When President Obama receives his first report on "open government" this coming May, we're wondering what it will include. As we reported a couple of days ago, the president's first five actions at the moment of taking office included ordering the Open Government Directive, due by May 21, four months from its issue.
This directive "...instructs executive departments and agencies to take specific actions implementing the principles set forth in this memorandum." What principles? Transparency, participation, and collaboration.
Three senior government folks have this deliverable on their to-do lists: Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Peter Orszag, the General Services Administration head (Paul Prouty is acting administrator), and the still-to-be appointed Chief Technology Officer, whose reporting structure remains unclear. (We're speculating, based on OMB's organization chart, that the CTO will be in that agency and likely report to Orszag and the president through the "Deputy Director for Management." But we can't really tell, especially since the president said during the campaign that the CTO would report directly to him. The deputy position, by the way, which is to include the new title of Chief Performance Officer, is vacant due to the original nominee's tax problems.)
We've added these OMB positions and other top spots in the newest edition of our OrgScope chart of the accountability structure, as portrayed in our US Gov Map (click, patiently wait a moment for Java to load, click on the Executive Office of the President at about 1 o'clock on the map, then follow the chain down through OMB).
"Transparency for accountability" is the starting point, the critical role for organizational transparency as the precondition for "open government through participation and collaboration." Transparency, accountability, and open government are really OMB's core responsibilities. In essence, OMB is the working hub of the new "open government."
By law, OMB is the place where the executive branch of the US Government comes to "get a whole of itself" (sorry, we couldn't pass up the pun). Its mission is to assist the president with budgeting and administration of executive branch agencies. Responsible for management and budget, this agency also collects data, measures effectiveness, and helps set priorities. It is a major information pipeline between the administration and Congress. Itself a small agency, OMB's job performance contributes to the effectiveness and efficiency of all the rest of government.
So how OMB does its job is particularly critical at this critical time. Kind of "critical-squared."
Why is mapping the hierarchy, in the way that we've been doing with our US Gov Maps, so important? The maps reveal the clear structure of accountability, the interdependent set of "end-of-the-day" responsibilities that includes every person-in-a-job in the organization. An org chart is the foundation for transparency, and provides context for all the specifics around both organizations that disburse funds and organizations where those funds are headed.
In our FDIC post earlier this week on ballooning rescue organizations, we reported that the budget for just one division was going from $75 million to $1 billion--not in funds to distribute or guarantee (those will likely be many billions, if not trillions) but funds allocated directly for the organization and management.
Three-quarters of that $1 billion will go to contractors. In our view, all organizations--government and otherwise--should map their accountability structures. Those maps should include the jobs of everyone working in the organization, whether full-time employees or contractors, i.e., the only org charts that make sense are the ones that account for everyone. Again, "account for," as in accountability.
The next step for the government agencies involved in the rescue/economic turnaround is to hang the specific details of dollars and deals off the boxes of the agencies and teams responsible for making decisions and awarding funds for rescue spending, investments, loans, and guarantees.
Tracking the transparency trail is already part of at least the stimulus package. While the president graciously took the suggestion of a Republican congressman to include a web site to track the stimulus funds, he has been laying the foundation for real transparency in spending since he entered the Senate--and laying it at the feet of OMB even when it was run by the Bush administration. Obama's early and deep interest is indicated by his co-authorship of the “Google for Government” law.
This bipartisan Coburn-Obama Bill, officially the “Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006,” directed OMB to create a searchable database of almost $3 trillion (in 2007 dollars) in federal grants. It was the first law the new senator introduced when he came to Washington.
The legislation called for tracking contracts, earmarks, direct payments, and loans by January 1, 2008. What happened? OMB made its deadline (see www.USAspending.gov for the result of this useful piece of 21st-century legislation). This is doubtless the platform that will be used to track the stimulus spending (see some of the back story here). For the moment, Recovery.gov is a nascent site in the whitehouse.gov style that shows great promise, offering both tabular views and visual displays of the information, although now only in a few gross chunks adding up to $789 billion.
We believe real transparency connects the details of spending to the the configuration of accountability, aka the org charts. Make both context (the map) and detail (the dollars) visible.
-- Jeff Stamps