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This Week, Congress To Critique Obama On Tech in Government

BY Sarah Lai Stirland | Monday, July 8 2013

Sylvia Mathews Burwell, Director Office of Management and Budget (middle) is in charge of Obama's new management agenda

President Obama on Monday touted his administration's use of technology and data analysis for a more efficient government ahead of a mid-week House hearing that is likely to be critical of his administration's performance.

Obama announced from the White House that Sylvia Mathews Burwell, director of the Office of Management and Budget, would lead an "aggressive management agenda for my second term that delivers a smarter, more innovative, and more accountable government for its citizens."

The Republican-controlled House Oversight and Government Reform Committee is scheduled on Wednesday to dissect recent reports from the Government Accountability Office and the Treasury Department that are critical of the way that the Obama administration measures its own performance.

The Obama administration publishes agency performance data at Performance.gov. But among the documents likely up for discussion is a GAO report published this June criticizing that effort. The report says federal agencies aren't doing enough to make performance data useful to the general public. Instead, federal agency managers are just treating the data as a tool to reduce the duplication of work inside the government.

Two other reports to be discussed conclude that America's fiscal health is still failing and that "most federal managers lack recent evaluations of their programs" as mandated by a 2010 law. All three of these reports track administration progress on new requirements under the Government Performance Results Modernization Act of 2010.

To be fair, some of these issues and problems predate the Obama administration's tenure. Recent reports on the Department of Defense' inability to pass an audit, for example, date back to 1996, according to this recent Fiscal Times report. And Obama credited Chief Technology Officer Todd Park and Chief Information Officer Steve Van Roekel for saving taxpayers more than $2.5 billion while testing out new programs like the White House Presidential Innovation Fellowship program.

Obama also again touted the benefits of opening up 75,000 different government data sets to the public, citing examples Opower and iTriage. Opower uses government data on energy and weather trends to help its users to save money on energy bills. iTriage uses Health and Human Services data to enable healthcare consumers to find doctors and hospitals. The president also gave a shout-out to the new round of innovation fellows that the White House recently announced.

(photo: Flickr/Pete Souza)