Controller Outlines Strategy to Simplify Government

February 6, 2013

The chief impediments to streamlining federal functions are “parochial stakeholder interests” and a lack of urgency among managers implementing laws and programs, U.S. Controller Danny Werfel told a business group on Wednesday.

The solutions include relying more on independent commissions in deciding how to “rightsize and reshape” government as well as “changing the culture to channel the urgency” commonly felt during a crisis into everyday situations.

Speaking at a forum on transforming government for the 21st century sponsored by the Business Roundtable and Governing magazine, Werfel also stressed the importance of pending legislation to restore historical authority to the president to reorganize agencies. “Congress has our bill,” he said, “and the fact that the president felt strong enough to transmit it says he is committed to reshaping and resizing government. Every tool we can use should be at our disposal.”

Werfel examined the notion that leaders in Washington photographed at bill-signing ceremonies “are not there with same verve and attention on the tougher job of implementation of the law.” Regardless of whether there’s enough focus on execution, he said, “government transformations tend to move slowly,” in part due to aversion to risk. He cited automation, noting that it took a long time for federal officials to accept a digital signature as legitimate.

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