“There are 12 different agencies that deal with exports. There are at least five different agencies that deal with housing policy. Then there's my favorite example: The Interior Department is in charge of salmon while they're in fresh water, but the Commerce Department handles them when they're in saltwater. I hear it gets even more complicated once they're smoked…In the coming months, my administration will develop a proposal to merge, consolidate, and reorganize the federal government in a way that best serves the goal of a more competitive America.”Woot! He’s absolutely right. The overlap and duplication is daunting. Consolidating is a huge challenge – and absolutely the right thing to do. But how?
This is low-hanging fruit. This is not that hard to do – with a top level mandate and ongoing support.
- Put the Federal Web Managers Council, working with GSA and the USA.gov staff, in charge of convening topic-based groups. Make sure every agency that has a program or stake in a topic is included. Involve program experts.
- Charge agencies to work together around topics. Give these task groups reasonable deadlines and adequate support.
- Consolidate content among agencies. Eliminate duplication. Show the audience where to start, where to go next, and what else they should consider. Make it easy to find and use top (most requested) tasks.
- Bring in plain language specialists. Bring in usability specialists. Bring in customer service experts. Bring in citizens (great opportunity for open government).
- Designate a lead agency to interface with citizens for each topic so customers don’t have to bounce around (and Mr. President – make them play by the rules).
- Post it on USA.gov (like they do in the United Kingdom with their DirectGov website).
Citizens never need to see those agency silos. They don’t need to know you sit in different buildings, all over the country. They don’t even need to know you’re still working with Congress to consolidate programs. Aggregate the advice and options. Post it on one website and – viola! – the government looks like it’s got its act together.
The Pew Internet and American Life folks tell us Americans access their government through the internet more than any other way. So if you want to reorganize and make government more efficient, why not start online?
Can’t We Have One Federal Government – At Least Online?
Time for a Re-Think of USA.gov