The vexing agency recovery issue — and remember, the transparency has never been done

Tuesday - 2/24/2009, 6:50am EST

There is all sorts of consternation right now about the stimulus bill. There is all sorts of concern about the money flow itself, which is more like a fire hose. Many agency executives are concerned that agencies simply do not have the resources to deal with it — and that it will end up being a field day for auditors. That could be balanced out by the transparency, yet most agency executives I’ve spoken to simply don’t believe that the transparency will end up being a reality in the short term.

We’ve had a number of interviews on Federal News Radio 1500 AM about the stimulus package. Find a number of them here… and Monday on Federal News Radio 1500 AM’s Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris, we spoke to Washington Management Group’s Bill Gormley … and even SRA International President and CEO Stanton Sloane… and earlier we spoke to Robert Burton, the former deputy administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy who is now a partner with the Venable law firm. If you listen to those conversations carefully, you can hear a good deal of nervousness — concern about the amount of money that is going to be poured through the system with simply inadequate number of people to deal with all of thefacets of it.

The WP had a story today — Government Gets Chance To Prove It Can Work: Stimulus Act Will Test Civil Servants’ Abilities [WP, 02.23.2009] Here is Slate.com’s Today’s Paper’s synopsis:

The Washington Post leads with a look at how the success of the stimulus package will be determined by whether officials in all levels of government can disburse the money quickly and efficiently. Many agencies and offices will have more money than ever before to carry out their missions and are trying to figure out the best way to distribute the cash. The package is “the ultimate test of government’s ability to deliver,” declares the Post.

The concern, of course, is that this simply isn’t a fair test. Remember that there has already been a enormous increase in contractingdollars in recent years, starting under President Clinton. Yet the Clinton administration liked to boast that it actually cut the size of the federal workforce — remember the era of big government being over? There are many feds who are deeply concerned that agencies are simply going to beoverwhelmed.

Furthermore, the transparency is going to be difficult at best. Example A is the 60-plus page memo from OMB. But beyond that, the simple fact is that USASpending.gov was developed over more than a year — and it still doesn’t have the kind of near real-time functionality that the Obama administration is looking to get out of Recovery.gov.

Nobody disagrees with the goals. The question is whether it is possible in such a short period of time.

Many of the people I have spoken to recommend that the Obama administration step up hiring of procurement personnel. And then the recommend giving agencies some leeway on the transparency — make it a goal to have the fully functional site running within 6- or 12-months.

Finally, on a lighter note… talk about being at the right URL at the right time — or buying the right URL at the right time. Vice President JoeBiden last week missed it by a dot com.

This from the WP over the weekend:

For nearly two years, the Obama team made successfully using cutting-edge new media look deceptively simple. Since entering the White House, though, the truth has been laid bare: running a successful Web operation using new technologies is an exercise in successful glitch management. From e-mail outages to not posting promised information online, there have been glitches aplenty as the new administration has settled into its government quarters.

Today, a new glitch — in the form of a misstatement by Vice President Biden — arose to direct 80 mayors visiting the White House to a private-sector Web site instead of the government’s own stimulus-bill spending tracking site.

“We’ve already set up a Web site, Recovery.com, which will show where and how the money is being spent,” the vice president told the leaders of the United States Conference of Mayors during a speech in the East Room of the White House. “The public can actually go on a Web site and see how we’re spending this money.”