Sen. Tom Coburn: The administration's list of management goals does not go far enough. (Rob Curtis/Staff / Federal Times)
Agencies need to do a better job hiring skilled employees, measuring performance goals and managing projects and programs, according to lawmakers and outside experts.
The administration released dozens of agency management goals along with 15 governmentwide goals to help improve transparency and accountability, but the administration must do more, according to Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla.
Agencies struggle to count how many programs they have and how much each one costs and the data that does exist is hidden from public view, Coburn said at a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs hearing March 31.
“The government can’t manage what it can’t measure,” Coburn said.
He called for the creation of a government inventory of federal programs along with scorecards for each that offers basic information on its budget and purpose.
Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., said the government has made progress in some areas and must work with good government groups to tackle more pervasive and longstanding problems in government.
“Sadly, the challenges that we are facing are not new; for decades, both Republican and Democratic Administrations have struggled to correct inefficiencies and make government work better for the American people,” Carper said.
Shelley Metzenbaum, President of The Volcker Alliance and former White House Office of Management and Budget Associate Director for Performance and Personnel Management, said the government must do a better job recruiting younger workers.
“We need young people with fresh minds, intuitive understanding of the new economy and new technologies, and education about the best and emerging knowledge in government. Sadly, right now, when energetic, educated recent graduates and interns want to work in the federal government, they have a ridiculously hard time getting hired,” she said.
She urged Congress to fix a ‘just plain broken’ internship system and reform the hiring process to allow other agencies to piggyback off of other agency hiring processes. For example, an agency that identifies five good candidates for two positions and share the remaining three applications.
Metzenbaum also said agencies must do a better job procuring and managing programs, and that past-performance should be a bigger factor in agency procurement decisions.
Max Stier, president of the Partnership for Public Service, said the administration must reduce the number of vacancies within agency leadership positions and Congress should reduce the number of Senate-confirmed leadership positions.
“You can’t have government run effectively if the top people aren’t there,” Stier said.
He said other ways to improve government include:
■ Spurring greater congressional oversight of programs before they go wrong instead of after a crisis unfolds.
■ Creating a public-private exchange system to allow people from the private sector to work in government for short periods of time and vice versa.
■ Drafting an integrated strategic plan and vision for government as a whole.