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FCW : June 15, 2015
JOHN MARSHALL is founder and CEO of the Shared Services Leadership Coalition, a nonprofit organization supported by the federal IT and consulting industries and good-government community. Commentary | JOHN MARSHALL Comptroller General Gene Dodaro said it best: “Successful manage- ment reforms in the federal gov- ernment need to have legislative underpinnings so they have perma- nence and consistency over time, no matter who’s in the White House or who’s leading departments and agencies.” The history of shared services proves his point. In 1983, the Agriculture Department’s National Finance Center opened its doors to government customers outside USDA for payroll services, but it wasn’t until 2009 that the Office of Personnel Management declared victory when the entire government was served by four cross-govern- ment e-payroll providers. Five presidential administrations spanned those 26 years. Shared ser- vices and e-payroll were dropped, rebranded or lost in the shuffle at each transition. Without legislation providing a bridge from one admin- istration to another, shared services languished as a non-priority. Management legislation drives progress by giving agencies permis- sion to do things and by pushing the bureaucracy to get things done. Landmark bills such as the Chief Financial Officers Act and the Cling- er-Cohen Act empowered CFOs and CIOs, respectively, by giving them new structures and authorities, but most of the power was in the push to implement best practices defined in the legislation. Legislation can accelerate shared services by creating a vision of a modern future state and direct- ing the executive branch to pick up the pace in defining key roles and responsibilities, setting service standards and metrics, creating a real shared-services marketplace, encouraging private investment, promoting competition to drive scale and innovation, and empow- ering customer agencies to choose their providers. The good news is that the Obama administration is already doing many of those things. Putting the requirements into law would ensure continuity and sustainability under future presidents. The administration needs per- missions, too. Federal Shared Service Provider business models date back to the 1930s and 1940s and were last updated in legisla- tion in 1994. FSSPs are intended to operate on a cost-recovery basis, and they cannot charge customers more than their own cost. Although most have authorities (on paper) to accrue reserves for contingencies and future modernization needs, congressional appropriators tend to oppose the use of reserves, which they view as hoarding money for unauthorized purposes. Without the ability to finance modernization organically — and without the clout to compete with the higher-priority mission needs of their host agencies for scarce appropriated funds — FSSPs get stuck in antiquated, sub-standard platforms with unhappy, captive customers. Legislation should authorize business-like investment practices by all FSSPs and encour- age their responsible use. Concerns about abuse of reserves could be addressed by transparent business practices, reporting, audits and oversight. The stars are aligned as never before. The Obama administration appears supportive. Strong advo- cates at the Office of Management and Budget and key agencies are pushing the envelope and want to ensure a clean hand-off to the next administration. The Republican majority in Congress needs to show that it can govern. There’s palpable energy in the industry and good- government community around a vision of a dynamic, competitive, public/private marketplace in which competition drives commercial investment, scale and innovation. And there’s hunger in the country for bipartisan action on big national challenges. Last questions: If not now, when? If not us, who? n Shared services: Why legislation is needed The White House could use a push to pick up the pace on shared services and lock in the benefits for future administrations Putting the requirements into law would ensure continuity and sustainability under future presidents. June 15, 2015 FCW.COM 15 0615fcw_015.indd 15 5/22/15 9:20 AM
May 30, 2015
June 30, 2015