Published: February 07, 2013
Business Roundtable sponsored a substance-heavy conference on "government transformation" Wednesday, featuring CEOs, political leaders, and experienced hands in government management.
The BRT-member CEOs represented were Jorge Benitez, Accenture; Mark Bertolini, Aetna; Davis Melcher, Exelis Inc.; and Matt Rose, BNSF Railway. Cosponsoring the conference was GOVERNING magazine, with top executive Cathilea Robinett capably moderating several panels.
In his welcoming remarks to the "Transforming Government for the 21st Century" conference, BRT President John Engler said budget pressures -- think sequestration -- have elevated the case for government reorganization to create efficiencies and savings. BRT-member CEOs and the private sector can offer some lessons from their own experiences, he observed.
The companies they operate are complex, global operations. And they have learned to cut, restructure and transform themselves when necessary – whether the pressure for change comes from mergers, technology, or the realities of the competitive global marketplace.
One reason they can achieve these changes? They have the authority to make them, unlike U.S. presidents. who have lacked the ability to restructure the Executive Branch since 1984.
Danny Werfel, Controller of the Office of Management and Budget, was the opening speaker, bringing the perspective of a presidential appointee who began his OMB career as a civil servent, serving administrations of both parties. Government Executive magazine covered his speech and Q&A, really capturing the tone of the day.
The chief impediments to streamlining federal functions are “parochial stakeholder interests” and a lack of urgency among managers implementing laws and programs, U.S. Controller Danny Werfel told a business group on Wednesday.
The solutions include relying more on independent commissions in deciding how to “rightsize and reshape” government as well as “changing the culture to channel the urgency” commonly felt during a crisis into everyday situations.
Speakers acknowledged the obvious: Business and government are different. Companies are simply more responsive and efficient. Beyond that, other themes recurred:
Business Roundtable videotaped the conference and will post highlights in the near future. We also plan a paper that summarizes the day's comments and recommendations.
From left: Jorge Benitez, Accenture; Mark Bertolini, Aetna; former HUD Secretary Steve Preston.