It’s been two months since the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued the Comprehensive Plan for Reforming the Federal Government and Reducing the Federal Civilian Workforce. This memorandum provides heads of executive departments and agencies guidance on fulfilling the federal hiring freeze issued in January by President Trump. It also provides direction regarding the Reorganization Executive Order released in March, which states that the OMB must submit a comprehensive plan to restructure Executive Branch departments and agencies.
Under this comprehensive reform plan, all agencies must submit their plans to the OMB. Agencies are required to:
- Start taking immediate actions to achieve workforce reductions and cost savings, including planning for funding levels in the President’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 Budget Blueprint.
- Develop a plan to maximize employee performance by June 30, 2017
- Submit an Agency Reform Plan to the OMB in September that includes long-term workforce reductions.
Ultimately, these reform efforts are designed to:
- Create a lean, accountable, more efficient government that works for the American people.
- Effectively and efficiently deliver federal government programs of the highest needs of citizens and where there is a unique federal role, as opposed to assuming current programs are optimally designed or needed.
- Align the federal workforce to meet the needs of today and the future, versus requirements of the past.
- Strengthen agencies by removing barriers that hinder front-line employees from delivering results.
An analytical framework that can help heads of executive departments and agencies in their planning efforts is included with this plan. The “framework should result in appropriate proposals in four categories: eliminate activities, restructure or merge, improve organizational efficiency and effectiveness, and better workforce management.”
For instance, when developing an Agency Reform Plan under the improving organizational efficiency and effectiveness section, agencies should consider several categories.
First, agencies are encouraged to better leverage technology to improve business processes. “Agencies should identify opportunities where adopting new technology will automate processes and result in increased efficiency and budgetary savings.”
Video conferencing, which is already a popular communication platform used by many agencies, will more than likely see a spike in usage. This is especially true as more and more federal workers will be working remotely to cut down on real estate expenses. Federal employees can simply call in from their desktop or mobile device on a secure platform for meetings that require face-to-face interaction. Not only will this enhance communication, but it will also cut down on wasteful spending when traveling to and from meetings.
Second, agencies should consider ways they can streamline or eliminate processes, and shift to alternative service delivery models that can serve their constituents more efficiently while cutting costs.
An example of streamlining services while reducing costs is already happening within state judicial systems. In the state of Michigan, for instance, judges are leveraging video collaboration to avoid the expenses or danger associated with prisoner transports. Video is also being used to provide expert witness testimonies without the need to travel. This is saving taxpayers millions of dollars in wasteful spend that is associated with traveling to and from the courts.
Video enabled kiosks can also be used by some agencies to improve citizen engagement. These video kiosks can provide a practical, cost-effective and more personal way of providing services to more citizens in less time. For instance, just think of the role in which telemental health can pay dividends for veterans with PTSD.
Video kiosks could benefit certain agencies, such as The Department of Veterans Affairs, helping to expedite paperwork internally and externally. How amazing would it be if you could just walk up to a kiosk, electronically sign your paperwork, and interact with government representatives throughout the country face-to-face to address your questions or concerns?
Heads of executive departments and agencies have no choice but to find ways to cut costs and be more efficient. The use of appropriate technology, such as video, will continue to help cut cost while increasing proficiency. Video collaboration is no longer a niche technology reserved for conference rooms and for connecting the most senior decision makers. It not only can be used to streamline communications internally among remote workers, but externally to provide more efficient service delivery models to constituents for when they need them most.