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03.27.2012 DorobekINSIDER: A Yelp for government healthcare; Budget transparency; using virtual worlds at work

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Happy Tuesday…

And we have to start out with the historic debate at the U.S. Supreme Court yesterday over the health care bill — the first of three days of talks. The Washington Post notes that Monday was just the warm-up — arguments about whether the Supreme Court should take up the health-care case at all. Today, the focus is on mandates: Essentially, can the federal government require that all people buy health care. And Slate says that the arguments Monday showed the Supreme Court at its best. Slate says that arguments Monday showed that court doing what it does best: Taking complex old statutes and asking practical qauestions. Dahlia Lithwick says that while protesters outside were hollering about religion and freedom, the justices were boring those inside almost senseless with statutory construction. And, she says, “sometimes, check that, most of the time, boring is what the justices do best.”

Resources:

And we go from talking about how benefits of being boring… Well, here is a reason to go online… You’ve probably heard of the Twitter feed… well, it is S my Dad Says… Yes, use your imagination. It is the Twitter feed that was a short-lived TV show. Well, now there is S that bureaucrats say… hat tip to GovLoop member Mike KujawskiWe have the link online… and my guess is this will go viral and be much discussed around government water coolers… and yes, it is safe for work.


On today’s program…

  • They’re debating health care at the Supreme Court. What if there was something like a Yelp of Government Healthcare… something that could help veterans navigate the confusing world of healthcare with dashboards.. and sharing information. We’ll talk about that…
  • Making budgets transparent. It has been the goal of the federal Web site, USAspending.gov. But state and local governments have been doing this for some time… and there are some new rankings out… grades, really… for how they are doing. We’ll talk to the people behind the budget transparency grades…
  • And yesterday we told you about the virtual worlds conference. And I heard some of you roll your eyes and say that this is just game playing. Today, we’ll talk about how these tools can actually be used — and, yes, how they can save you money.
  • And later in the program…  What do Conan O’Brien, Cory Booker, Sesame Street’s Grover, Suze Orman, Ted Leo, Neil Patrick Harris and NASA have in common? We will tell you about an award that NASA has won…

All that ahead…

But as we do each day, after the break… we start with the stories that impact your life for Tuesday the 27 of March, 2012… your government world in 120-seconds…

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Written by cdorobek

March 27, 2012 at 1:37 PM

03.23.2012 GovLoop Insights’ DorobekINSIDER Issue of the Week: Battle of the budget, fiscal 2013

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Hey there — I’m Christopher Dorobek — the DorobekINSIDER — welcome to GovLoop Insights Issue of the Week with Chris Dorobek… where each week, our goal is to find an issue — a person — an idea — then helped define the past 7-days… and we work to find an issue that will also will have an impact on the days, weeks and months ahead. And, as always, we focus on six words: helping you do your job better.

This also closes out our third week that we’ve been daily show… and we had some good conversations this week…

Yesterday, in fact, was our producer Emily Jarvis’s favorite show so far… we spoke with one of the real thought leaders in the government space, Bill Eggers of Deloitte, about disruptive innovation and how you can be ready for it… even embrace it. And we also spoke to the man behind the federal Web site Ethics.gov, but also behind Virginia Decoded Web site — a site that was called the prettiest version of legal code… and who knew the laws of the land could be pretty… but we talked about how you can make all that data useful… usable

And earlier in the week, we spoke with Warren Suss, who has been watching the government market for decades… he joined us this week to talk about how the doing more with less is actually causing fundamental changes in the government market.

And there was some lighter stuff along the way… This week was the sixth birthday for Twitter — that ubiquitous social media platform. I started a discussion about how Twitter has changed government. It’s interesting because one person argued that Twitter is a waste of time and money — his words. I’m not sure how one can make that arguement these days. In fact, Alec Ross, who is Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s tech guru, has argued that Twitter and Facebook and these other sites have created a massive shift of power. He says that social media isn’t just about personal communication. It’s a collective network of users that brings great influence — and great power. We’d love to hear your thoughts about it

OH… an update on GSA’s March Madness brackets — no, not basketball. We told you earlier this week that GSA has brackets for your favorite federal architecture. We have the update… The final four starts today — and you can cast your vote… Vote on GSA’s Facebook page: www.facebook.com/GSA.

And I can’t really start the program today without noting that it was on this date in 1775 that Patrick Henry made his “Give me Liberty, or give me Death!” speech to the Virginia House of Burgesses, urging military action against the British Empire. The speech was made at St. John’s Church in Richmond, Virginia and the speech spurred the the Virginia House of Burgesses to pass a resolution and add Virginia troops to the Revolutionary War. There you go…

Our issue of the week… your money… the budget… and the battle of the budget: fiscal 2013 edition…

That is just ahead.

Also ahead on the program… We’ll also have your weekend reading list — the weekends are a good time to rejuvenate — but also some time to take a step back and ponder. And we’ll have some reading that may guide you as you work to think outside of the box. Among our items this week… amid the talk of pay freezes and pay cuts, we’ll tell you how you can meet the hackers to sell spies the tools to crack into your computer… and we’ll also tell you about a really big paper airplane. What can I say — it’s just too awesome to pass up…
All of that just ahead…

Each day on the DorobekINSIDER, we bring you the news that matters to you. On Fridays, we like to take a step back and look at the stories from the week that rose to the top. So… your government world for the past seven days… in 120 seconds… after the break…

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Written by cdorobek

March 23, 2012 at 2:00 PM

Posted in budget, CFO, CIOs, security

DorobekINSIDER: IRS’s Doone named GSA CFO

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GSA Administrator Martha Johnson has filled one of her key leadership vacancies naming Alison Doone to be the agency’s chief financial officer.

Doone currently is the IRS CFO.

She fills the vacancy that was created in May when Johnson announced that Kathleen Turco, GSA’s current chief financial officer, will lead GSA’s Office of Governmentwide Policy.

She starts at GSA on September 26.

The memo from Johnson to GSA staff:

MEMORANDUM FOR ALL EMPLOYEES

FROM: Administrator Martha Johnson

SUBJECT: New Chief Financial Officer

As we continue to make important leadership transitions to better leverage GSA’s position, I am happy to announce that effective September 26 Alison Doone will join the GSA team as our Chief Financial Officer (CFO), a key leadership position for the agency.

Alison comes to us from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and has a sterling record of public service. Over the past twenty years, she has held executive positions as CFO of the Federal Election Commission, Deputy Assistant Administrator of the Office of Finance at the Drug Enforcement Agency, and most recently as the CFO of the IRS where she oversees the  financial management and accounting operations for a $12 billion budget and $2.3 trillion in tax revenue.

As we rise to meet the bold agenda that the White House has given us, Alison’s proven record of increasing efficiency and financial responsibility will help propel GSA forward to deliver on our major initiatives.

I would like to extend my sincere thanks to Micah Cheatham who has served us well as Acting CFO and will be returning to his permanent position in the Office of the CFO as GSA’s Budget Director.

Please join me in welcoming Alison to her new position, and in thanking Micah for his service.

Sincerely,

Martha

Written by cdorobek

August 25, 2010 at 4:45 PM

DorobekINSIDER: Jerry Lohfink, head of the USDA’s National Finance Center, to retire

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The DorobekINSIDER has learned that Cyrus G. “Jerry” Lohfink, the director of the National Finance Center, will retire in August.

“I have decided to retire for one primary reason; I feel that it is time,” he said in a note to his staff on Monday. “It is time for me to address other interests and challenges. It is time for NFC to benefit from new leadership and perspectives. And, as we have often discussed, nothing improves until something changes.”

Lohfink is widely respected for his work at the National Finance Center, particularly for the work around Hurricane Katrina. NFC is located in New Orleans and had to shift resources around during Hurricane Katrina. For that work, he was recognized in 2006 with Federal Computer Week’s Fed 100 Award for that work — and in the issue, we called him them the Master of Disaster.

Lohfink has led the National Finance Center since 2003 after John Ortego retired from government.

The National Finance Center is a fascinating organization for a number of reasons. First, NSF was doing shared services before shared services was cool. But it is also critically important organization to feds given that they are the payroll system for many agencies. The NSF provides integrated Payroll/Personnel System and provides all the necessary related support services for the payroll process. NSF is a fee-for-service organization, meaning that it operates similar to the private sector — if you don’t satisfy customers, you lose the business. According to USDA, the National Finance Center has 1,100 Federal employees and an additional 100 contract employees with annual revenues of exceeding $160 million. NFC disburses in excess of $100B annually, pays 620,000 Federal employees biweekly, performs recordkeeping services for more than 4.2 million enrollees in Federal health benefit programs, and provides a variety of human resource, administrative, and information technology services for 172 Federal organizations.

Jerry and his wife, Cheryl, have been married for more than 30 years. They have three children. They live in Slidell, Louisiana.

Here is his note to staff:

Subject: For Your Info

What a year already! The New Orleans Saints are World Champions (and pigs have flown)! The City of New Orleans is transitioning to new leadership! FMMI is up and serving more and more customers! NFC continues to improve services and gain new business! And there are still 9 more months remaining in the year for things to happen.

One such future happening this year, albeit a far less notable one, will be my retirement from Federal Service. I have just informed Mr. Jon Holladay, Acting Chief Finance Officer, of my intention to retire from Federal service at the end of August 2010. I am sending you this note because I wanted to be the first to share this information with you.

I have decided to retire for one primary reason; I feel that it is time. It is time for me to address other interests and challenges. It is time for NFC to benefit from new leadership and perspectives. And, as we have often discussed, nothing improves until something changes.

I have been very blessed to have had 33 years of Federal Service which I have tremendously enjoyed; especially my 27 years at NFC! Federal Service has been very good to me and my family. My time at NFC has introduced me to many opportunities, challenges, and terrific people – leadership, peers, customers, stakeholders, business partners, etc. But foremost in my daily thoughts are you, the “CAN DO!” employees at the NFC, who have been my inspirations, role models, and folks that I tremendously admire! Always maintain that positive attitude! I just do not think that each of you truly appreciates the important role you play and the terrific job you do at making the Government’s administrative and financial business better!

I look forward to continuing to work with you over the next 5 months to better the organization, improve customer satisfaction, and continue to grow the business. We continue to be in a great period of service improvement and business growth. We must keep the momentum going! There are great years ahead for the folks at the NFC! You are making it so.

I tremendously appreciate what each of you does on a daily basis for your organization and its customers! I am proud to say that I am your colleague and number one cheerleader. THANK YOU for making me a better person from having served with each of you! Who dat? YOU DAT!!

Sincerely,

/s/ Jerry
CYRUS G. LOHFINK
Director, National Finance Center

Here is his bio from USDA:

Jerry Lohfink is director of the Office of the Chief Financial Officer’s National Finance Center in New Orleans, La.

From May 1998 until his selection for this position Lohfink served as deputy director of NFC. During his nearly 20 years at NFC he has also served as associate director of its Information Resources Management Division, its financial management officer, chief of its Financial Information Branch, a senior financial analyst, and a program analyst.

From 1978-84 he served with the Agricultural Research Service at its [then] regional office in New Orleans. During his tenure there he worked as the assistant for finance to ARS’s [then} regional administrator, the assistant budget and fiscal officer, a supervisory budget analyst, and a supervisory accounting technician.

John Ortego, the previous director of NFC, is now president and owner of Ortego & Associates, a business consulting firm based in New Orleans.

Written by cdorobek

March 31, 2010 at 10:13 AM

DorobekInsider: HHS joins the management reorganization bandwagon — but this time, the CIO seems to get more visibility

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We have been telling you about a number of management reorganizations at a number of agencies… Of course, the Agriculture Department has quietly undertaken a significant reorganization of its agency managementread more here… There were also changes at the top ranks of the Department of Veterans Affairs management organization

The Department of Health and Human Services is also reorganizing its management structure, according to a Federal Register notice, creating the Office of Assistant Secretary for Administration and Management and Office of the Assistant Secretary for Resources and Technology.

Here is an excerpt:

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is reorganizing a portion of two offices, the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Resources and Technology (ASRT) and the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Administration and Management (ASAM), both of which are located within the Office of the Secretary (OS). The reorganization is designed to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of these two offices by consolidating the resource-related functions, including budget, grants, acquisition, finance, and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (Recovery Act) coordination, underASRT and the administrative functions under ASAM. The titles of the Assistant Secretary for Resources and Technology (ASRT) and the Assistant Secretary for Administration and Management (ASAM) will also be changed to the Assistant Secretary for Financial Resources (ASFR ) and Assistant Secretary for Administration (ASA), respectively. This reorganization also will transfer support for the Office of Small &
Disadvantaged Business Utilization (OSDBU) from ASAM to ASRT, while maintaining the Office’s same direct-line reporting structure to the Deputy Secretary. Finally, this reorganization will transfer direct-line reporting of the Office of the Chief Information Office fromASRT to the Deputy Secretary while moving day-to-day support for OCIO from ASRT to ASA.

Read the full post here.

We’re still trying to ferret out what exactly this means and how it moves the cheese around, but unlike at USDA, where the CIO seems to be buried deeper within the organization, HHS’s reorganization seems to actually give the CIO increased visibility within the organization.

Insiders tell me that the CIO Michael Carlton will now report directly to the HHS Deputy Secretary Bill Corr. Previously, the HHS CIO reported to the agency’s Assistant Secretary for Resources and Technology/CFO.

One insider told us that the HHS Office of the Chief Information Officer is moving from the former Assistant Secretary for Resources and Technology — which will become the new Office of the Assistant Secretary for Financial Resources — and the CIO will now become part of the new Office of the Assistant Secretary for Administration.

If you know more information, let us know… and we’ll keep trying to track down more information.

Written by cdorobek

November 10, 2009 at 2:37 PM

DorobekInsider: UPDATE – Grams to join VA as principal deputy assistant secretary for management

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An update on our earlier report about W. Todd Grams, who serves as the chief financial officer at the National Institutes of Standards and Technology and previously served as the chief information officer at the Internal Revenue Service… Grams will actually be the principal deputy assistant secretary for management starting Monday.

Rita Reed, who has been serving in that post, is retiring at the end of February and she will be helping Grams with the transition until she retires.

Here’s what Reed told colleagues about Grams’ position:

Colleagues:

As you may have heard, I will soon be retiring after more than 31 years with VA.  While I am excited about the opportunities the future may present for me, I will miss my VA home and family.  I am very proud to be associated with this great Department and honored to have served with each of you who do so much every day to help the success of VA’s mission.  I am especially pleased to know that I will be succeeded by someone who knows and cares about VA, its business and Mission, and brings a wealth of talent and experience.  He and the VA Leadership asked me to stay for a while to assist in this transition and so I am pleased to have the opportunity to continue in OM through the end of February 2010 as an advisor and assistant.

Please help me welcome W. Todd Grams to OM’s Senior Executive team starting Monday, November 9, 2009.  Mr. Grams will be filling a SES position as the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Management.  Mr. Grams will be responsible for overseeing Departmental resource requirements, development and implementing of agency performance measures and financial management activities relating to VA programs and operations.  This includes managing a Departmental accounting and financial management system that provides for management cost, budgeting and accounting information.  In addition his office will oversee the capital asset management activities that include important new energy initiatives across VA.

Prior to this appointment, Mr. Grams served as the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) for the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology.  From 2003 through 2006 he served as the Chief Information Officer (CIO) of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) where he was responsible for all IRS IT functions nationwide.0 From 2001 to 2003 he was the CFO of the IRS where he was responsible for the accounting of $2 trillion in tax receipts and the oversight of the IRS’ $10 billion operating budget. Under Grams’ leadership the IRS’ achieved its first-ever consecutive years of clean audit opinions while improving the quality and timeliness of financial data.

Prior to joining the IRS, Mr. Grams served at VA from 1994 to 2001, initially as the first CFO of the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) and then as the Acting Assistant Secretary for Management of the VA.  He served in a variety of positions at the Office of Management and Budget from 1983 to 1994, including appropriations bill tracker, budget examiner, and Chief of the Veterans Affairs Branch.  He began his career at the Bureau of the Census in 1980 as a budget analyst.

In 2006, he received the Presidential Rank Award for Distinguished Service at the IRS. In 2000, he received the Presidential Rank Award for Distinguished Service at the VA. In 1997, he received the Presidential Rank Award for Meritorious Service at the VA.

He graduated from the University of Maryland with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics in 1980.

Mr. Grams brings to the Office of Management’s executive team leadership and financial experience that will be invaluable as VA implements Transformation 21 and works with you to improve our day-to-day operations.  We are fortunate to have an individual with his talents in this position.

Written by cdorobek

November 6, 2009 at 1:27 PM

DorobekInsider: UPDATED – Grams to join VA as principal deputy assistant secretary for management

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UPDATE as of 1:20p ETW. Todd Grams, who serves as the chief financial officer at the National Institutes of Standards and Technology and previously served as the chief information officer at the Internal Revenue Service, will actually be the principal deputy assistant secretary for management starting Monday.

Rita Reed, who has been serving in that post, is retiring at the end of February and she will be helping Grams with the transition until she retires.

Here’s what Rita told colleagues about Grams’ position:

Mr. Grams will be filling a SES position as the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Management. Mr. Grams will be responsible for overseeing Departmental resource requirements, development and implementing of agency performance measures and financial management activities relating to VA programs and operations. This includes managing a Departmental accounting and financial management system that provides for management cost, budgeting and accounting information. In addition his office will oversee the capital asset management activities that include important new energy initiatives across VA.

It sounds like a CFO, but…

 

We are hearing that W Todd Grams, who serves as the chief financial officer at the National Institutes of Standards and Technology and previously served as the chief information officer at the Internal Revenue Service, will join the Department of Veterans Affairs as the acting chief financial officer.

Grams has served mostly in the CFO side of organizations, although before 2001, he served as VA’s Acting Assistant Secretary for Management which included the roles of the Department’s Chief Financial Officer and Senior Procurement Executive.

Here is his bio from NIST

W. Todd Grams
Chief Financial Officer

W. Todd Grams is the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) for the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology. Appointed in July 2006, he is responsible for all NIST-wide administrative offices and functions, including: human resources, information technology, safety, facilities, construction, finance, acquisitions and grants management, budget, and security.

From 2003 through 2006 Grams served as the Chief Information Officer (CIO) of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) where he was responsible for all IRS IT functions nationwide. He led the turnaround of the long-struggling business systems modernization program and restructured 15 percent (1,000 positions) of the IT workforce to improve effectiveness and efficiency. From 2001 to 2003 he was the CFO of the IRS where he was responsible for the accounting of $2 trillion in tax receipts and the oversight of the IRS’ $10 billion operating budget. Under Grams’ leadership the IRS’ achieved its first-ever consecutive years of clean audit opinions while improving the quality and timeliness of financial data.

Prior to joining the IRS, Grams served at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) from 1994 to 2001, initially as the first CFO of the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) and then as the Acting Assistant Secretary for Management of the VA. He instituted improved financial discipline over an annual health care budget of $17 billion through a new resource allocation system that significantly reduced patient costs, increased the number of patients treated, and increased the quality of care.

Grams served in a variety of positions at the Office of Management and Budget from 1983 to 1994, including appropriations bill tracker, budget examiner, and Chief of the Veterans Affairs Branch. He began his career at the Bureau of the Census in 1980 as a budget analyst.

In 2006, he received the Presidential Rank Award for Distinguished Service at the IRS. In 2000, he received the Presidential Rank Award for Distinguished Service at the VA. In 1997, he received the Presidential Rank Award for Meritorious Service at the VA. Grams graduated from the University of Maryland with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics in 1980.

Written by cdorobek

November 6, 2009 at 11:29 AM

DorobekInsider: USDA officials offer more details on management reorganization

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We told you about the major reorganization of the Agriculture Department’s management structure.

The plan — and you can read all the documents here — essentially creates an uber-USDA “Departmental Administration” that includes most of the management functions — procurement, IT, HR, finance and budget — all under one umbrella.

I haven’t been able to get somebody at USDA to talk about it officially yet — we’re still working on it. But USDA spokesman Justin DeJong provided me with this statement:

We take our responsibility to ensure we use hard-earned taxpayer dollars wisely, and these changes will help us to serve more people and in a more efficient and effective manner. By optimizing and streamlining the various operations, we plan to eliminate duplicate functions; improve quality of services and communications; and streamline processes and improve transparency to our customers. Ultimately, effective USDA management means effective results for taxpayers and the people USDA serves.

We began having discussions with employees and unions in the early months of the new administration. On June 18, all employees received a letter from Secretary Vilsack about the pending reorganization. This letter was followed by further discussions, meetings and additional outreach to employees and unions, in addition to the required notifications.

The CFO and CIO will continue to have the opportunity to report directly to the Secretary on core responsibilities as outlined in statute. There will be no Reduction in Force (RIF) associated with this reorganization. No employee will lose pay or grade.

I’m happy that USDA is talking about this in a more public, transparent way…. and I continue to hope that they will come on Federal News Radio 1500 AM to discuss the thinking behind the really massive change.

And before focusing on the specifics of the plan itself, I think the way that it is rolled out is important.

To be fair, DeLong and I had a discussion about the transparency of this initiative. And he correctly notes — both in our conversation and in the written statement — that Secretary Vilsack sent out a letter in June to employees and all of the documents about the reorganization are posted on the agency’s Intranet. But this specifically want not discussed in any kind of public way.

My point to him is that this is not just a USDA internal matter — it has broad ramifications about how USDA is run and, frankly, there are people who have ideas and thoughts outside of the agency. It seems to me, that is at the heart of the Obama transparency initiative — agencies should only keep information locked down if there is a reason for that information to be locked down. Frankly, I spoke to several people on Capitol Hill yesterday and they hadn’t heard of the reorganization. Using the Obama transparency and openness measures — transparency, participatory, and collaborative — it sure seems like business as usual.

I think USDA missed out on an opportunity to tap into the collective wisdom — and build support for the idea of a changed management structure. And management issues are ones that particularly touch the employee, so I certainly hope that USDA will not use this as a model for how they view openness and transparency. In the end, if transparency is only within your organization, it fails — and, in the end, it isn’t any different then what has been done in the past.

On the issue of the reorganization itself…

There are still a number of questions out there:

  • How does USDA envision this working?
  • Nobody disagrees that agencies need to spend money wisely. How does this reorganization spur that?
  • What spurred this kind of massive change?
  • What data demonstrates that a single organization works better then a diversified one? Or is the decision based on philosophy?
  • What will this mean for the agencies within USDA? Will they all be using this uber-management organization for procurement, HR, IT, budget and finance?
  • If the organization chart specifically shows that the CIO and CFO report to the UDSA manager, how does this comply with the CFO Act or the Clinger-Cohen Act — in letter or spirit?

Furthermore, Congress Daily spoke to Deputy Agriculture Secretary Kathleen Merrigan who said she would still have budget authority, which would seem to undercut this actual management organization from the very top.

And then there are questions about the early retirements, which I understand are more complex to address.

In the end, nobody disagrees with the need to spend money wisely… and most everybody agrees that the head of an agency gets to decide how to run their organization — and different management styles work for different people. But leadership and management necessitates that people know where they are going — and why.

My concern is that USDA seems to have missed an opportunity. We have all seen many previous management overhauls that were conducted just the way this one has been so far — largely behind closed doors with, frankly, token efforts to make information available. Most of them go on to fail because they didn’t convince people that it was the right direction. They didn’t see questions as opportunities to improve the plan.

I don’t think anybody disagrees with the plan on the face of it. But buzz I keep hearing is deep concern about the role of the CIO and CFO… and why the determination was made.

Again, as I have re-read this post, it sounds harsh. I don’t mean it to be — and we look forward to getting more information.

Meanwhile, here is Congress Daily had report:

Deputy secretary asserts control over Agriculture budget
By Jerry Hagstrom
CongressDaily
October 19, 2009

Deputy Agriculture Secretary Kathleen Merrigan is planning to continue running the USDA budget, despite an organizational revamp that has placed the budget office under Assistant Secretary for Administration Pearlie Reed….

“I will be running the budget process at USDA,” Merrigan told CongressDaily on Friday, adding that she had presented USDA’s fiscal 2011 budget to the Office of Management and Budget and will make the presentations of future budgets.

The deputy Agriculture secretary has traditionally been in charge of developing the budget and received reports from the budget officer. But since the reorganization, which went into effect Oct. 1, farm lobbyists have worried that if an official below the level of deputy secretary made the presentations, USDA would be at a disadvantage.

Read the full story here.

Written by cdorobek

October 21, 2009 at 8:25 AM

DorobekInsider EXCLUSIVE: USDA undertakes extensive management reorg – downgrading the CIO, CFO, and seeking early retirements

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Agriculture Secretary Thomas Thomas J. Vilsack last week rolled out a major management reorganization of the agency that downgrades the roles of the USDA chief information officer and chief financial officer. As part of the plan, the agency has also requested the Office of Personnel Management grant USDA permission to proceed forward with early retirements.

The plan: Create a uber-USDA “Departmental Administration” — including operations such as procurement, IT, human resources and finance.

The goal: A more efficient organization, according to a series of memos obtained by FederalNewsRadio.com’s DorobekInsider.

Combining the various operations like procurement, information technology, human resources and finance into a unified USDA management area will eliminate duplicate functions and organizational layering; improve quality of services and communications; and streamline processes and improve transparency to customers. Ultimately, effective USDA management means effective results for taxpayers and the people USDA serves.

Here is the memo that was sent out to USDA personnel:

FROM: Alma C. Hobbs
Deputy Assistant Secretary for Administration

DATE: October 1, 2009

SUBJECT: Creation of the New USDA Departmental Management

Every day, USDA programs touch people across the country. We have a responsibility to make sure that these programs meet the needs of the American Public and that they are managed in the most effective and efficient manner possible. Over the years, there have been many changes in Departmental Administration creating duplication of functions, fragmentation and organizational layering. This has created inefficiencies and reduced the effectiveness of the Administrative programs. We have an opportunity now to realign these programs, strengthen integration of activities and create an organization that will increase our capacity for accomplishing mission critical work.

We are pleased to announce the creation of the USDA Departmental Management organization. This new organization will replace the current Departmental Administration organization, effective today. The reorganization will improve the management of USDA and reflect Secretary Vilsack’s desire to transform USDA into a model organization. On July 29, the Secretary approved the organizational structure for the new Departmental Management. On September 8, 2009, the Secretary issued a Memorandum to effect the changes necessary to implement the reorganization beginning October 1, 2009. There will be staffing changes effective October 11, 2009, the date of the first pay period of the new fiscal year.

We need your assistance to make this effort successful. Improved integration of management support activities at the Departmental level will move us collectively towards achieving a model organization, positioned to meet the present and future needs of our programs. This transformation is a tremendous opportunity for us to decrease redundancy, increase efficiency, and improve employee morale, and for all of us to make better use of our resources.

We would also like to reiterate Secretary Vilsack’s point that no employee will lose their employment, grade, or commuting area as a direct result of this reorganization. We have also engaged Unions to ensure that bargaining unit employees are represented throughout this process. As we move to the new organization, all employees will be treated fairly and consistently.

Leadership will schedule meetings with employees soon to discuss the reorganization and any necessary realignments or reassignments. These meetings will also provide opportunities for employees to ask questions. Also, we are establishing a web site to go live on Friday, October 2 (www.hqnet.usda.gov/DM_reorg) that will provide a list of frequently asked questions and updates on our progress. A Fact Sheet, Frequently Asked Questions, Secretary Vilsack’s June 18 letter, and an approved Organizational Chart are included for your information.

We are also pursuing Voluntary Early Retirement Authority (VERA) and Voluntary Separation Incentive Payments (VSIP) authority from the Office of Personnel Management to present as many positive options as possible during this transformation. A fact sheet on this topic is also included for your review.

As we implement this new organization, we are going to need everyone’s support to make this reorganization a success. We encourage you to stay engaged to ensure a seamless transition that benefits not only our organization, but the American taxpayers as well.

It has been clear that USDA has been in management chaos for some time — but most people believe that was the result of specific personnel, not the structure. (The Bush administration has combined the CIO and CFO job one person — Charles Christopherson — and the agency is still struggling to recovery from the senior people who managed to escape.

I certainly hope that the Obama administration isn’t following a model where they come in and spring a reorganization on employees without asking for ideas? There are also questions about how USDA manages to dodge the CFO Act and the Clinger-Cohen Act, which require that agency CFOs and CIOs respectively report directly to the secretary?

Here is the new USDA organization chart:

View this document on Scribd

I should note, the items mentioned in the memo from the USDA Web site — I’m guessing that it is an Intranet site, so most of us can’t access those documents. Therefore, I have posted them below:

* USDA management reorganization fact sheet… or here

* USDA management reorganization frequently asked questionsor here

* Secretary Vilsack’s June 18 letter

Of course, I’d love to get thoughts from people who have been there and done it — is this the right move for USDA? Post your comments… and we’ll even open the DorobekInsider poll seeking your assessment of the USDA reorganization.

Written by cdorobek

October 17, 2009 at 6:30 PM

DorobekInsider: New DOT CFO nominee… and a possible DOT CIO nominee

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The Obama administration has nominated Christopher P. Bertram to be the Transportation Department’s chief financial officer, otherwise known by the wonderful title of Assistant Secretary for Budget and Programs.

From the White House write-up:

Christopher P. Bertram, Nominee for Assistant Secretary for Budget and Programs and Chief Financial Officer, Department of Transportation
Christopher P. Bertram is currently a professional staff member with the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. In that position, he has been responsible for legislation related to aviation, auto and highway safety, transportation security, railroads, and fuel efficiency standards for automobiles. Prior to joining the Commerce Committee, Bertram served as the Federal Aviation Administration’s Assistant Administrator for Financial Services and Chief Financial Officer. Bertram earned a Master in Public Policy degree from Harvard University and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Trinity University.

Meanwhile, we are hearing that Nitin Harban may be nominated as the new DOT CIO. NOTE: This is not confirmed, but his name has been making its way in and around DOT. But it is important to stress that there is no official announcement from the White House… yet. I don’t know Harban — to be honest, I’m not sure I’m spelling his name correctly. I stand to be corrected. If you know him or have information about him, let me know.

Written by cdorobek

July 7, 2009 at 12:59 PM