

"We asked agencies for 3-to-8 high performance goals and they are not trickling down far enough," she says during the IRMCO panel discussion. "We are using these goals to lead and get people involved in delivering on them."

OMB will hold agencies accountable for these goals by moving away from compliance to transformation.

"We want to connect people with a purpose," she says. "We will hold quarterly performance reviews to ensure agencies are on track."

OMB also is asking agencies to create internal performance review boards to oversee their progress. Metzenbaum says the Treasury Department and the Food and Drug Administration already has their boards in place.

"Agencies will not get in trouble for not meeting their targets, unless they don't know why they are not meeting their targets and they don't have a plan to get there," she says. "Our goal is to do problem solving through collaboration and data. We want to start with the problem and figure out how to solve it."

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