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Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Obama outlines government reform plan

President-elect Barack Obama has already laid out a comprehensive set of government reform plans, including major changes to the Bush administration’s Program Assessment Rating Tool (PART), sweeping ethics reform and a new approach toward financial regulation.

Obama laid out his plans in an 11-page memo released last month. It calls for a new chief performance officer in the White House, who will oversee a strengthened PART. Under the new program, the president would have the authority to use poor PART assessments to replace agency heads, demand improvement plans, and reduce or eliminate program budgets.

The Bush administration has said repeatedly that PART assessments do not directly correlate to an agency’s budget.

Obama would restructure many federal agencies under the plan, thinning the ranks of what he calls “Washington middle managers” and boosting staffing levels in field offices. But Obama’s government reform memo doesn’t provide specifics on how many management jobs would be cut, and which agencies would be most affected.

Obama also hopes to increase transparency, through steps like creating a searchable database of lobbyist contacts and posting complete government contracts on the Internet. His team hopes those efforts will eliminate ethical lapses like those at the Interior Department’s Minerals Management Service, where employees accepted gifts and meals from oil companies they regulated.

The plan also addresses another set of regulatory agencies making headlines: financial regulators.

“The large, complex institutions that dominate the financial landscape today no longer fit into discrete categories,” it says. “We need a streamlined system of oversight, one that reflects 21st century markets.”

Obama’s plan calls for consolidating some of the agencies, and requiring more detailed disclosures from financial institutions.

-Gregg Carlstrom, FederalTimes.com

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