May 25, 2017 | Blog

Surviving FY 2019 federal budget cuts

Everyone has been following the current administration’s intentions to reduce the federal workforce and downsize the scope of federal government. In April, OMB director Mick Mulvaney released a 14-page memo that creates the process for executive branch leaders to produce a detailed plan to cut the government in the fiscal 2019 budget.

The onus is on agencies to validate their mission and defend their work, with a preliminary reform plan due to OMB by June 30, 2017 and final plans due by September 30.

As a contractor and subcontractor of information management and library support services, we can only comment on those functions. Whether it’s a physical library, a virtual information center or some combination, agencies must be prepared to demonstrate and communicate their value.


Stating the business case for federal agency libraries and information centers

It’s likely that each department will approach this in their own way, but it’s important for branch heads to be proactive and start building their business cases now. Start by gathering all available utilization metrics, from hard data to use cases that demonstrates direct support of the departmental or agency mission. Focus on the factors included in the OMB April 12, Comprehensive Plan for Reforming the Federal Government and Reducing the Federal Civilian Workforce memo and answer the following questions:

  1. Is your function essential?

While it may be disheartening to undergo this kind of scrutiny, the agencies, departments and functions that will survive and thrive not only in the current administration, but in the future, are those that view this as an opportunity to prove their worth. Do this by drawing a straight line from the departmental/agency mission to your organization. It is critically important that a strong argument be made here – this threshold must be cleared to continue.

  1. Is your function duplicative?

Is the mission function or capabilities of your organization provided elsewhere in the Department / Agency? If yes, be ready to provide clear differentiation between your program and the others to mitigate the appearance of redundancy. Focus on the domain and user community you serve with usage metrics where possible.

  1. Is your function inherently governmental (Federalism)?

OMB wants to know if all of the services, activities or functions could be better performed by another entity, such as State/local/Tribal government or the private sector. For most organizations the answer is an easy “no”. However, for those receiving pressure to outsource functionality, be prepared to offer up a compromise that outsources some functionality but allows you to retain key resources! If you think it’s a possibility, work with your contractors and get ahead of it.

  1. Cost vs. Benefit – Does your organization provide value for money?

There is going to be a reduction in the federal workforce over the next few years, but there will be winners and losers. To win, it’s imperative to convey the productivity and results wherever possible. Then be prepared to talk about ways to automate or streamline operations that will stretch the budget in every direction. This includes:

  • Working in partnership with contractors to maximize productivity.
  • Documenting how and where processes have been streamlined.
  • Enabling greater self-service efficiency.
  • Leveraging technology.
  • Assessing physical space – if you are occupying less than you are utilizing, develop a plan to create savings by downsizing or moving to less expensive real estate.
  • Going digital – if you have large volumes of paper documents or collections of books or other reference materials, start planning a virtual strategy and digitization plan to support the reallocation of space to more valuable use.
  • Developing a strategic plan that shows your commitment to fulfill your responsibilities in the most economical way.
  1. Efficiency and effectiveness – Are you accomplishing your goals and objectives?

This one is pretty straight forward. It will require an objective assessment of organizational performance. Whether goals and objectives have been met or not, be prepared with a plan to restructure, improve efficiency and effectiveness, improve workforce performance/accountability, or enhance evidence-building. As with question #3, getting ahead of it is your best defense.

  1. Customer service – Does your organization meet the needs of the public and partners in service delivery in the most accessible and effective manner?

Demonstrate how you serve your clients, both internal and external. How do you empower them to find and leverage information in more productive, efficient ways? The key here is that size matters. The greater your reach, the greater your value. A vocal user community can be one of your greatest assets!

The most defensible positions will likely entail the right mix of staff, contractors and technology that clearly support the mission and goals of the Agency. Your first priority is to gather what you need to demonstrate the importance and impact of your organization and the potential void created by your diminishment in capacity or worse, elimination. The key to success is proactivity.

LAC Federal and LAC Federal have been providing library support services to our government and private sector customers for over thirty years, like strategic planning and shared services. We understand your challenges and have the solutions to address them. Learn more about Library Roadmapping (our strategic planning process), including the successful outcome for one LAC client. And call us if you would like to talk about options for your organization.


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