The government challenge of the revolving door – Plus the 7 Gov Stories

On GovLoop Insights’ DorobekINSIDER:

  • The definition of, of insanity is trying the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. So that begs the question is there a better way to create a political platform? David Cole thinks so. He has posted his platform on Github, and you can help him shape policy. Find out how it works.

You can find all of our programs online: DorobekINSIDER.com and GovLoop Insights at http://insights.govloop.com.

But up front: The government challenge of the revolving door

The revolving door -- it is one of the issues that so-called government watchdog groups love to rally around. This is where experts in a field move from a government job to a job in industry, often for big bucks.

There are big name examples -- Peter Orszag, the former director of the Office of Management and Budget, took a high paying job with Citigroup and, quite creatively, then tried to keep his salary from the public record. But this revolving door often is seen as having grave implications. During the Gulf oil spill, there were reports of how oversight failed because this revolving door. [Time magazine: Washington's Revolving Door: How Oil Oversight Failed; AP via The Huffington Post: Revolving Door Between BP And Its Regulator Getting More Attention; PBS’s Bill Moyers: The Gulf Coast Cleanup, BP and the Revolving Door.]

The most recent case: General Motors and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The connections are, of course, being examined these days to see why the car problems went unaddressed.

Industry often recruits (and pays) for these government workers because of their connections, but also because of their knowledge.

David T. Zaring, an Assistant Professor of Legal Studies and Business Ethics at  University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, argues that the power of the revolving door is overstated, especially when the subject is law enforcement.

Most government officials have plenty of reasons to do a good job, and sometimes a successful stint in the public sector enhances private sector earning potential, to say nothing of more immediate civil service prospects. The revolving door may also foster citizen participation in government. A study of the careers of a tranche of elite Manhattan prosecutors does not reveal any evidence of those who leave doing the bidding of those they regulate while in public service.

And I tend to worry that our efforts to prevent the revolving door end up freezing conversations between government and industry.

Furthermore, do we really want people who come to government to be prohibited from making money?

The bigger problem to me seems to be group think -- everybody in an industry ends up having similar ideas. People who have views outside the norm are seen as… well, outsiders.

It is an interesting government challenge: How do we have the best regulators… and regulation? We want the best and the brightest to come to government. We want that knowledge that somebody may have after working years in industry. But can they still be a good regulator?

It is a nuanced question -- and it seems that just blaming the revolving door seems overly simplistic.

The SEVEN stories that impact your life

  1. Washington Post: CIA misled on interrogations, Senate Report Says -  Senate investigators say the agency concealed details about the severity of its methods, overstated the significance of plots and prisoners, and took credit where it wasn’t due.  

  2. Politico: Paul Ryan’s budget makes big Medicare changes - “The House Republican 2015 budget, penned by the Wisconsin Republican, will seek to shave federal spending by $5 trillion by offering changes to social welfare programs, ending government ownership of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and repealing Obamacare.”

  3. Federal News Radio: Army Spends $500 Million per Year on Vacant Facilities - “The Army says its early analyses of its excess base infrastructure show it is wasting at least a half billion dollars per year on facilities it no longer uses nor needs. And that figure that is certain to climb as the service gets smaller in the coming years.”

  4. The Tennessean: Haslam Drops Raises for Teachers, State Workers - “Gov. Bill Haslam's plan to boost pay for teachers will be put on hold for at least a year, the governor announced Monday, as he works to close a $160 million gap in the state budget.”

  5. Defense News: Report Shows DOD Increased Its Buying Power in 51 Programs - “The Pentagon improved its buying power on 51 of its 80 programs in 2013, resulting in $23 billion of procurement savings, according to a new Government Accountability Office report.”

  6. Washington Post: HealthCare.gov stumbles on deadline day as consumers race to sign up for insurance - “The first six-month window for Americans to gain health insurance under the Affordable Care Act closed on Monday with large numbers of consumers speeding to get coverage at the last minute. Some of them encountered obstacles as HealthCare.gov, the main enrollment Web site, faltered on and off throughout the day. Union halls, shopping-mall kiosks and insurance company lobbies across the country were jammed with people racing to get insurance on the final day before the law required most Americans to choose health insurance or risk a financial penalty. ‘It’s like going into the mall on Christmas Eve,’ said Brian Lobley, senior vice president of Independence Blue Cross, which set up a ‘Countdown to Coverage’ with extra desks and phone lines in the usually empty lobby of its headquarters four blocks from city hall in Philadelphia’s Center City.”

  7. GovExec: Lawmakers to Feds: You Don’t Need So Many Limos - “A Democratic lawmaker wants to cut the number of limousines in the federal fleet in half, despite a significant reduction in government’s luxury vehicles in recent years.”

DorobekINSIDER water-cooler fodder... yes, we’re trying to help you make your water-cooler time better too...

On April 1, we went looking for the best government related April Fool jokes. Some of what we found:

  • .gov.ify: Govify.org: Yesterday's Document Technology, Tomorrow!

One of the biggest barriers preventing governments from embracing Open Data is the ability to produce documents in a government-ready, paper-based format. Like a PDF. Or a book. In most governments today, well-formatted XML and machine-readable text are not considered government-friendly formats.

To solve this, the OpenGov Foundation has created.gov.ify, a tool which converts machine-friendly text into Government-Ready PDFs.

The legible but closed-format documents .gov.ify churns out can be easily used for any government purpose - even printed, re-scanned and printed again to attain that extra special level of efficient government bureaucracy.

  • Another:

OMB MAKES MAJOR DECISION:  NO MORE FAR: In an announcement today that stunned the normally staid federal acquisition community, OMB Director Sylvia Burwell said that the federal government is abolishing the Federal Acquisition Regulations.  In its place will be a new regulatory construct, the Federal United Buying and Acquisition Regulations (FUBAR).  “The FAR had grown stale and frankly, a little flat” said Burwell during an OMB press conference. “Our hope is that the new system will spur innovation and risk taking.  We want all agencies to be totally FUBAR by the start of the 2015 Fiscal Year”.   

A dazed Jeffrey Koses, Senior Procurement Executive at GSA, responded to the announcement with surprise saying, “Didn’t we just finish taking Y2K rules out of the FAR?  I’m not sure it’s wise to drive FUBAR quickly.”   

Nevertheless, initial industry reaction was favorable.  “If we want innovation and new ideas in acquisition, we need to get FUBAR” said Venable LLP partner Rob Burton.  “It’s time to tap the full depth of industry experience.”

Australian Embassy spokesman Matilda Timekangroodown offered an international perspective with the comment, “Australia has been following the FUBAR system for years and you can see what it’s done for our government.”

New FUBAR guidance was originally expected on March 17th, but will now be issued at a special NCMA gathering in Baltimore on May 17.  Get the details here: http://www.preakness.com/infield/infieldfest

Others via TechCrunch: April Fools’ 2014: The Round-Up Of The Best

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