Roadmap for Renewing Our Federal Government

Collaboration

Bright Spots
The pandemic is highlighting how collaboration can lead to life-saving outcomes.

The California Federal Partners for COVID-19 has brought federal and state government agencies together to respond to the pandemic. The federal and state partners collaborate through weekly webinars and calls, plus “Program Impact” videos, equipping communities with the information needed to confront COVID-19.

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The Department of Veterans Affairs, the Food and Drug Administration and the National Institutes of Health worked together to increase supplies of personal protective equipment using 3D printing, testing it for safety and effectiveness, and then sending it through the FDA review process. Within weeks, the VA came up with 12 designs for face masks, shields and other protective facial gear that were approved for clinical use.

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In March, the White House launched a cross-sector COVID-19 High Performance Computing Consortium, which is enabling scientists around the world to tap into top computing systems and share resources to end the pandemic. As of July 1, more than 75 research proposals had been approved, with the majority running and utilizing the supercomputing resources.

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Problem
Solving complex problems requires federal agencies to work with each other and with Congress, different levels of government and the private and nonprofit sectors. However, the federal government is frequently boxed into organizational silos that make it hard to work across jurisdictional boundaries to leverage resources and coordinate efforts to more effectively serve the public. Throughout the pandemic, we’ve seen these challenges around collaboration play out – whether it has been the difficulty of collecting and sharing public health data or distributing personal protective equipment – the lack of coordination between entities can be measured in lives saved and lost.
Political polarization has stymied progress on major policy issues and contributed to 21 full or partial government shutdowns since 1976, including the longest-ever shutdown – 34 days – that ended in January of 2019 and resulted in disrupted services to the public and to state and local governments.
In a recent GAO report, five of 24 surveyed federal agencies reported that they do not have a designated employee responsible for ensuring compliance with a presidential executive order that requires agencies to consult with state and local governments when making rules that will directly affect them.
Congress has appropriated roughly $3 trillion of economic relief and stimulus across sectors in response to the pandemic, dwarfing the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act's original cost of $787 billion, requiring cross-sector collaboration at a scale never seen before.
103 federal agencies – from the National Institutes of Health to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau – have been activated to respond to the pandemic.
Solution
Solving major challenges, such as the worst pandemic in 100 years and its severe economic fallout, requires an unparalleled level of cooperation and collaboration among agencies, different levels of government, political parties and the private and nonprofit sectors.
Early Actions for the Next Administration

Strengthen management coordination within and across agencies. Charge the President’s Management Council and cross-agency management councils with identifying key issues, shaping decisions, coordinating within and across organizations and strengthening implementation of administration management priorities.
Shape enterprise solutions to national challenges. Designate a senior White House champion for enterprise approaches to cross-agency policy priorities. Charge the White House champion with hosting a series of cross-sector gatherings to develop solutions to national priorities such as the pandemic, the economy, climate change, racial inequality and infrastructure, as well as preparing for future national crises and the capabilities, approaches and collaborations critical to managing them.
Develop government-wide implementation strategies. Convene agencies with overlapping and complementary mission and program areas to align priorities, goals and objectives for their strategic and annual performance plans.
Boost regional coordination. Provide dedicated funding for Federal Executive Boards through the Office of Personnel Management or the Office of Management and Budget, thereby consolidating oversight, management, priority-setting and implementation of management issues affecting federal regional offices across the country. Ensure funding enables the expansion of FEB staffing to accomplish administration priorities.
Build effective partnerships with Congress. Direct agency heads and appointees to build constructive relationships with lawmakers in the House and Senate, and view Congress as a partner rather than an impediment to executive action or a hostile adversary.
Resources
A Roadmap to the Future: Toward a More Connected Federal Government
The federal landscape is expected to change dramatically in the next decade as the power and capacity of technology advance, more data becomes available and the demands on federal employees grow an...
Three tips to help you collaborate across agencies and sectors
Dave Smith, partner and CEO of X Sector Labs, offers recommendations to help organizations form partnerships across sectors and agencies. Successful collaboration is key to any organization achievi...
Government Disservice: Overcoming Washington Dysfunction to Improve Congressional Stewardship of the Executive Branch
This nonpartisan research report examines how congressional polarization diminishes the effectiveness of federal agency programs and operations and looks at ways in which Congress can be a better ...
Shutdown Letdown
Earlier this year, our country experienced the longest-ever government shutdown. During those 35 days, many basic government functions stopped, and federal employees, agencies and the American peop...
Six recommendations to consider when creating new public-private partnerships
On July 30, the Partnership for Public Service hosted a panel discussion on creating effective public-private partnerships. The three panelists from the federal government offered advice to agency ...
Building state-federal partnerships in California during COVID-19
To respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, California has emphasized intergovernmental collaboration with the new California Federal Partners for COVID-19 task force. In just a few months, the group has ...