OMB to make reorg recommendations by June 30

Tuesday - 3/22/2011, 1:23pm EDT

WFED's Jason Miller

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By Jason Miller
Executive Editor
Federal News Radio

The Office of Management and Budget is modeling phase one of its government reorganization effort after the SAVE Awards.

Jeff Zients, OMB's deputy director for management and chief performance officer, today said the reorganization office, which he co-leads with Lisa Brown, reached out last week to all federal employees by email asking for ideas to improve export and trade agencies and their overlapping missions.

Zients said this initial phase of collecting ideas will last a few weeks with an end goal to submit recommendations to the President by mid-to-late June.

President Obama announced the reorganization in the State of the Union address in January and issued a follow-on memo March 11 detailing the initial steps of the effort to focus on these specific areas. Zients said there are 12 different agencies that play a role in supporting trade and export missions, including six that promote international exporting. He said there also are more than 2,000 local and regional offices that also promote trade and exporting of goods and services.

"We've launched a website for government employees to share their ideas and advice," said Zients at an event in Washington sponsored by the Brookings Institution. "We also are speaking with current agency leaders, former agency leaders, employee unions, good government groups, Congressional staff and members of Congress."

Similar to the SAVE Awards where OMB asks employees for money saving ideas, the administration is collecting ideas on the same technology through the Ideascale tool.

Zients said OMB has reached out to all employees, but he expects the workers involved in the export and trade mission areas to provide many of the ideas.

Employees already have submitted 1,173 ideas that have received more than 8,400 votes.

"We want this to be driven by our customers' perspective," he said. "We have to understand how we can serve them better."

Zients said about six people are working with him and Brown regularly on this reorganization effort, as well as others providing as needed help from OMB.

Along with federal employees, Zients said the administration is working with Congress to explain their plans. He said many parts of a reorganization could need legislation.

"We've had more than a dozen meetings with Congressional staff and we have started meeting with members of Congress," he said.

One of those areas is a possible way to pay for the reorganization, if, in the end, it needs funding. Zients said any funding request would go through the regular budget process.

But the administration is open to the idea of spending money to save money.

"The benefits must outweigh the costs by a lot," he said. "We could, similarly to the way we are asking for a working capital fund for the federal facilities reduction effort, to address any funding needs up front. But it's too early to say if we will need such a fund."

Zients said every idea is on the table, including moving the U.S. Trade Representative Office into the Commerce Department. But he said nothing has been decided and it will not be until they submit recommendations to the President in a few months.

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