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members. The DOJ referred us to the survey for copies of legal opinions on these subjects.
However, The Management Office told us that these opinions and other information are confidential. Thus, the Survey asked DOJ to determine whether the Survey should provide this information to us. While DOJ officials declined to discuss this, they they said that they referred the matter to the White House.
Department of Commerce
DOC officials described its main function as overseeing and providing support to the Executive Committee which is a federally chartered advisory Committee of the agency. Given this relationship, DOC oversees the Committee's operations to insure that the Committee conforms to FACA. Under FACA, DOC, as administering agent for this advisory Committee, deals with areas such as agendas, notice, minutes, and balance of membership.
DOC officials said that they have done little regarding these provisions because the Committee has not met and because they had no selection role. They told us that they have not collected any information that task forces have generated. In addition, DOC has provided legal assistance and guidance on conflicts of interest.
AGENCY PERSPECTIVES ON
Because we wanted to obtain all participants' views and to complete our work quickly, we telephoned agency contacts to ask them about the Survey's task forces. The survey identified these contacts for us.
The only other significant involvement with Survey groups occurred through cross-cutting task forces. These task forces differ from agency-oriented task forces that comprehensively examine one agency. Rather, cross-cutting task forces focus on administrative support functions that "cut across" agency lines. About one-half of the contacts referred to cross-cutting task forces. The most active cross-cutting task forces seem to deal with computers, financial management, procurement, and personnel.
Clearance for conflict of interest
Survey officials said that agency clearance was a major pro- tection against conflicts for task force cochairs and members. We asked agency contacts about the clearance process. Of the 18 respondents, 9 said that the agency conducted no clearance process; some said that their agency either relied on agency program managers to monitor conflicts or just reviewed the nondisclosure forms that task force members submitted.
For those with a clearance process, agencies simply compared one's task force duties with the occupation that the member identified. No agency reviewed personal financial interests since " these members were not identified as SGEs. Only a few identified task force members or co-chairs whose participation raised concerns about conflict.
Task force objectives and area of study
In almost all cases, agency contacts perceived task force objectives as cost saving/inanagement improvements. A few were unsure about the objectives because the task force just began working in their agency.
Concerning the area of study, task forces' reviews seemed very broad. Most agencies helped task forces to identify the areas. Contacts said that task forces seemed to focus on anything that could save money--especially in the short term.
Agencies' responses to this question included the following.
--Four were unclear about the areas because the task force
still was defining the issues. Others only knew broad
--Among administrative areas under review, the most common
seemed to be computers, procurement, and personnel.
--Most said that a task force focused on administrative
areas; however, seven indicated that task forces also
--A few agency contacts believed that task forces had pre
conceived notions that focused more on philosophy than
Task force methodology
In almost all cases, agency contacts described the following task force review process:
--Task force officials briefed top agency officials.
--Agency officials explained key issues and programs.
--Task forces reviewed internal and external reports, con-
These represent the broad steps. No agency contact seemed certain about the methods for analyzing the information or writing
the reports. While the contacts generally did not know how task forces conducted reviews, most said that task forces relied on previously generated data/findings and worked in teams.
Interviewed agency employees
Agency contacts said that most task force interviews occurred at top management levels (for example, Secretary, Deputy/ Under Secretaries, Assistant Secretaries). In addition, task forces also have interviewed directors/managers who oversee programs and administrative operations. A few agency contacts referred to interviews with career employees (for example, analysts).
Overall, many contacts were unsure about who task forces interviewed or planned to interview. This uncertainty partially existed because some task forces just began. A). So, not all agencies required task forces to identify interviewees. Some contacts said that a task force was given complete freedom to interview whomever it desired. A few required coordinating all interviews in the agency.
Task force membership
In this area, agency contacts exhibited a great deal of uncertainty. They stated that they generally (1) deal only with the project manager and (2) lacked an updated list of task force members--especially since membership changes periodically. While contacts did not disclose most task force members' names, they did provide a few. Also, they estimated how many members worked on task forces. About half of the contacts praised the members' expertise. They felt fortunate to have experts reviewing many areas that the agency perceived as problems.
Agency support to task forces
Agencies commonly provided space, furniture, and staff time for briefings and interviews. In these cases, agency contacts usually explained that the (1) items were surplus and (2) staff time was well. used or similar to time spent with GẠO or a consultant. Many agencies also referred to equipment (for example, phones and typewriters) and supplies. Further, a few agencies provided minimal. clerical support.
Agency comments on task
Most agency contacts viewed the task forces as positive attempts to identify cost savings. They generally viewed task force members as very talented experts who provided free advice and an objective viewpoint.
Given these perceptions, most agencies seemed willing to help the task forces and had an open mind on the findings. Some agencies eagerly supported the task forces' efforts and awaited the recommendations. Many said that task force's presence forced them to improve operations. Also, contacts believed a "fresh, objective look" was healthy because it generated new ideas or reconsidered old ones. Many saw no problems emerging from the task forces' work.
Nevertheless, some agency contacts had negative views about how task forces operated. While all agency contacts said something positive about the task forces, a few referred to negative aspects such as whether the task force members could learn complex issues in a short time and whether members had formed conclusions before doing the review.
LIST OF CONTRIBUTORS TO DATE
August 18, 1982
Aetna Life Insurance Company
LIST OF CONTRIBUTORS CONTINUED
Milliken & Company