Continuing resolution an opportunity, not shutdown, for government agencies

Listen to In Depth's full interview with Linda Springer and her tips for turning a continuing resolution into an opportunity.

Congress has just over a week to figure out a way to fund the government in fiscal 2016 when it comes back from recess. Whether that deadline is met with agreement, a shutdown or something between is anyone’s guess, but Linda Springer, former controller at the Office of Management and Budget and former director of the Office of Personnel Management, has a few suggestions for agencies on how to make the best of a continuing resolution.

“It is good to think of this a little differently for a change,” Springer said on In Depth with Francis Rose.

Linda Springer
Linda Springer

One important factor of a continuing resolution is that it allows work to continue on initiatives and projects that are already under way, Springer said.

“It’s important to shine a light on those internally,” she said. “To make sure that those are not overlooked and that they are clearly identified as things that have begun so that they can continue, so that you can achieve those objectives and essentially tie a bow on the work that you’re doing that’s important to you.”

Springer said it’s also important to look at money that hasn’t been spent or hasn’t been obligated, to see if there’s a way to redirect it to unfinished projects. While there are limitations on funding under a continuing resolution, a good starting point to determine whether money can be stretched is to identify starting points and what it would take to reach completion.

A continuing resolution is also a way for the people in charge of the administration switches next year, referred to as “transition officers” by Springer, to get a jump-start on their work.

“Again, a CR is an opportunity … for someone that’s already starting to think about what is important to document and identify in that transition road map, to see what comes out of the CR process in the way of inventory of programs and projects and be able to use that as an input to the work they’re doing,” Springer said.

The CR is also a good time for PR.

With more attention being paid to an agency or program by a broader audience, “it’s a natural nexus between evaluating and thinking about the importance of these programs and using that to again say ‘Hey, let’s think a little bit about how we can maybe do some things to share the goodness of what we’re doing,’” Springer said.

These three opportunities suggested by Springer are not the only ways to manage an agency during a continuing resolution, but she said they could act as a supplement to the normal procedures during this time.

“I think the opportunities augment the learning and best practices that have been achieved from the past,” she said.

Springer’s continuing resolution survival tips:

  • For the agency head, take stock of ongoing initiatives you’d like to complete before the administration ends.  Identify funding requirements and how can they be protected in a continuing resolution.
  • For the transition officer, use the inventory of budgeted programs and activities that goes with continuing resolution planning as input to transition requirements.  It doesn’t hurt to begin early.
  • For agency leaders who interact with the public and Congress, use the continuing resolution period to highlight the important work being done by the agency.  The continuing resolution ultimately is about what is being funded and it’s a good time for a little PR.

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