Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Gummint Accountability... sort of.

If we don't know what's broke, we can't fix it.

It seems the Feds have figured that out to--at least the OMB has. It's listed every federal program, and includes the agency, etc. in a searchable index, and has broken them down into what works and what doesn't, and, why, and more importantly, what's being done about it.

Admittedly, it's a neat idea. Unfortunately, a large number of programs seem to be failing simply because they have no specific performance criteria with which to be measured, or, if criterion were given, they've no data to give the auditors. In effect, the test is broken, or the results are.

The part I really like, what we're doing to fix it, is missing something. In the Army, when we're done patting ourselves on the back after a successful mission, we get down to brass tacks. There's always something to improve, and improvement means less casualties or risk, and that saves lives. We don't just discuss what is broken, we figure out what to try to fix it, and who's responsible for fixing it--pinning on the rose, as it were. That's what I really see lacking here: who, By Name, is responsible for fixing it?

For every failing program, money will be spent to fix it. This is money that could feed a hungry child, build better levees, get another actor for "The more you know..." commercials, buy more and better body armor, more up-armored HMMWV's, more laptops for injured soldiers... wait, that's Project Valour-IT, and it's neither federally funded, managed, bungled, or regulated... and that’s why it actually gets laptops into the laps of wounded soldiers. Dammit, where was I....

Now, as for the people who buggered these programs up to this point, I don't see any heads rolling. The OMB states that we've a 28% ineffective rate. That gives the government a pretty low "C" for your tax dollars being well spent. At a minimum, any agency with say, 20% or more "broken" programs, the cabinet member should be summarily executed fired. In Stalin’s day, they’d have done well to end up with all of their family in the gulag. And, the astute reader will note, despite this approach to fiscal responsibility, the soviets still managed to destroy themselves from within with a mixture of vodka and ineptitude.

Next comes the issue of what to do with the people who run these “loser” programs. Until we come up with a means of verifying fiscal responsibility before appointment, I recommend terms in federal pound-me-in-the-ass prison for the heads of the 10 worst-offending programs. Nothing to long, just as long as the length of time they served as head of their program without doing anything. Basically, we’ve taken it up the rear for that length of time, so now it’s their turn. Again, just for the 10 worst offenders. As for the rest of the losers, they can learn from this experience and a) develop some goals, measurement criteria, or a clear mission, b) start collecting data, or at least cooking the books, and c) fix their programs or post their resumes on

Now we know what’s broke. Fix it!


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