The Government Effectiveness Advanced Research Center is expected to focus on retraining the workforce and finding better ways to leverage government data once it’s stood up, according to Office of Management and Budget officials.

“The two areas of focus that we have out of the gate revolve around reskilling the workforce for the jobs of the 21st century and commercialization of federal data,” said OMB Deputy Director of Management Margaret Weichert during an Aug. 23 call.

The GEAR Center was originally proposed as part of the June 2018 government reorganization plan issued by the Trump administration, and Weichert said at a Senate hearing following the proposal that the GEAR Center was one of her personal favorite parts.

Data management and workforce modernization are both reorganization components of the President’s Management Agenda.

According to Weichert, “There are a number of initiatives in the broader market looking at challenges around how technology is influencing the workplace, what is the workplace of the future going to be like, what are the skillsets of the future needed, and how might we bring leading practices about adult cognition and learning and apply those to how to retrain people who perhaps, today, are working on paper-based processes.”

In terms of data, the GEAR Center would investigate how different sets of federal data may be valuable to both the private sector and other government entities and how best to take advantage of those.

According to Weichert, the goal of the GEAR Center would be to find areas where government, private sector and academia would have overlapping needs and to develop ideas that benefit everyone.

“Ford Motor Company or GM have the same challenges about reskilling employees. Small companies who are looking at changing their business models to deal with the internet are asking these same questions. We should be bale to learn from what they’re finding in the market,” said Weichert.

But, according to Weichert and other OMB experts, workforce and data are just the initial ideas for what the GEAR Center would focus on, as the agency is waiting for public responses to a recent request for information to inform the structure and focus of the center.

“This center will enable live testing and piloting of new capabilities, methods and approaches and inform future direction by helping the government anticipate and respond to changes in technology and society that have implications for government efficiency and service to citizens,” the RFI states.

“This request for information (RFI) seeks input from across sectors and disciplines on similar capabilities that already exist as well as key considerations in pursuing this initiative.”

Eliana Zavala, management analyst in OMB’s Office of Federal Procurement Policy, said that people can respond to any of the eight broad questions posed in the RFI that they feel are “particularly up their alley.”

The RFI closes Sept. 14, at which point OMB will review the offered suggestions and plan next steps for the center.

According to Mark Bussow, performance manager at OMB, the information gathering stage of the GEAR Center’s development is likely to be rather short, and the center will be stood up sometime in 2019.

Weichert said that she anticipates the center will receive somewhere in the low millions of dollars in seed funding.

Jessie Bur covers federal IT and management.

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