'Performance' chief on familiar ground

Nancy Killefer delivers a short statement after U.S. President-elect Barack Obama announced her as his choice of 'chief performance officer' during a news conference in Washington, DC. A former assistant Treasury secretary for the Clinton administration, Killefer is a senior director for McKinsey & Company, a management consulting firm.

TEXT OF STORY

Kai Ryssdal: Alright, let's go from that jobs report to the deficit for a minute. Stands to reason that when you're staring a $1.2 trillion budget hole in the face, you need somebody to make sure government's as efficient as it can be. To that end the president-elect created a new White House position today -- chief performance officer. The specific title may be new, but we have definitely been down this road before. Remember reinventing government? Marketplace's Nancy Marshall Genzer does.


Nancy Marshall Genzer: Reducing government waste is hardly new. Presidents Hoover, Eisenhower, and Truman had various commissions. Of course, Al Gore took a stab at reinventing government. Now, it's President-elect Obama's turn. His government re-inventor will be known as chief performance officer. Today he appointed Nancy Killefer to the job, asking her to look at the big picture.

President-elect Barack Obama: Where are areas where we can make big change that lasts beyond the economic recovery plan?

Those other presidents promised big change too, but failed to deliver. Maya Macguineas of the Committee For a Responsible Federal Budget, blames politics.

Maya Macguineas: Every government program has a constituency, and they lobby hard to keep that program in place.

Government agencies can also be resistant to change, especially if they feel harassed. Robert Behn of the Kennedy School of Government says their reaction will depend on Killefer's role, which Obama hasn't publicly nailed down.

Robert Behn: Is it the harassment role or is it the helper role? The signals that we've gotten so far were a very mixed message.

Things get even murkier when you stir in Obama's plans for a multi-billion dollar stimulus package. Steve Ellis is vice president of Taxpayers for Common Sense.

Steve Ellis: The real challenge is going to be making sure that we don't create new long-term programs that we're going to eventually have to try to cut.

Leaving a mess for the inevitable commissions on waste in the future.

In Washington, I'm Nancy Marshall Genzer for Marketplace.

About the author

Nancy Marshall-Genzer is a senior reporter for Marketplace based in Washington, D.C. covering daily news.

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