Posthearing Questions Related to Government Organization

GAO-04-365R: Published: Jan 8, 2004. Publicly Released: Jan 8, 2004.

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Patricia A. Dalton
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On September 17, GAO testified before Congress at the Human Capital Planning: Exploring the National Commission on the Public Service's Recommendations for Reorganizing the Federal Government hearing. This report provides answers to follow-up questions from the hearing.

Executive reorganization authority can facilitate certain reorganizations and has been granted in the past year. However, the nature of such authority should be carefully considered. In addition, appropriate congressional oversight needs to be an integral party of any such authorities. For example, the Congress may wish to consider a longer period for review and debate of proposals that include significant policy elements versus operational elements. Further, the President and the Congress may wish to consider establishing a process (e.g., a commission) that provides for the involvement of the key players and a means to help reach consensus of any specific restructuring proposals that would be submitted for consideration by the Congress. The proposed Government Accountability and Streamlining Act of 2003 would require GAO to prepare statements for bills and resolutions reported by congressional committees and subcommittees on whether the responsibilities of any proposed new federal entities, programs, or functions are redundant. Because it provides the Congress more information as it considers proposed legislation, this proposal has potential for preventing the creation of unnecessary redundancy. However, for the information to be useful it must be timely. There are two approaches to segmenting the effort of cataloging federal programs and analyzing their functions for overlap and duplication that have merit and can be done simultaneously. First, the budget can be used to identify multiple organizations being funded for potentially similar activities. Second, there are some well-known areas of overlap and duplication that could serve as useful starting points for potential restructuring. There is a clear need to streamline the number of departments and the organization and geographic presence of the federal government. However, any reorganization of the federal government must be built on consensus of the key parties and based on a clearly defined set of principles. It is important that all key players are involved--the Congress, the President, the executive branch agencies, their employees and unions, and other interested parties, including the public. Any reorganization should have in mind certain overarching principles: a government that minimizes the numbers of organizational sites and layers; a government that serves the public efficiently economically; and a government that is run in a sound, businesslike fashion with appropriate transparency and full accountability and that is flexible and responsive enough to needed changes. People are an organization's most important asset, and strategic human capital management should be the centerpiece of any transformation or organizational change initiative. An organization's people define its character, affect its capacity to perform, and represent the knowledge base of the organization. The leaders of any reorganization and transformation effort need to pay attention to people because people will determine the success of any related effort. In pursuing functional reorganization, there are two things that are critical: adequate employee involvement and appropriate institutional infrastructure.

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