Creating Risk-Responsive Frameworks

Other federal agencies also face a wide range of risks. Some are external, others are internal. Some are financial (such as having to deal with managing under Sequester or the market impact on external investments in pension funds, which could affect federal pension guarantees). Some are operational, such as those faced by FERC, or cybersecurity threats, or even insider threats. And some are reputational, such as the recent accusations of Patent Office telework abuse, or the General Services Administration’s lavish conferences scandal.

Student Aid: Pioneers in Managing Risk

One former federal leader, Todd Grams, observes that agencies that ignore risk are actually creating risk. Not surprisingly, there has been increasing interest in agencies in recent years in developing a risk management function. So what does it look like? The Office of Federal Student Aid (FSA) in the Department of Education undertook efforts a decade ago to create a risk management function, which may serve as inspiration for other agencies considering the same.

"What Could Possibly Go Wrong?"

Risk experts Doug Webster and Tom Stanton think not. Writing in a new report for the IBM Center for The Business of Government, they observe: “The front pages of national newspapers constantly report on actions by private companies, federal leaders, or agencies that do not appear to have considered the risks associated with various decisions and actions.

Having Candid Conversations Before Bad Things Happen

A 2015 survey of federal employees reports that 39 percent fear reprisals if they report violations of rules or laws. This potentially has serious implications for their willingness to identify and report serious programmatic risks in their day-to-day jobs, and the tendency is to avoid or ignore risks.

Managing Risk, Improving Results: Lessons for Improving Government Management from GAO’s High Risk List

That list has grown from 14 programs in 1990 to 32 by 2015, when it was last updated.  These programs range from Medicare benefits to food safety oversight.

Dr. Kettl, one of the nation’s most insightful observers of government operations, stepped back to review what changes in the high-risk list mean over time.  He explored:

Improving Government Decision Making through Enterprise Risk Management

While historically, the federal government has tended to focus risk management in the financial arena, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has recently launched a major reassessment of the government’s approach—encouraging the use of Enterprise Risk Management.

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