Perhaps you should try them on for size.

From Grace Commissions to the National Performance Reviews (NPR) to Presidents Management Agendas (PMAs) to the Government Performance Results Modernization Act (GPRAMA) to high risks lists to duplication and overlap reports, the government has been trying to reform its programs in many ways over a long period of time. With Congressional oversight committees, the Government Accountability Office (GAO), Inspector’s General (IGs), oversight agencies, Performance Officers, CXO Councils, Commissions, and hordes of legislation, the government has more oversight than any entity on earth. Yet, proper program alignment along with efficiency and effectiveness often alludes the government.


What is Fit?

While all the initiatives and oversight tools identified above have contributed to an environment of reform, they have yet to create a culture of or a structured process toward reform. An efficiency and effectiveness approach for each program can be defined, but before government can begin to address that, it must first determine program fit. Fit simply is determining if the program is a proper function of the federal government and should continue to exist in its current form. To assess fit, the government should identify and review each program in its inventory on a nonpolitical and nonbiased basis to determine its efficacy.

Each year the COO of each agency should schedule and review a selected number of programs to determine if they still “fit” as essential government programs. GAO could also support this along with IGs and outside partners.



What is a Program?

I define a program as a function or activity of government that leads to the achievement of a specific objective or result and consumes funds and other resources. It is required to carry out the responsibility of government. Programs can be large or small, simple or complex, mission focused or provide infrastructure support. In other words, if it expends money and resources and provides a product or service, it’s a program. While each government program may have had an appropriate intent when it was first conceived, may have changed as the government and country matures in purpose, capacity, and approach.


How to Determine Fit

Determine fit by assessing each program, answering the following questions:Get-the-Book-Chapter-5

  1. Is the program an appropriate function of the federal government — does it meet the test of the Constitution, the national needs of the US or its economy, or require the girth and authority of the government to positively impact the country?
  2. Does the program in its current form benefit the American people — is the cost/benefit realized? Is it good for the Nation with clearly defined benefits? Is the intended outcome still a valid intent? Is the program still applicable to contemporary society (i.e., a program that no longer needs the intended outcome nor provides the intended incentives given current advances, needs, market, or economy)?
  3. Should the program be more appropriately implemented by others — State, Local, community, family, individuals? With or without federal support?
  4. Should the program be implemented by the private sector or a public/private partnership? If so, what would be the enhanced benefit to the American people?
  5. Can the government afford the program as prioritized against other pressing needs and budget? If so, does the benefit outweigh the cost?
  6. Is the program duplicative or overlapping with others and should it be either combined with another or eliminated?
  7. What would happen if the program did not exist (be honest about its impact, or lack thereof)?

A program review should be the role of each agency head with the support of oversight agencies as well as Congress. These entities would work together in, as I said, a nonpolitical and nonbiased manner.

Agencies should not try to review all programs at once, and not start with programs that are obviously critical, such as a program essential to national defense. But be honest, don’t call it essential if it’s not.  And note, this fit test is not about efficiency or full effectiveness, it’s just to determine whether it still fits given current realities and governance requirements.

I realize that some judgement is needed and not all decisions are based on a constitutional or legal requirement. As a country we may see a program as deemed important to our core values. At the same time, we should not always lean on the Constitution’s “general welfare” statement to hide a political intent or personal gain. Objectivity is critical. Each program review should result in a clear recommendation as to its future existence, transfer, elimination, or scope change. The report should also recommend further study as to its effectiveness and efficiency if necessary. Recommendations should be provided to agency heads, OMB, and Congress for consideration.


Why Fit

Fit comes first before other assessments. A government that is struggling with massive reform and budget realities should address fit first before all else and be consistent with a National Strategic Plan outlining our intent as a Nation.

Using a fit assessment is an important initial step to review government at a “macro” efficiency level and prepare it for meeting current and future needs. A fit assessment could eliminate waste, help right size government, and move it toward full accountability to the American people.


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