Center for American Progress

How Do We Make Government More Efficient and Productive to Achieve Savings and Better Serve the American Public?
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How Do We Make Government More Efficient and Productive to Achieve Savings and Better Serve the American Public?

If we can improve government productivity, then we will make important progress toward the commission’s fiscal goals.

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The first step in addressing our fiscal problems must be to ensure we are getting our money’s worth for every dollar spent by the federal government. If we can improve government productivity, then we will make important progress toward the commission’s fiscal goals while improving the quality of our public investments and services and increasing the public’s confidence in its government. There are three parts to making the federal government work better.

First, government programs that are ineffective or duplicative should be eliminated or consolidated. The government should be doing what works and getting rid of what doesn’t. The commission should step up and identify specific cuts, combing every corner of the budget from the Department of Defense to the Department of Education, from agricultural subsidies to the huge range of subsidies administered through the tax system. The commission should also recommend changes in government processes so that, going forward, ineffective or duplicative programs aren’t adopted in the first place or are quickly recognized and eliminated.

Second, managers in government agencies should have the authority and incentives to make their programs operate effectively and efficiently. Government reform isn’t a new idea, but the fiscal imperative means we must be open to far more dramatic steps to motivate and empower those best situated to drive change—public servants charged with and accountable for getting results.

Third, a range of government practices in procurement, contracting, and technology should be reformed. The Obama administration already anticipates $40 billion in savings from reforms to the contracting process. Improvements to federal information technology systems could  additionally reduce costs by another $16 billion a year.

Together, these three steps would ensure that the absolutely necessary things federal  government does—from the large government programs discussed below to the relatively small amounts spent on federal services for low-income families and vulnerable children, air traffic control, consumer protection, law enforcement, and myriad other programs—are done well.

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