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Austerity budgets are intimidating to face. But done right, they can be a lever for needed innovations. Here are two reports that offer similar advice. One is from an historical perspective; the other is based on ongoing austerity initiatives.
Making Smart Cuts. The Partnership for Public Service released a report with lessons from the 1990s budget cutting era.
The report identifies eight budget cutting strategies used in the 1990s, such as across-the-board cuts, programmatic cuts, cuts in administrative costs, and reengineering. It found that “none of the strategies would be successful in isolation. . . “ The report also identified four conditions of success for any downsizing effort:
The Partnership’s report recommends:
Key Practices for Streamlining. The Government Accountability Office released a report with key practices currently in use by several federal agencies and state governments to cope with budget cuts underway. Agency initiatives surveyed include the Defense Department’s Efficiencies Initiative, Homeland Security’s Efficiency Review, and HUD’s Transformation Initiative. State government programs included the Texas Sunset Advisory Commission, Iowa’s Lean Enterprise Office, and Virginia’s Productivity Investment Fund.
GAO summed up the following key practices:
GAO recommends that OMB use existing governmentwide management councils to share lessons learned across agencies, and to work with Congress to develop proposals for mechanisms to fund investments in longer-term efficiency improvement projects. (Note: Congress has funded such a project which is the subject of a recent IBM Center report: the Partnership Fund for Program Integrity Innovation).
In addition to the rich details of the various initiatives in its case studies, the GAO report ends with a four-page list of more than 35 recent presidential and OMB directives to improve performance or to cut various administrative costs. That list alone (with their hotlinks to the original directives) is a valuable checklist for harried agency executives trying to keep up with the flood of directives to work better and cost less!