The stage is set for an historic event this fall. A new administration will begin transitioning into power. As we've heard from earlier presidential candidates, when discussing government they continue to advocate reduction and reorganization. In short, they ridicule the government itself.
The candidates seeking the prestigious office of the presidency tend to highlight stories of incompetence and mismanagement. While I agree that such cases do indeed exist, and the system of handling problems needs reform, I contend the real inherent cause of inefficiency is being overlooked - and purposely so.
Candidates from both of the major political parties hold positions in one of the esteemed bodies that fosters governmental ineffectiveness -the United States Senate. Both the Senate and House of Representatives control the budgetary process that funds the agencies that members claim are ineffective and wasteful.
Yet how many private companies could survive a budgetary process that withholds final funding until six or nine months into their fiscal year? For the past 20 years the congressional budget process has been used as a forum for political fights and a demonstration of power-play politics. Neither political party should be proud of the performance that has become the norm in the appropriations process for the United States government.
While the hot topic of the day is Congressional use of pork barrel add-ons to critical legislation, the debate should really focus on the failed policy of using the dreaded continuing resolution, or CR.
Many state governments have processes in place for producing budgets that guide spending for a two-year period. This is often accomplished in states that have part-time legislatures. At the federal level, it might be easy to place the blame on the recipients of this haphazard approach to funding, but a serious discussion should ensue that prohibits the use of CRs.
Since the government performs many important functions in support of our public on a daily basis, federal managers are expected to plan for this work without the benefit of actually having budgeted funds with which to do it. Having budgets in place and ready to execute on October 1 of each fiscal year would be awesome! We in the government would accomplish many of our key tasks in an orderly and highly efficient manner. We would produce tremendous improvement if, at the beginning of the fiscal year, we could establish a systematic plan of hiring, training, recognition, and purchasing. Ninety percent of those coming to work for the federal government each day are looking to accomplish their assignments as efficiently and effectively as possible. The use of CRs creates high stress and requires constant adjustments as monies are held to previous year levels. The costs of contracts and purchased goods increase as cancellations and delays occur when funds are not available at the beginning of the fiscal year.
The solution to CRs does not require investigation or independent study and review. The solution is to legislate and adhere to a timeline that ensures sensible passage of appropriations legislation. In its very first discussion, each Congress should be focused on ensuring that appropriations are complete prior to the beginning of the next fiscal year.
Look at the state governments, where the process works. Congress needs to take a look at itself and realize that it, Congress, is the root cause of the inefficiency it projects onto the mostly diligent civil servants.
Reach out to your representative today and ask him or her to commit to getting the most important job done. Continuing resolutions should be a thing of the past, never to be seen again. When the U.S. government has a sensible budget to work within, everyone wins. Responsible, timely budgets allow for more efficient planning which in turn strengthens the democracy we all cherish.