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Louis Jacobson
By Louis Jacobson February 17, 2012

Chief Performance Officer has been busy

During the 2008 presidential campaign, Barack Obama promised to create a "focused team within the White House" to improve government performance and efficiency.

"This unit, a SWAT team, will be composed of top-performing and highly-trained government professionals and be headed by a new Chief Performance Officer who will report directly to the president," Obama promised. "The CPO will work with federal agencies to set tough performance targets and hold managers responsible for progress. The president will meet regularly with cabinet officers to review the progress their agencies are making toward meeting performance improvement targets."

As we noted the last time we looked at this promise, Obama appointed businessman Jeffrey D. Zients, to be his chief performance officer. He was confirmed on June 19, 2009. (He"s now acting director of the Office of Management and Budget.)

Here are a few things Zients and his staff have been working on since then:

• The Accountable Government Initiative, which the White House says has already cut at least $16 billion in contract spending, recommended termination of redundant programs in the president's 2012 budget, and avoided $4 billion in improper payments for government services. Another target: federally owned buildings and real estate, which cost $20 billion a year to maintain.

• Adoping a "cloud first" policy for information technology. "We are reducing our data-center footprint by 40 percent by 2015 and shifting the agency default approach to IT to a cloud-first policy as part of the 2012 budget process," Zients said in a blog post. "Consolidating more than 2,000 government data centers will save money, increase security and improve performance." The Department of Homeland Security and the Education Department have taken steps in this direction, the White House said, and the General Services Administration has announced that it will be the first federal agency to adopt an agency-wide cloud-based e-mail system, under a $6.7 million contract to shift 17,000 GSA employee e-mail accounts to Google Apps for Government.

• A commitment by the federal government to enter into "energy savings performance contracts" for federal buidlings over the next 24 months.

• New guidelines for implementing a customer service mandate from the White House. According to a memo by Zients released in June 2011, "within 180 days, each agency will post a customer service plan" that identifies ways in which technology can be used "to improve the customer experience will be designed and executed."

• A new appraisal system for the Senior Executive Service, a class of high-ranking federal managers. Among other things, the new system is designed to increase uniformity in job evaluations.

• Implement the Securing Americans Value and Efficiency (or SAVE) award, in which federal employees submit ideas for improving government received tens of thousands of ideas on how to make government more efficient and effective. The contest, which began in 2009, has led to 56,000 submissions, with the White House saying it has included "dozens of the most promising ideas" included in the Terminations, Reductions, and Savings volume of the president"s budget.

John M. Palguta, vice president for policy at the Partnership for Public Service, said he was impressed with how closely Zients has worked with each agency"s appointed "performance improvement officers. "We know that Jeff Zients and OMB paid attention and were interested in finding ways to provide additional support to the PIO"s," said Palguta, whose group issued a survey in April 2011 about the PIOs" ideas for improving the federal government.

We can"t say for sure whether all of these innovations will lead to lower costs and improved government efficiency over the long term. But Obama"s promise was about creating the office, setting performance targets and coordinating between agencies. Everything we"ve seen indicates that the administration has done each of those things. We rate this a Promise Kept.

Our Sources

Angie Drobnic Holan
By Angie Drobnic Holan July 1, 2009

Zients becomes Chief Performance Officer

Businessman Jeffrey D. Zients was confirmed as President Barack Obama's chief performance officer, charged with improving government efficiency.

Zients was the founder and managing partner of Portfolio Logic, an investment firm in business and health care services. He also served as CEO and chairman of the Advisory Board Company and chairman of the Corporate Executive Board, companies that provide performance and best-practices benchmarks to various industries.

Zients was confirmed June 19, 2009. Obama named him after the first nominee, Nancy Killefer, withdrew over tax issues.

Zients also holds the title of deputy director for management in the White House's Office of Management and Budget. OMB director Peter Orszag said Zients will work with chief technology officer Aneesh Chopra and the chief information officer Vivek Kundra to improve the performance of the federal government.

We're interested to see more on how the performance team works, and for now leave this promise at In the Works.

Our Sources

Robert Farley
By Robert Farley January 13, 2009

Accountability chief accounted for

Calling it one of the most important appointments he will make, President-elect Barack Obama on Jan. 7, 2009, named Nancy Killefer as the nation's first chief performance officer.

Remember during the campaign when Obama repeatedly said that he would scour the budget line by line, eliminate things that don't work, and improve the things that do? Well, that will, in part, be Killefer's job.

"I will be instructing members of my Cabinet and key members of their staffs to meet with (Killefer) soon after we take office, and on a regular basis thereafter, to discuss how they can run their agencies with greater efficiency, transparency and accountability," Obama said in the Jan. 7 news conference.

"I will also see to it that we apply these principles of budget reform to the economic recovery and investment plan," Obama said. "This plan will call for dramatic investments to revive our flagging economy, save or create 3 million jobs, mostly in the private sector, and lay a solid foundation for future growth.

"In order to make these investments that we need, we'll have to cut the spending that we don't, and I'll be relying on (Killefer) to help guide that process."

Killefer is a senior director at the management-consulting firm McKinsey & Co.'s Washington, D.C. office, and served as assistant secretary of the treasury in the Clinton administration.

Said Killefer: "I know from my experience, bringing about change in the private and public sectors, that government has the capacity to deliver services more efficiently and effectively. I have seen it done.

"And I have seen it important to work across bureaucratic boundaries. By that, I mean to get different parts of government working together to deliver services that consumers, its citizens, deserve.

"The people who deliver those services, the government employees themselves, will be central to this effort. I am convinced that the success of every policy of this administration will be influenced by the people executing it. And I am committed to engaging and drawing on the talents of the federal workforce in order to deliver on our promise of a new, more efficient and effective government."

In naming Killefer chief performance officer, Obama has taken the first step toward this promise. Now we'll need to see how well the performance team ... performs.

Our Sources

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