Accountability

 

Accountability

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Thursday, April 12th, 2007 - 15:31
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Robert Shea interview

Friday, March 23rd, 2007 - 20:00
Phrase: 
"My job is to make performance an increasingly important factor, and the PART is a very powerful tool. There's a tremendous opportunity to make greater use of this on the Hill."
Radio show date: 
Sat, 03/24/2007
Guest: 
Intro text: 
Managing for Performance and Results; Leadership; Collaboration: Networks and Partnerships; Strategic Thinking; Innovation...
Managing for Performance and Results; Leadership; Collaboration: Networks and Partnerships; Strategic Thinking; Innovation
Complete transcript: 

Originally Broadcast Saturday, December 9, 2006

Washington, D.C.

Mr. Breul: Good morning, and welcome to The Business of Government Hour. I'm Jonathan Breul, your host, and senior fellow of The IBM Center for The Business of Government. We created the Center in 1998 to encourage discussion and research into new approaches to improving government effectiveness. You can find out more about the Center by visiting us on the web at businessofgovernment.org.

The Business of Government Radio Hour features a conversation about management with a government executive who is changing the way government does business. Our special guest this morning is Robert Shea, Associate Director for Management at the U.S. Office of Management and Budget.

Good morning, Robert.

Mr. Shea: Good morning, Jonathan.

Mr. Breul: And joining us in our conversation is John Kamensky, senior fellow at The IBM Center for The Business of Government.

Good morning, John.

Mr. Kamensky: Hi. How're you doing, Jonathan?

Mr. Breul: Let's begin by talking about the Office of Management and Budget. Robert, could you tell us about OMB, what is its mission, how is it organized, and give us a sense of the size of the staff?

Mr. Shea: OMB is a great storied institution, part of the Executive Office of the President. It's got about 500 employees. Its primary responsibility is to serve the President in executing his budget responsibilities, his oversight of the Executive Branch and the implementation of programs, and ensuring that regulations are issued in compliance with the law in an effective and efficient way.

It has the most talented group of employees in the federal government. It was rated recently by its own employees as the best place in government to work. It's a great place to be, very exciting. You have a very high sense of purpose at OMB, because you are every day trying to figure out how to serve the American people better every day.

Mr. Breul: Now that you've given us some sense of the larger OMB organization, could you elaborate on the management side of OMB, its specific purpose, its role within the larger organization?

Mr. Shea: Sure. The two big sides of OMB are the budget side and the management side. Most of the employees work on the budget side; that is, they prepare the budget, work with agencies to enact and implement that budget. But they also oversee the management of agencies. And the management side helps them to do that better.

We have an Office of Federal Procurement Policy, an Office of Federal Financial Management, an Office of Information Technology and E-Gov, and an Office of Personnel and Performance Management. Those all fall under the Deputy Director for Management, Clay Johnson, and are headed by folks who implement laws that have been enacted over time to improve government management, including the Office of Federal Procurement Act, the Chief Financial Officers Act, the E-Gov Act, the Clinger-Cohen Act.

All of these are intended -- and of course the Government Performance and Results Act, which really is the foundation for all of the management improvement acts that have been passed over time -- all of them are designed to make programs work better, more efficiently, and effectively on behalf of the American people. And we have chosen to implement those statutes, and measure implementation of those statutes, with the President's Management Agenda scorecard.

So for each of those offices, there is also an initiative on improving financial performance, strategic management of human capital, expanded electronic government, competitive sourcing and budget and performance integration, all of which have clear definitions of success criteria which we use to judge agency performance every quarter, so that we are improving the timeliness and accuracy of financial information that agencies can use to manage, that agencies have the employees they need to accomplish their missions, that they're reducing duplicative IT systems, managing IT projects more effectively and securely, that they're setting clear outcome goals for their programs and working to achieve them better and more efficiently every year, and reducing the cost of commercial activities.

So we've got about 60 people, all of whom are working diligently with their counterparts on the budget side of OMB and individuals and agencies to improve agency and program performance.

Mr. Kamensky: Well, that's a broad scope of responsibilities that the management side has. What are your specific responsibilities as the Associate Director for Management in OMB?

Mr. Shea: I often say that my duties are as assigned. But I lead the -- my primary responsibility is leading the budget and performance integration initiative, which implements the spirit of the Government Performance and Results Act.

Agencies have to have clear outcome-oriented long-term goals and measure their progress achieving those goals on an annual basis, and reporting on how well they're doing and identify strategies to do better, to do more for less. So I work with agencies to achieve the specific criteria for that initiative, and we measure and report our status in that initiative through the scorecard.

But I also -- because I've got some experience working on Capitol Hill -- help my colleagues work with the Congress in reporting on the extent to which we we're complying with the various management statutes in place. I also advise on various policy matters, particularly in Executive Branch organization and personnel policy.

Mr. Kamensky: You also chair two councils -- you just mentioned one of them -- the Council on Budget and Performance Integration. The other one is this Credit Council. What are these two councils, what is the role, and how do they tie back into this President's Management Agenda?

Mr. Shea: I'd like to say there is no activity in which the government is engaged where there aren't multiple players trying to achieve the same objective, and those are two examples. Every agency is trying to do a better job of setting clear goals and reporting on the extent to which they are achieving them, and trying to do the more efficiently.

Likewise, we have a massive number of loans and loan guarantees that we issue every year. Multiple agencies are doing that. We get each of these groups together to come up with and share best practices on how to achieve those objectives. We've got a meeting with the budget and performance integration leads. And two of the things we'll talk about are making sure that agency congressional budget justifications integrate performance information in a way that is both useful to them and useful to their primary audience on the Hill, the appropriators, but we'll also come up with ways to reduce duplicative reporting requirements.

Everybody wants agencies to report on how they're doing, how efficiently they're performing. I mean, sometimes we get carried away. So we want to make sure we are not creating duplicative reporting requirements that detract from an agency's ability to focus on what they should be doing, which is actual program performance.

Now, the Credit Council is made up of representatives from the major lending agencies: SBA, the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Education, Housing and Urban Development, the Veterans Affairs Department. These are folks who manage massive loan portfolios. And we want to make sure that they are working together to find the best way to assess the creditworthiness of individuals and manage their loan portfolios so that the risk to the taxpayer is not too great, while at the same time, we are reaching our target borrower population, that the program goals of these loan portfolios are achieved in the most efficient way possible.

Mr. Breul: Let's step aside for a moment and look at your career. How did you begin your career and how did you get to OMB? What was the path that took you to where you are now?

Mr. Shea: I started with the House of Representatives Committee on Government Reform and became passionate about improving agency and program performance there. I then spent a couple of years working for my good friend, Congressman Pete Sessions of Dallas, as his legislative director, and got some good experience advising a senior political leader on a broad array of public policy. But this fellow had an intense interest in improving government results. So it was a good match.

I then had the privilege of working for Senator Fred Thompson as Chairman of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, another dynamic leader committed to improving government management and program performance.

As a staffer on that committee, I got the privilege of working with agency officials, Executive Branch officials, particularly those from OMB in their Senate confirmation process. That's where I met Mark Everson, then-comptroller at OMB, now IRS Commissioner. And he asked me to come work for him at OMB.

He was then promoted to Deputy for Management, left OMB and was replaced by Clay Johnson. And Clay asked me to stay on, lead the Budget and Performance Integration Initiative and help him administer the President's Management Agenda as Associate Director for Management. I've worked with three directors of OMB, two deputy directors for management, a senator and two congressmen, and all of them committed to -- not only public service, but service that contributes to the improved performance and service to Americans. So I am proud to be associated with people who I know the American people would be glad to know are working on their behalf.

Mr. Breul: How has OMB's Program Assessment Rating Tool changed the way government does business?

We will ask Robert Shea, Associate Director for Management at OMB, to tell us about this, when the conversation about management continues on The Business of Government Hour.

(Intermission)

Mr. Breul: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I'm you host, Jonathan Breul, and this morning's conversation is with Robert Shea, Associate Director for Management at OMB.

Also joining us in our conversation is John Kamensky, senior fellow at The IBM Center for The Business of Government.

In 2003, OMB initiated its Program Assessment Rating Tool, commonly referred to as PART. Robert, would you tell us about PART: its purpose, its scope, how is it designed, and what's the overall status of the PART initiative today?

Mr. Shea: The Program Assessment Rating Tool is a simple device to guide agencies in OMB in assessing the management and performance of programs. It's comprised of 25 or so basic questions: asking whether a program's purpose is clear and it's well-designed to achieve its objectives, whether it's got outcome-oriented long-term and annual goals and aggressive targets, whether it's well-managed. Most importantly, the tool asks whether a program achieves its goals.

We've asked these questions of virtually every program in the government now. We've assessed 100 percent of government spending, give or take 5 or 8 percent. And the purpose is to ascertain what barriers exist to improving a program's performance, and once we identify those barriers, come up with strategies to overcome them. The way it works is agencies tell us what the right answers to these questions are, like any self-assessment that's going to appear more generous than it should be.

So we at OMB kind of look at the evidence that has been provided and try to work with the agency to come up with the right answers to these questions, and then come up with a reasonable, accurate, and objective overall assessment for a program. Once OMB and the agency staff arrive at the right answer, my staff does an audit of all the parts to make sure that they are consistent with the rules, whether we've applied the questions consistently to programs across the government. After that, if an agency didn't like its overall assessment, it can appeal to a high-level committee comprised of deputies from various agencies in the government.

And then we arrive at a final rating. We use that not only to identify strategies to improve programs, but to make decisions about programs, about whether we need to propose legislative fixes to make them perform better, what their budget level ought to be, is this program performing at a high enough level where we can invest more, or do we need to fix something before we scale it up.

Hopefully, we can make more and more of those decisions. But for the first time, we've had this uniform set of assessments to make decisions like this across government, so we can see the performance of programs within agencies, but also perhaps more importantly, like programs across government -- programs with similar goals.

Mr. Breul: How has the PART introduced a new level of transparency and led to a more citizen-centric government?

Mr. Shea: As long as we've been doing the Program Assessment Rating Tool, we have published all of the answers and the evidence upon which those answers are based on the Internet at OMB's website. But it was so difficult to navigate that you might as well not have been posting it at all.

Analysts might have been able to look at the data and made some use of it; people familiar with a specific program might have found it useful. But otherwise, it wasn't very accessible. So we stepped back and launched a website called expectmore.gov. to sort of summarize all of the program assessments in a language that was more easily understandable by the average reader or visitor to the site, and made it searchable by a common search tool.

But all the evidence is there. We haven't reduced the amount of information that's there. We've just summarized it in a way that's more accessible, readable, understandable so that people can make greater use of it.

We've had more than a couple of million visitors to the site, which is more modest than I would like it to be, but is a lot more than visited in the past. And I hope that that information could be much more usable in the future; that people will visit the site as a way to look at how other programs are finding out how to do better and better every year.

But also, the whole program is accountable. You know, ultimately we ought to be candid about whether or not we are achieving our objectives on behalf of the American people and trying to collaborate on ways to do better in the future.

I will tell you one of the most visited sites on expectmore.gov is the Gallaudet University PART. We are the federal investment in Gallaudet University. Taxpayers invest $100 million a year in Gallaudet. So we thought it was a useful program to assess, and when you look at the data, it shows that graduates in jobs or degree programs commensurate with their degrees from Gallaudet reduced by a dramatic amount -- and the PART makes you ask why, what's causing that? And there has been a lot of discussion between us and Gallaudet. Gallaudet is an important storied institution that is serving a pivotal role, educating deaf people, both from K through 12 all the way through the postgraduate level, doing very important research on deaf education.

But the PART highlighted what really was invisible to most, and that was a decrease in some of their performance. And so hopefully, we will come up with ways to improve. That's the most high-profile assessment we've done, but all of these programs provide an opportunity to identify weaknesses and strategies to overcome them.

Mr. Kamensky: Well, in the first year, I have noticed that it was treated largely as a compliance exercise, and the next year, it seemed to be that a lot more senior executives were paying attention to the process. How does this PART score wind up influencing an agency's budget, either in the President's budget or up on the Hill in the appropriations process? And are you trying to generate more interest up on the Hill on this?

Mr. Shea: Well, starting with your first point about the compliance exercise, PART is what you make it. The Program Assessment Rating Tool can be a very effective way to drive greater performance in your organization, because it's really basic questions about a program's performance and management that we all ought to be asking whether or not we are achieving.

As far as the use of this as a device to make budget decisions, we ought to be making decisions based on performance and management of programs. This just gives us a uniform way to produce that evidence and use it as a factor in decision-making. But you know, John, that we don't make these decisions based on one factor alone, there are a lot of drivers to decisions about program budgets.

My job is to make performance an increasingly important factor, and the PART is a very powerful tool. But decisions will be made to increase funding or decrease funding for a program that are not related to performance. A program may have outlived its usefulness. The original purpose might have gone away, or the program may not be a priority for a particular administration or committee chairman.

So a lot of factors go into the decision-making about program funding. A program that is rated ineffective may need additional funds to address a particular weakness. And a higher performing program may, as I say, have outlived its usefulness or not be a high priority, and therefore its funding can be diverted to other uses. And if you look at the PART ratings, there is a slight correlation: higher performing programs tend to in the aggregate get higher budgets, and programs in the lower rated category tend to get less funding. But there is no direct correlation between a program's rating and its funding level.

There's a tremendous opportunity to make greater use of this on the Hill. Some resist it -- I fail to understand why except that I think some may view criticism of a program that they created as a personal slight. And I can't say enough or clearly enough or repeat enough that this is intended to be a characterization of the status quo about a program's performance and management, and we want these programs to work as much as anyone else. And the path forward is to address whatever weaknesses we find, not ignore them.

Mr. Breul: Last year, in 2005, the PART won the prestigious Innovations in American Government Award. Could you tell our listeners a little bit about the award and what the significance is of receiving it?

Mr. Shea: The Ash Institute, in collaboration with the Kennedy School of Government and the Council for Excellence in Government, every year receive nominations for innovations in American government, things that they think ought to be replicated because of the promise of the particular innovation to improving the lives of Americans for the performance and management of government.

And in 2005, they recognized the Program Assessment Rating Tool as one of those innovations worthy of replication. It was a high honor to have received that award. It was not received by me. It was -- rightly went to the folks at OMB who developed the tool. It was an important recognition that I think validated for all of us who have been toiling at this the methodology we're using to assess program performance and management. The program comes with a $100,000 grant, which because we are OMB, we couldn't receive, we had to take the award alone as compensation.

Mr. Breul: What is expectmore.gov, and how does the PART facilitate budget performance integration?

We will ask Robert Shea, Associate Director for Management at OMB, to share with us the answers to these questions when we return and continue our conversation about management on The Business of Government Hour.

(Intermission)

Mr. Breul: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I'm your host, Jonathan Breul. This morning's conversation is with Robert Shea, Associate Director for Management at the Office of Management and Budget.

Also joining us in our conversation is John Kamensky, senior fellow at The IBM Center for The Business of Government.

Robert, during our last segment, you mentioned a new website, www.expectmore.gov. What are the plans to expand the application of expectmore.gov, and what are your plans to use it in the future to share information on programs, and specifically to assist Congress during the reauthorization of programs?

Mr. Shea: Well, expectmore.gov now includes all the programs that have been assessed to date. The remaining programs we've assessed will be posted there early next year. So you'll have the most comprehensive information on the performance and management of federal programs anywhere. It's an incredibly comprehensive site, useful information if you want to fix a program, if you want to identify what other programs are doing particularly innovative things to improve their performance, the relative performance of like programs.

We can do a lot more of that. We can identify or make it easier to find similar programs so that a poorer-performing program can go to one of its partner programs or a program with a similar missions to find out better ways to crack the nut. I think it can be a particularly useful source of best practices for programs across the government.

As far as congressional authorization is concerned, I am trying to figure out a way to link a program's statutory authorization on the site so that folks who are involved in the reauthorization program of a program either at the agency or in the Congress, or anywhere for that matter, can go not only for the statutory basis for the program, but also to find out when its authorization might be up and when the right time might be to interject some reforms into the reauthorization process.

We're not there yet. I hope it will be part of the site when it's refreshed in the early next year, but certainly in the near future, it's something that that site ought to provide, expectmore.gov. I encourage everybody to visit now and often.

Mr. Breul: How has the PART submission process evolved? Originally, it was a paper exercise. Now, you use a PART web application, it's web-based. What are the future plans to further enhance the PART web application?

Mr. Shea: We used to submit PART answers over the Internet on an Excel spreadsheet and then have to convert that so that we could publish it online. Now, we have evolved to an online collaboration tool that allows agencies to input their answers and evidence more easily, and then for OMB and agencies to collaborate on what the right answers are to those questions online.

It's much quicker, much more collaborative, but even that can be better. For instance, right now, you really can't see what the specific edits are that somebody made to the data in the application. And we want to make sure that people can have an easy way to track what's going on with their program assessment. And we also want agencies to be able to more easily access data about other ongoing assessments so that if they are having a particular challenge, whether it's the right performance measures or efficiency improvement strategies or reform efforts, we want them to access that information more readily. PART web is a tool that's in its future evolution can facilitate that to a much greater degree.

Mr. Kamensky: I see some really big differences between departments in the program assessment ratings under the PART process. Is this because of the inherent nature of the programs these departments have, or is it related to something else?

Mr. Shea: The differences in the application of the tool are probably as varied as the difference in departments themselves. A large department can have pockets that embrace the tool and really use it to aggressively drive performance improvements or reform strategies when the rest of the department might not do quite as much as you would hope to use the tool. And so we try to be as uniform in the application of the tool as possible through the process I described of auditing PART results and giving agencies an opportunity to appeal to a high-level board that's overseeing the whole process so that it's consistently applied throughout the government.

Each of these program's assessments, like programs themselves, can be better. And we ought to be as critical as we can about the status of a program so that we can drive it to improve even more. And everybody who looks at a PART ought to be highly critical of the assessment. They ought to question the answers to the questions on the PART, don't give us the benefit of the doubt, because the more and more people who provide their input into this process, the more accurate and reliable and useful it will be.

Mr. Kamensky: One of the key initiatives in the President's Management Agenda is the Budget Performance Integration Initiative. Could you tell us a little bit more about this initiative and how PART plays a role in helping that particular initiative be successful?

Mr. Shea: The Budget and Performance Integration Initiative is one of the five initiatives on the President's Management Agenda which each major agency is complying with. It ensures that agencies have a strategic plan that's got really good long-term outcome-oriented goals, that it uses data on a regular basis to make decisions about how to improve program performance and efficiency, that individuals in the organization are assessed based on their contribution to the achievement of the agency's and program's mission and goals.

The Program Assessment Rating Tool gives you a really good way to assess the performance and management at the program level and then to use that improvement strategies that you've identified through that tool to improve strategic goals, individual performance goals, and efficiency efforts. We just want to see the PART as another source of information agencies can use to improve their performance.

Mr. Breul: With all the success that you have had with PART, could you tell us whether its success has piqued the interests of other countries? Have other countries come to you and sought to emulate or imitate the PART tool?

Mr. Shea: Yes. In fact, I was surprised several years ago to learn that the Scottish EPA had applied the PART. I am less surprised with the successive governments that come to me asking for information on how they can apply this tool to their affairs. I was recently at a meeting of OECD in Paris, in which my partner representatives were all very eager to learn about this tool. Australia, Canada, Korea, Thailand, all have expressed an interest in applying this precise tool.

I had a visit, far less exotic, from a local government near us right now that wanted to consult with us on how they could apply this tool to their affairs. It's really simple. A set of questions that asks of federal programs, what could legitimately be asked of any activity. Do you have clear goals, and is your program well-designed to achieve those goals? Do you have long-term and short-term targets? Are you well-managed? And are you achieving your goals? Those are basic questions that we ought to be asking about what we're doing so that we can do it better.

Mr. Breul: Are you finding similar interests by state and local governments? Has anyone from a governor's office or a mayor's office come to visit, sought to pick up the essential elements of the PART?

Mr. Shea: I have had some modest interest -- not a lot -- but like I say, one of the local governments from the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area approached me about applying the tool there. So I think that would be very exciting.

Mr. Breul: And what about interest from Congress? Have you had any particular entrees or invitations from them to follow-up and dig more deeply into expectmore.gov or how the PART tool itself operates?

Mr. Shea: There is increasing interest from the Congress in the Program Assessment Rating Tool and our conclusions about programs. Some of that interest is good; some of it is not so good. I'd like to hope that more and more in Congress find this information useful in performing their jobs in reauthorization, oversight, appropriations, because like us, they want the programs that they authorize and fund to work better every year.

And you see increasing citations to assessments of programs in congressional reports and the like -- hearings. So I hope that grows. And I hope it grows in a positive way that people really find this information more and more useful.

Mr. Breul: What's next for PART and for other government management reforms,? We will ask Robert Shea, Associate Director for Management at OMB, to share this with us when our conversation about management continues on The Business of Government Hour.

(Intermission)

Mr. Breul: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I'm your host, Jonathan Breul, and this morning's conversation is with Robert Shea, Associate Director for Management at OMB.

Also joining us in our conversation is John Kamensky, senior fellow at The IBM Center for The Business of Government.

Robert, with the forthcoming Fiscal Year 2008 budget, which is going to be released in February of 2007, the Administration is going to release the results of the fifth round of the PART assessments, completing 100 percent of programs and dollars. What are the plans for PART next year, and does OMB plan to go back and re-PART specific programs? Are you going to go look at programs that got low scores, or are you going to take a look at programs in various cross-cutting areas?

Mr. Shea: I hope we're going to do all of those things, having assessed virtually 100 percent of the federal budget, have improvement plans for most programs. Everybody has identified steps that they are going to take to improve the programs they manage. So we need to track those; we need to ensure that people are being as aggressive as they can in implementing those improvement plans. So that's the first thing we'll do, make sure everybody is doing what they said they would do to improve their programs.

Programs that have done enough to warrant a reassessment will get reassessed, and hopefully their ratings will improve. But then we'll have to identify improvements that the programs will have to take again to improve even more. So this is a continuing cycle of improvement that we can engage in now with the PART.

Now, as you say, having assessed 100 percent of the programs, what is the opportunity for looking at cross-cutting areas? I think the highest value use of the Program Assessment Rating Tool is in getting like programs together, programs with similar missions, and collaborate on better ways to jointly improve their performance. We've done this in a myriad of areas. In grant programs, for instance, we've come up with a common strategy that programs can use to share information about specific funded activities that are more effective than others so that we can scale those up.

We have collaborated this past year with programs aimed at improving achievement in math and science among America's youth. And you will find a real lack of clarity about the goals of those programs. We've fixed that. And now we are going to get more and more evidence about which math and science programs are most effective so that we can share those lessons with the hundreds of other programs that are aimed at improving math and science achievement. That's the real potential for the future of the PART. I intend to drive its use for collaboration among like programs.

Mr. Breul: The President recently signed into law a new piece of legislation, the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act. What does this legislation envision? And can you tell us something about the role of the blogger community in the passage of this new act?

Mr. Shea: That was something to behold. This was a piece of legislation which had a very noble purpose but which I didn't give very high odds of passage, because I knew the opposition among many in Congress was great. What it does is it requires us to post on a regularly updated basis those federal expenditures and grants and contracts and loans, et cetera, to organizations other than to individuals, and to post that in a searchable, easily accessible format on the Internet. And we are going to implement that Act as the authors of that Act intend it to be created. We will collaborate with them in the development and planning of that website.

Now, one of the forces that helped this bill get enacted was the blogger community on the Internet. They were passionate, both on the left and the right, for this legislation, because they saw it as a way to improve accountability of government for taxpayer spending. And they got wind of efforts to defeat it and shined the bright light of the Internet on those activities and overcame them -- by sheer force, got very powerful members of Congress to relent and in the end support passage and enactment of this legislation.

Mr. Kamensky: This has been, you know, a fascinating phenomenon, that this has happened. The question then becomes, is there the ability to leverage this kind of change in the culture of Washington and new ways to focus attention on management issues that might otherwise not have been paid attention to?

Mr. Shea: I think one of our watchwords in implementing the President's Management Agenda has been transparency. We grade agencies every quarter, post their grades on the Internet. We also assess programs and post all of the evidence on which those assessments are based in easily accessible websites, searchable and understandable by the American public. The reason we do that is because we think we're on the side of right. We think what we're doing is the best way to achieve our goals. And if others disagree with us, we want to know that. If they have a better way to achieve the goals, we want to know that, because no one wants to achieve our mutual goals more than we do.

So I think the blogger community, just like any other media outlet, is a great way to both communicate and collaborate on our plans to achieve goals. So we have a new vessel for communicating our plans. I anticipate that the feedback we get might be a little more aggressive than we're used to, but bring it on. We want feedback so that people can buy into what we are doing.

Mr. Kamensky: And do you have some plan for leveraging this?

Mr. Shea: Well, I think that's it. I think regularly communicating with the folks who are involved in that website, not only on the implementation of the plans to comply with the Act, but also in the implementation of the President's Management Agenda overall.

Mr. Kamensky: Separately, how significant is the proposed Program Assessment and Results Act, which is a proposal in Congress, to the continued and future success of the government management reform efforts?

Mr. Shea: Well, I think one of the questions the Program Assessment Rating Tool asks is whether a program's statutory design adequately helps it achieve its goal or whether it's flawed in some way. If it's flawed, I generally suggest that we try to remedy that flaw in statute. So there are a number of statutory reforms that have been proposed as a result of the PART highlighting a flaw. We've not been that successful in getting those reforms enacted. So in the future, there's a great opportunity for improvement.

And when you see like programs that suffer from generally the same flaws, you can accelerate the performance of those programs by perhaps reforming them all at the same time. Reauthorization, as we've talked about, is an opportunity to tee up those reforms for agencies and the Congress, and the President as well.

Mr. Breul: Let me turn the conversation back to OMB for a moment. OMB has a reputation for being a very demanding and stressful place to work. And yet to the surprise of many, it achieved the number one ranking in the Partnership for Public Services' best places to work in the federal government survey.

What are some of the benefits of working in such an environment, and in particular, what advice would you give to a person considering a career in the public service or possibly even being interested in joining OMB?

Mr. Shea: OMB is a very demanding place to work, just like any federal job. We are doing a better job at telework. So I'm able to spend more time with my beautiful wife and charming three girls. But it's still tough -- the hours are long, and there is no downturn in the workload throughout the year. There's always something going through OMB. When every policy matter, legislative matter, budget matter, management matter, regulatory matter comes through OMB, there's just no let-up in the workload. But that's also why it's an attractive place to work.

But the work we are doing will have an impact on the performance and management of the federal government, and therefore, the lives of the American people. You can have a real impact on mission at any job at OMB. And that is an incredible reward. There is a challenge of staying the best place to work, because while our employees are the most talented, there's a limit. You've got to have a reasonable workload-family balance. And so that's a continuing challenge that we have to confront.

But the advice I'd give to people who are considering a job at OMB is to come. If you're talented and have an interest in public service, serving the American people, OMB is the most exciting place to be because it's where I think you can have the greatest impact.

I would recommend you visit www.omb.gov for more information about not only OMB in general, but opportunities to come work there.

Mr. Breul: Robert, that's great advice. We've reached the end of our time, and that will have to be the last question. I want to thank you for fitting this into your very busy schedule today. And more importantly, John and I would like to thank you for your dedicated service to the public.

Mr. Shea: Thank you very much, Jonathan, John. This has been fun. And for those listening, if you want to get more information about the President's Management Agenda, I invite you to visit www.results.gov., where we update regularly the status of the scorecard and other President's Management Agenda initiatives.

And not to sound like a broken record, but for more information about program performance and management and our assessments in general, visit www.expectmore.gov.

Mr. Breul: This has been The Business of Government Hour, featuring a conversation with Robert Shea, Associate Director for Management at the Office of Management and Budget.

Be sure to visit us on the web at businessofgovernment.org. There, you can learn more about our programs and get a transcript of today's fascinating conversation. Once again, that's businessofgovernment.org.

As you enjoy the rest of your day, please take time to remember the men and women of our armed forces and civil service abroad who can't hear this morning's show on how we are improving their government but who deserve our unconditional respect and support.

For The Business of Government Hour, I'm Jonathan Breul. Thank you for listening.

Reflections on 21st Century Government Management

Wednesday, February 7th, 2007 - 20:00
Our goal with this report is straightforward: to begin thinking about the future of government and the trends and new ideas in government management that a new president should consider as he or she takes office in 2009. The intent of this project is to stimulate new ideas among several key audiences. We wish to spark the imagination of government leaders to look beyond their day-to-day "urgencies" and reflect upon the important challenges the nation will face tomorrow.

Lisa Schlosser interview

Friday, September 15th, 2006 - 20:00
Phrase: 
"We are modernizing our backend infrastructure, upgrading our desktop computers, mainframe systems, and servers. We hope to have state-of-the-art technology using open standards platforms to be flexible in responding to our business needs."
Radio show date: 
Sat, 09/16/2006
Guest: 
Intro text: 
In this interview, Schlosser discusses: Modernizing HUD's business and information technology (IT) systems; "Getting to green" on the President's Management Agenda (PMA) e-government initiative; Adopting enterprise architecture and a service-oriented...
In this interview, Schlosser discusses: Modernizing HUD's business and information technology (IT) systems; "Getting to green" on the President's Management Agenda (PMA) e-government initiative; Adopting enterprise architecture and a service-oriented IT approach within HUD; HUD's IT system challenges; HUD's Technology Investment Board Executive Community (TIBEC); and HUD's future technologies and investment plans. Technology and E-Government; Managing for Performance and Results; Leadership; Strategic Thinking; Collaboration: Networks and Partnerships
Complete transcript: 

Originally Broadcast Saturday, September 16, 2006

Arlington, Virginia

Mr. Morales: Good morning and welcome to The Business of Government Hour. I'm Albert Morales, your host, and managing partner of The IBM Center for The Business of Government. We created this center in 1998, to encourage discussion and research into new approaches to improving government effectiveness. You can find out more about the center by visiting us on the web at www.businessofgovernment.org.

The Business of Government Radio Hour features a conversation about management with a government executive who is changing the way government does business. Our special guest this morning is Lisa Schlosser, Chief Information Officer at the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Good morning, Lisa.

Ms. Schlosser: Good Morning, Al. Thanks for having me.

Mr. Morales: And joining us in our conversation also from IBM is Pete Boyer, Director of Federal Civilian Programs.

Good morning, Pete.

Mr. Boyer: Good morning, Al.

Mr. Morales: Lisa, let's start at the beginning. Can you tell us about the mission and the history of the Department of Housing and Urban Development? And could you mention some of HUD's major programs?

Ms. Schlosser: Sure, HUD has been around really since the 1930s. Our mission during that timeframe has been pretty consistent, really, to open doors to homeownership to all Americans; to help to ensure affordable housing, and to help to build communities at both the state and local level.

We're really proud to say today over 70 percent of Americans do own their own homes.

Couple of the programs that HUD does focus on, we are very excited this year, we are focusing on our Federal Housing Administration, modernizing some of our programs to help support that -- that mission of HUD and that is to increase homeownership, and we're modernizing the program to ensure that all Americans have access to a safe mortgage product at a fair price. And we are building some flexibility into our mortgage insurance program.

Flexibility in terms of mortgage terms and loan terms, which again we hope to use to increase homeownership across the U.S. Also some of our other programs are Public and Indian Housing Area. We are providing housing authorities with more flexibility to help to service lower and middle income personnel, help them get affordable housing.

In our Community and Planning Development group, now, we're helping to rebuild the Gulf Coast by providing grants and loans and other support in that area.

Mr. Morales: Great, I do want to talk a little bit later on about your work down in the Gulf area, but can you tell us a little bit about the mission and scope of your office, specifically within HUD, and give us a sense of the size of the budget you have and how many employees are in your organization?

Ms. Schlosser: Okay. The Chief Information Officer, we have about $300 million budget which we spend on using technology to help support the mission and goals -- the business goals of the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

We have approximately 300 folks who are providing the support, everything from developing policy, investment processes, developing an enterprise architecture, and supporting our businesses in developing the systems that help them provide support and also to accomplish their missions in supporting homeownership and some of the other goals I mentioned.

Mr. Morales: Now, Lisa, can you describe your role as a chief information officer and what are your official responsibilities?

Ms. Schlosser: My role as HUD's information -- chief information officer, obviously, is to ensure that HUD capitalizes on the use of modernized technology to support our three main goals and missions within HUD, that's to increase homeownership and ensure that everyone has access to affordable housing and also to build communities and provide support to community development.

So again, our primary functions there are we develop the policies and develop the -- and implement the investment processes to make sure that we are spending our money wisely and spending money on technology that's truly going to help us further our business goals across the department.

The other major goal and major role that we have within the Chief Information Office is to ensure the security and the privacy of the information that we hold and collect.

Mr. Morales: Lisa, we understand that you came to this role after serving as Associate Chief Information Officer at the Department of Transportation for both Security and Investment Management. How did these experiences impact your current role?

Ms. Schlosser: By serving in the Department of Transportation before coming to HUD, I was really able to see and get across agency perspective and really see how many commonalities, even though we really have different missions within the federal government architecture.

We really have a lot of commonalities among the agencies, so by serving in that role and then serving in the role at HUD, I was able to see how we could capitalize and work together and collaborate on different opportunities, both at the business level and especially, at the system level, by collaborating together on common systems as opposed to having to go out and build individual systems. We were able to work together with other agencies and see where there are commonalities.

Mr. Morales: Lisa, we also understand that you spend a portion of your career working in the technology field in the private sector. How has this affected your perspective at HUD?

Ms. Schlosser: Well, I think by working in the private sector always gives you an advantage as a chief information officer within the federal government. You are able to see both perspectives. You are able to work and negotiate better with the private sector, kind of, understand where both parties are coming from.

And I think you are able to negotiate better successes for both the private sector and the government side on the various partnerships we work, and it really comes down to a good partnership between your industry partners and the government is what equates to success on some of our big computer system development projects.

Mr. Morales: Lisa, prior to the show, you had mentioned that you were in the military at one point in time, and in fact, are still are in the U.S. Reserves. How is this experiencing adding to your capabilities at HUD?

Ms. Schlosser: Well, again, it's by seeing how different agencies operate you can kind of take the best of the best, take the best practices, the best solutions from the various agencies you've been to, and bring those experiences.

So for example, the Department of the Army has an incredible portal, Army Knowledge Online, and we've been able to capitalize on that model based on my experiences there to help lead us towards a better solution at HUD, so we are able to capitalize on that as opposed to having to reinvent the wheel, on using that type of technology.

Mr. Morales: Great. What steps is HUD taking on the President's Management Agenda? We will ask Chief Information Officer, Lisa Schlosser, to share with us when the conversation about management continues on The Business of Government Hour.

(Intermission)

Mr. Morales: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I'm your host, Al Morales, and this morning's conversation is with HUD Chief Information Officer, Lisa Schlosser.

Also joining us in our conversation is Pete Boyer, Director of Federal Civilian Programs at IBM.

Lisa, we understand that you've emphasized a few goals for your organization in 2006. Could you share these goals with our listeners?

Ms. Schlosser: Sure. One of the first things, really, that we wanted to tackle at HUD is to really improve our processes. Again, make sure that all of our investments in information technology really truly support our business goals at HUD, as I mentioned before. So one of our first goals was, you know, to improve our processes and I think that's been demonstrated by getting to green on the President's Management Agenda.

So, you know, as of last quarter, HUD was one of only five cabinet-level agencies that was at a green status on the President's Management Agenda in e-government.

So we are very proud of that and we think that reflects that we have really focused on improving our processes, improving security, ensuring that we have a good architecture to work against. So that's -- really, our first goal was to do that and we're continuing to improve those processes.

Secondly, we've been focusing on the modernization of our backend infrastructure, upgrading our desktop computers, upgrading our mainframe systems, upgrading our servers, making sure that we had state-of-the-art technology using open standards platforms so we are more flexible in responding to our business needs as our programs are changing, as our programs are being modernized.

The third goal was really to focus on implementing something we are calling Vision 2010, which is our information technology strategy, bottom-line being that we want to get off of our old antiquated systems over the -- by the year 2010, so that we are in a purely open type environment using web services capitalizing on service oriented architecture.

So that's the three main goals that we're focusing on within HUD in the information technology arena.

Mr. Morales: I like to expand a little bit more on the President's Management Agenda in your efforts to get to green on e-government. Can you tell us a little bit about some of the activities that you undertook to get there and what some of the next steps may be?

Ms. Schlosser: Well, I think with any initiative like that the first step is always to get the support of the Secretary, the Deputy Secretary and the key business leaders, the key executives in the organization. And one of the things, I -- since, I've been at HUD that I've noticed is that there are executives from the Secretary, the Deputy and each of our assistant secretaries and deputy assistant secretaries, they really truly understand technology, they understand the power of technology and how to use that to really improve the way they deliver their programs.

So right off the bat, they were very supportive of all the goals of the President's Management Agenda, you know, using e-government, using shared services where we can, investing in new modernized technology and helping us go through that changed management process and helping to get folks to accept the new technology within the organization.

So it was really the first step, and then we had a very, very clear outline, clear goals, clear milestones. We focused on our capital planning process, you know, again, making sure that we have good investments; we have a good process to evaluate how we are investing money in information technology.

We also worked very hard with Dick Burk in the Office of Management and Budget and adopted all the models that have been put out from there for enterprise architectures. So we have a real strong architecture, we build to a consistent architecture, consisting group of standards.

We've shared those standards with all of our partners across HUD on our various development efforts. The third thing in, not necessarily in priority of course, this was actually overriding, is we really worked hard to improve our information technology security program.

We focused on really understanding where all our systems were and what our systems were doing, where the data was within our systems, we focused on certification, accreditation of systems, i.e., assessing the risk to those systems in putting in the right solutions to mitigate those risks, whether it was new policy or other type of technical controls.

So we accomplished those goals, we got all our systems 100 percent certified and accredited, we spend a lot of time training our folks within HUD. 96 percent of our folks go through mandatory training every year. 96 to 100 percent of our contractors also complete security training.

So we focused on those main areas of the President's Management Agenda, and I think through that executive commitment as well as the clear focus on milestones and goals, we were able to accomplish the green status.

Mr. Morales: Lisa, you mentioned modernizing HUD's business systems, how are you prioritizing the systems being modernized, and related to that, how are you involving the business owners in the modernization process?

Ms. Schlosser: Oh, we are starting with the Secretary's Strategic Plan, so for the first time, HUD has actually incorporated a specific strategic goal within the Secretary's Strategic Plan that specifically states that HUD will use and capitalize on modernized technology to improve the way we deliver our services to our stakeholders, be it a business, be it a citizen, be it another government agency.

So everything really starts from that strategic plan, it starts from that strategic objective, and then we have a very sophisticated process where we involve all of our business leaders at the program levels, our Community and Planning Development folks, our Federal Housing Administration, our Public and Indian Housing.

We collaborate together to determine what should be enterprise wide solutions for HUD. For example, this year we invested in a new collaboration tool. We invested in enterprise wide Correspondence Tracking and Document Management System, and then we work with each of the individual business leaders, each of the individual programs to identify their key business goals.

So for example, Federal Housing Administration has just initiated these new efforts to modernize the way they provide loan insurance to citizens, again with the goal of increasing homeownership, so -- because that is the top goal -- one of the top goals of the Department, the top business goals of FHA.

We are also prioritizing their system development needs to ensure that their systems are ready to deliver those new innovative programs.

Mr. Morales: And how are you tracking progress?

Ms. Schlosser: We track progress several ways. Every single one of our programs is accounted for in our Capital Planning and Investment Control process, and on a monthly basis we do program reviews with our business partners with the system owners for each of the projects and the project managers, and we track adherence to cost, schedule, and performance objectives for each of those programs.

So if we see any variance in staying within 10 percent cost goal, or 10 percent schedule goal, or not meeting the business objectives, you know, we do that through a series of surveys through customer participation.

Then we would put a program on a watch list and just try to get it back on track by putting additional resources, whatever it took to mitigate the risks of that program. So that's the way we watch over them.

Mr. Morales: All right. Lisa, you're seen as a leader in adopting enterprise architecture. How are your enterprise architecture efforts supporting the speedy modernization process?

Ms. Schlosser: Well, if you do enterprise architecture right, you start with the business process, so by really understanding what your business processes are, and then what the key goals of the business leaders are, you can really take that then to the next level.

Understand where you have any gaps in providing good technology solutions to your business, identify where you have any issues with that technology, and be able to make fixes based on those identified gaps or issues.

And so by having a good perspective on your business process, by understanding where technology is or isn't supporting those business processes, you can really use your architecture to know where you need to invest or where you need to focus on for your business.

Mr. Morales: Lisa, we know that HUD has adopted a service oriented and component based approach to enterprise architecture enabling HUD to "build once and use often." Could you elaborate on this approach?

Ms. Schlosser: Sure, again, what we've done is, we've really used the enterprise architecture principles that have been set out by Office of Management and Budget and other professional organizations.

We've really analyzed our business and we looked for gaps that could be filled, you know, or closed, performance gaps that could be closed by the use of technology and as part of our process in doing that, we just don't automatically go out and build a new system. We look across our enterprise and determine if there is technology in our enterprise that can mitigate, you know, a performance gap.

Our second part of our process is that we go and look across the government, and look at different repositories, work with other government agencies, determine whether there is other good practice solutions that we can capitalize on, and take advantage of those systems. Instead of again building our own, we're happy to outsource to other services that exist across the government.

Mr. Morales: Okay. What lessons have you learned when developing EA blueprints that you could pass on to the other government leaders who might be listening?

Ms. Schlosser: First and foremost, the most important thing is that enterprise architecture is about your business, and you have to make it real to your business, and demonstrate to your business partners, both internally and externally that you understand what their business is, and that you're using their business to drive the systems that you're developing or the technology that you're investing in.

Mr. Morales: Lisa, on the scene of business, over the last few years, there have been a number of federal government initiatives, including lines of business and centers of excellence. Could you speak to HUD's involvement in some of the important new focus areas and how these initiatives are affecting HUD's progress forward?

Ms. Schlosser: As I mentioned earlier, HUD's strategy is to take advantage of crosscutting services anywhere in the government to help close our performance gaps and to help support our business. So we were happy to see e-government solutions and other shared services come about and in fact HUD was one of the early adopters of the pay and personnel.

We have outsourced our pay and personnel to the National Finance Center, very happy with the service we are getting there. We have outsourced our human resource systems and worked with the Department of Treasury, used their shared service for human resource systems, and we also take advantage of the Environmental Protection Agency's online rulemaking service.

So we are a big adopter, we share these services, we use these crosscutting government services, where it makes sense for our business, particularly, in non-core mission areas.

Mr. Morales: And you found that this has been a pretty good program for HUD?

Ms. Schlosser: It's absolutely been a great program. In one particular case, in one of these programs, we spent two years on development of a new system; when we decided to go to the crosscutting service, we had it implemented within six months.

Mr. Morales: Wow! That's incredible. How is HUD preparing its systems for emergency response needs? We will ask Chief Information Officer, Lisa Schlosser, to explain this to us when the conversation about management continues on The Business of Government Hour.

(Intermission)

Mr. Morales: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I'm your host Al Morales, and this morning's conversation is with Chief Information Officer, Lisa Schlosser from HUD.

Also joining us in our conversation from IBM is Pete Boyer, Director of Federal Civilian Programs.

Lisa, we know that HUD like many other organizations faces IT challenges from a number of fronts, including requirements to quickly respond to policy and result in system changes from events such as, in your case, FHA reform or natural disasters such as the hurricanes from last year.

How has HUD reacted to these challenges from a systems perspective, and how can industry help to prepare the Department to be able to react quickly and efficiently to these evolving IT changes?

Ms. Schlosser: Well, HUD's really been investing in standard open architecture using web services, using standard reporting formats, using standard information sharing protocols and formats as well.

And we've found, since we've been investing in this type of standard spaced architecture, we're able to share information quicker, we're able to make changes quicker to our systems to accommodate a lot of changes that are happening today. Everything from responding to various hurricanes across the country, other natural disasters, and program changes.

So I would say that's the first thing that we are really focusing on is using open standards, using commercial off-the-shelf products as much as possible, so that we can rapidly put in place new systems to adapt to these changing business requirements.

And also not from a policy perspective, we did, as we talked about earlier, invest quite a bit in ensuring we had a good business based enterprise architecture, so we know where to invest our funding, and we're investing in the areas where we anticipate we will have to make system changes quicker.

And that's where we are investing in the -- in the, you know, commercial off-the-shelf packages as much as possible, you know, where we're investing in web services and using web and portal technology to its fullest capabilities.

In terms of how industry really can support us, to continue to really understand our business, to understand our business processes, and to develop the commercial off-the-shelf products that we can rapidly integrate in kind of a plug-and-play type scenario into our environment.

So we can rapidly take advantage of technology so we can shorten lifecycles, you know, from the traditional years of development to the six months that we are starting to see.

When you have a new business requirement, you can capitalize on the COTS product on our web services, a portal type technology, so that's what we need to continue to have from our industry partners.

And a tight collaboration in sharing of best practices and bringing best practices that the industry has seen, you know, across the government, in other agencies bringing those solutions to us and helping us identify and capitalize on other shared services that could help to meet our business requirements quicker than before.

So for example, you know, HUD has, as I mentioned earlier, our Community and Planning Development group has really taken the lead in providing a lot of support in rebuilding communities in the Gulf Coast, and we rapidly put in place a web-based system with a series of controls to track and report on that funding, and to get the grants out, for example, quicker than we ever have before using again a web based technology, using open standards.

We can get that information out, we can get reporting and we can get access, secure access to the right people at the right time using that technology

Mr. Morales: Lisa, I'm sure one of the hot buttons for most CIOs these days is the issue around information technology security, and certainly, it's been in the news quite a bit these past few weeks and months with a variety of penetrations and stolen laptops, which cause a variety of major problems within different government agencies, and it fuels our citizen's concerns over issues such as identity theft. What does this mean at HUD and how has the Agency reacted to these types of events?

Ms. Schlosser: It's interesting about HUD, like I said, I think, earlier is, I've been there about a year-and-a-half, just a little bit more than that now, and one of my observations about the leadership at HUD is they're very aware of technology, capitalize on technology and not just technology itself, but also information security.

The Deputy Secretary who I worked for, Deputy Secretary Bernardi is very, very supportive of information technology security. In fact, when he started reading about some of these incidents, the first thing he did is call me, and say, "Lisa, what can we do to mitigate our risk?"

And fortunately, because we've had this support at that level, the support of our business leaders, we've actually been improving our security over the past, you know, since I've been there, certainly, at HUD.

And a couple of things that we've been doing other than the executive support, we really have focused on making sure we have a good solid inventory of systems, and eliminating redundant system, where we didn't need them.

There is not use having a system, just to have a system, so where we didn't need it, you know, we've decreased the systems or combined systems or reengineered to one platform, so less systems, obviously, I think you can have a better handle on security.

The other thing HUD really has an advantage on, and one of the really critical success factors, I believe, in protecting your data, is to have a centralized architecture, a centralized network, one helpdesk operation, one network, one way that you go ahead and implement patches across your environment by pushing a button basically.

HUD has that advantage, we are centralized. Again, we have one network, we have one helpdesk, we have one infrastructure, and I think that's been a real benefit to us.

We are able to have a standard image on every single one of our servers, on every single one of our desktops, so if a new virus comes out, we are able to implement the patch very, very quickly after we test it throughout our environment.

Other things that HUD's done obviously when some of these incidents started to occur, you know, we went out and we did a review of all our programs.

We updated our data architecture, just to make sure we truly understood where all our data was, where there was potential Personally Identifiable Information or PII, you will hear that term. And we made sure we had the right protection and controls in place.

We also went out and retrained all of our folks that had mobile access to HUD systems or to data, put in place strong policies about removing that data from HUD and had our user sign statements indicating that they realize their responsibilities in protecting that information.

So we've been very proactive as with most of the agencies now in putting in measures or enhancing the measures we already had in place to improve security.

Mr. Boyer: Lisa, on a different subject, one of your roles is to serve as both a member of the HUD Technology Investment Board Executive Community or TIBEC, and to coordinate the efforts of the TIBEC. Could you tell our listeners about the HUD TIBEC, for example, what criteria does the TIBEC use to evaluate the portfolio?

Ms. Schlosser: HUD has a governance process in place that's also embedded in policy where we have, what's called a, actually, a technology investment board working group that consists of individuals representing each of our key business areas within HUD.

This group gets together, establishes what our business goals are for the year, based on the strategic plans and others things we've talked about, and this group also goes out to each of the programs, asks for the programs, anybody who wants to invest in technology to put together a business case to justify why they need investment dollars.

The group then evaluates each of those business cases against the set of criteria as you just asked about, Pete, and in this case, this year -- this criteria change based on, you know, our business needs or you know, the direction of the Secretary or the Office of Management and Budget at the time.

This year, for example, we had a very clear set of criteria. Every single business case was evaluated against how well it met the new strategic objectives of the Department.

So, for example, did the proposed investment or business case support the FHA modernization program, did it support the Public and Indian Housing modernization programs, did it support some of our internal modernization programs, you know, or how well did it support those programs, was there a qualified program manager, you know, assigned or proposed for that project, okay.

If that project had been ongoing, was it meeting its cost schedule and performance goals? Was it showing value to the business of HUD and showing good business outcomes? And did the program or the project, is it taken into account, does it understand security and how it's going to protect the security of the data that will be embedded in that system.

Once that group pretty much puts together and evaluates each of the projects. In our case, we have about 13 major projects that get evaluated and another 50 non-major programs that are evaluated. The group gets together and decides which get funded and how much.

And then this is presented to what we call, as you mentioned, Pete, the Technology Investment Board Executive Committee, and that's the TIBEC. And the TIBEC is comprised of deputy secretary chairs that the CIO is a member, the Chief Financial Officer is a member, the Chief Acquisition Officer, and of course, each of our assistant secretaries is also a member and the General counsel.

So the budget is presented to that group and the group says, "Aye" or "Nay" on that particular budget and then the CFO takes that budget, and then incorporates it as part of the Secretarial budget, so everybody really has a say in where those dollars get invested and to what priorities those dollars get invested in.

Mr. Boyer: Now, how has this process changed the outcome of HUD's systems?

Ms. Schlosser: I think by having the business folks involved at a couple of different levels in the governance process -- it's not that just the Chief Information Officer obviously making these decisions, it's the business folks.

And so I think our systems are becoming more valuable or becoming more a critical part of the success of our programs, and I think you're starting to see some really positive business outcomes based on our enhanced use of modernized technology that's been derived from this process.

So I will give you two quick examples, I mentioned that obviously one of our goals in HUD is to increase homeownership. Well, we do that primarily through our loan insurance programs, so one of the areas that our businesses last year wanted to invest in was to automate or electronic the process whereby we get submissions on loans from the lender community.

It used to be that the lenders would submit a loan application to HUD in a paper-based format, which resulted in millions of pieces of paper a year. While, as of last year, we made that an electronic process.

So we cut processing time by 20 percent, cut costs by approximately 30 percent for that processes, so ultimately those reduced costs equate to quicker processing of applications, and getting loan insurance and ultimately loans to the citizen quicker than ever before.

Another quick example, I think, all government programs tried to increase efficiency in the way that we give out payments to recipients of our programs. In the past couple of years, HUD put in a system to help to ensure that our funding for various programs only went to qualified individuals or qualified organizations.

We put in a new database that we actually worked with HHS and SSA on, and we've reduced improper payments on this particular program by 57 percent just by using modernized shared technology.

Mr. Boyer: What are your next steps for the TIBEC?

Ms. Schlosser: We continue to improve the process in the TIBEC. We are increasing the representation of the business community, so our housing leaders, for example, Federal Housing Administration leaders are even more engaged than in the past in that process.

And I think you will ultimately see more and more our systems really supporting good solid business outcomes in measurable performance improvements in HUD's programs.

Mr. Boyer: Now, in our research for the program, we noticed your website includes significant information about the IT development cycle at HUD. Could you tell us about this information?

Ms. Schlosser: Well, we'd like to post the information to -- so that all of our partners really who help us develop these systems really understand what our processes are and how they can build systems to support, you know, to support HUD using a very standard, you know, standards based process.

So we do make sure we keep that updated, we make sure that it's out there so that anybody who would like to participate or bid on a HUD program has access to the methodology that we use and can apply that methodology to their solutions.

Mr. Boyer: Now, how has posting this information changed the activities or outcomes at the OCIO?

Ms. Schlosser: Oh, as we post more and more, we're finding that we're getting solutions that really fit into our architecture. We're -- it's really resulting in a fewer redundant systems. It's also resulting in better lifecycle delivery of new systems development.

Mr. Morales: Lisa, we also noticed that you've included a fair amount of information regarding privacy. What information is available for HUD customers? And when does your officer interact with the Chief Privacy Officer?

Ms. Schlosser: There are a couple of ways we get that information out. Number one, you will see on our website, we do post a privacy policy, so everybody understands what we collect, why we collect information.

Secondly, we also complete something called a Privacy Impact Assessment on every single one of our computer systems, so the documents, what information we collect, what might constitute privacy information, and we post the results of those assessments on our internet sites.

So anybody -- anybody in the public can have access and understand where and how HUD is either collecting or again using privacy act or personally identifiable information.

Mr. Morales: What does the future hold for HUD? We will ask Chief Information Officer, Lisa Schlosser, to discuss this with us, when the conversation about management continues on The Business of Government Hour.

(Intermission)

Mr. Morales: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I'm your host Al Morales, and this morning's conversation is with HUD Chief Information Officer, Lisa Schlosser.

Also joining us in our conversation is Pete Boyer, Director of Federal Civilian Programs at IBM.

Lisa, what trends will have the largest impact at HUD and its customers in the next ten years? And how will HUD need to adapt to meet these changes?

Ms. Schlosser: I think first and foremost, as I mentioned a couple of times -- several times throughout the interview, that our primary mission is obviously to increase homeownership opportunities, provide affordable housing, and help build communities, and invest in communities.

And so obviously the direction of the housing market and the economy related to the housing market really impacts our business first and foremost, and that's what we have to plan for and react to as time goes on.

Second major trend, of course, which none of us can predict is disasters. What kind of disasters are we going to have? What areas of the country, and how can we provide the quickest support to getting folks into temporary housing, working with various agencies to do that, and also to rebuild any communities that are impacted by disasters as we go through.

Mr. Morales: Lisa, HUD, like many other federal agencies, is currently dealing with a reduction in budgets. How will the OCIO's Office incorporate budget reductions into modernizing planning in other ITI efforts?

Ms. Schlosser: Well, obviously, we have to continue to get better and better and again as I mentioned earlier, we've really worked on our investment processes, and we've really made sure that we have included our businesses and our strategic goals of the Department into our planning process for Information Technology Investments.

We will continue to do that. We will always have a handle on what the business priorities of the Department are, what the key priorities, again, from the business perspective are, and we will invest where the priorities are the highest.

And also we will invest where it makes good sense on the technology side, where we can build once and service many different programs at once.

So the way we will confront those things is through again better understanding of the business and consistent understanding of the changes in the environment impacting our business and also understanding the technology that's available where we can share technology to get the biggest bang for our buck.

Mr. Boyer: Lisa, on a related topic, there are many exciting technologies that are vogue in the marketplace today, such as SOA, that promise significant advantage in cost savings and improve systems integration. Could you please describe HUD's plans for future technologies and investments?

Ms. Schlosser: Certainly, the service-oriented architecture principles as we talked about before are something we want to continue to look at, continue to invest in.

Obviously, we want to share services, build once and service many, capitalize on economies of scale, you know, actually, use the products in an environment to service multiple business needs is what we want to continue to do.

And specifically, from a technology standpoint, we want to incorporate web services technology. We want to web-enable all of our business applications, so any stakeholder, be it a business, another government agency, or the citizen can access the HUD information that they need when they need it, and customize it to their particular needs, and their particular requirements.

And government-wide, HUD is also going to, you know, ensure that we invest in moving towards Internet Protocol Version 0.6, and we're going to take advantages of smartcards and other technology solutions on the horizon, better and quicker encryption.

The third thing that we really want to do is capitalize on the power of wireless at many levels where we can. We have an increasingly mobile workforce. We have less funding for travel. We have less funding for government employees, so we really want to be efficient about the way we use technology.

I really see remote access web mobile type solutions, handhelds, some of the other technology that gets our mobile workforce connected no matter where they are, they can access securely HUD resources that they need to do their business.

Mr. Morales: Now, related to that, how much of HUD's workforce is mobile today?

Ms. Schlosser: That's -- it's hard to pin on an exact percentage of how much. I would say somewhere between maybe 30 to 40 percent of HUD's workforce travels to conduct inspections, you know, to promote some of our homeownership opportunities. So I would estimate, though roughly, 30 to 40 percent of our folks out there needs some sort of mobile capability, but you also have to consider really your whole workforce as a potentially mobile workforce really.

In the event of a disaster, and in the event that you have to deploy rapid response teams to a disaster area, you have to assume that anytime, anyplace, you can enable your people with a wireless solution, tele-working, obviously.

You need to build in remote access capability, so for example, HUD's implemented a web basis remote access solution. We use the mobile computers, obviously, that are wirelessly connected, so again, we do equip our mobile workforce and we are prepared to equip more of our workforce as more mobility is needed down the line.

Mr. Boyer: Now, Lisa, we talk with many of our guests about the government employee pending retirement wave. How are you handling the retirement wave?

Ms. Schlosser: Well, a couple of things, the Department overall has really an incredible intern program. We bring in -- I think we probably had a couple of 100 interns this year from various programs, from various universities across the nation, and we have a structured program where we bring these folks in, we offer them training throughout their time here as an intern. We really invest in the interns because we want them to come back, we want them to be HUD employees.

Within the Office of the Chief Information Officer, we have an Emerging Leaders Programs, where we meet on a quarterly basis with some of our emerging leaders. And we train them on various things, not just technology, but we train them on how to be good leaders, you know, what to expect from their leaders.

How to be good program or project managers and to understand the technology. We also spend a lot of time teaching them about the business of the government and about the business of HUD, so we want them to get invested, to be excited about the incredible mission and opportunities that we have, so that they come in and so we have a workforce that's ready to move up the ranks, you know, as some of our other members of our workforce get ready and actually do retire.

Mr. Boyer: Lisa, we also talk to many of our guests about the topic or on the topic of collaboration. What kinds of partnerships are you developing now and how will these partnerships between HUD other federal agencies or the private sector change over time?

Ms. Schlosser: Well, I think we're finally really getting into a mindset across the federal government that it does really make sense to collaborate on areas of commonality and I think collaboration will continue to grow.

I think e-government initiatives from the current administration has -- have really opened our eyes to wow! you know, we really do have a common need. We do have a common way we can do this particular business and of course, that translates into technology that we -- we really can capitalize more on shared services across the government.

I think a couple of areas where you're seeing even more collaboration is say in the disaster recovery arena, HUD works very closely with the Veteran's Administration and the United States Department of Agriculture on making sure that we can take personnel and get them into housing as quick as possible and help to build the community, so you're seeing a good collaboration occur there.

We've also -- in that particular case, we've also put -- worked together with those two agencies. We have kind of common housing mission areas.

We put together a website called homesales.gov, where we list any properties that the government owns that we would like to sell, we list it on those websites, and anybody is able to get to that website, make an offer on those homes, or at least pursue how to make an offer, if they're interested.

So it's been a very good opportunity to work together to get that information out. I mentioned a program earlier, Enterprise Income Verification, where the Social Security Administration, Health and Human Resources have gotten together and shared a database that has income data from various recipients of federal programs, and by building that database once and sharing it, we have increased the quality, we have reduced the improper payment.

So there is some real tangible, quantitative benefits of collaborating particularly as we've been talking about in the area of information technology. Again, you build it once let multiple folks use it and you can really create some efficiencies in your process and some cost savings.

Mr. Morales: Lisa, you've certainly enjoyed a very exciting and distinguished career and you've made the migration from the private sector over to public service. What advice could you give to a person who is interested in a career in public service?

Ms. Schlosser: Well, I'd say, first thing is to really understand what aspect of government you'd like to get involved with. There are various opportunities out there, specifically, in the area of security type career fields. Always opportunities in the information technology, and my best advice would be to capitalize on usajobs.gov.

It's a great website, a great resource. It lists opportunities, talks you through what a career in the government is like and it definitely lists all the different job opportunities that are available across the United States, you know, in a variety of different areas of expertise as well.

So I would encourage folks to periodically look at usajobs.gov, and take advantage of the opportunities that are listed there.

Mr. Morales: Great, that's fantastic. Unfortunately, we have reached the end of our time. I do want to thank you for fitting us into your busy schedule, but more importantly, Pete and I would like to thank you for your dedicated service to the public and our country in the various roles you've held in public office, as well as in the U.S. Army.

Ms. Schlosser: Thanks and I appreciate you taking the time to have me here today, and allowing me to share some of the things that HUD's doing. Obviously, HUD's continuing to, what we think, provide a great service to the American public, homeownership, that's the American -- that's America's dream, right, it's to own a home.

And the mere fact that now over 70 percent of the American citizens do own their own home, I think is quite a testimony to Secretary Jackson, Assistant Secretary Brian Montgomery, the head of Federal Housing Administration, and other key leaders within HUD, and I think you're going to see some exciting things coming out of HUD.

They are really going to help people even have more opportunities for homeownership, modernization programs within the Federal Housing Administration.

That's going to allow more flexibility to first time -- particularly, first time homebuyers, and I encourage everyone to look for those programs, look for those opportunities.

Again, I thank you for asking me to be here today.

Mr. Morales: Great. We look forward to your continued success. This has been The Business of Government Hour featuring a conversation with Chief Information Officer of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Ms. Lisa Schlosser.

Be sure to visit us on the web at businessofgovernment.org. There you can learn more about our programs, and get a transcript of today's conversation.

Once again, that's businessofgovernment.org.

As you enjoy the rest of your day, please take time to remember the men and women of our armed and civil services abroad who can't hear this morning's show on how we're improving their government, but who deserve our unconditional respect and support.

For The Business of Government Hour, I'm Al Morales. Thank you for listening.

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