Much of the work that the U.S. Department of Education does involves the administration of grant programs. There are many steps involved in running grant programs and one important step for each competition is to publish a Closing Date Notice (CDN). Those notices eventually get published in the Federal Register and serve to officially announce grant competitions. Currently, the publication of CDNs at the Department of Education appears to be a relatively unstructured process, takes an unreasonably long period of time, and leads to confusion and questions about who needs to review them and when. This inevitably leads to significant delays, frustration by the community of educators who wish to apply for the Department’s programs, and a bad image for the Department.
In order to address this problem there needs to be increased transparency and accountability by all parties involved in the review and clearance of CDNs. In order to accomplish this, a real-time, online website should be developed that clearly lists the relevant parties needed to review/comment on CDNs, the sections of the CDN they are responsible to review, and the date by which they must finish their work. There should be a point-of-contact (POC) in the Department that all service areas submit their CDNs to, and that POC should quickly input them into a system that automatically assigns them to the necessary offices for clearance. In addition to assigning CDNs to relevant office for review, this system should establish sequencing for their review (who reviews them first, second, etc), the section(s) of the CDN those offices are responsible/able to review/comment upon, and the dates by when each office must complete their review.
After the POC assigns a CDN to the relevant parties for review, all of those parties should be able to monitor its progress to see exactly where in the process it is, whether or not it is on schedule (and if not why/where it is delayed), and to have access to suggested/necessary comments/edits. This is especially important for the office of the CDN’s origination because currently if a CDN does get delayed they don’t know exactly who to contact and no one is held accountable for those delays.
This is the general concept for the CDN clearance system. It could also be replicated for other time-sensitive documents that also need to be cleared (such as application packets and funding slates). The bottom-line is that the current way of clearing CDNs leads to big delays which translates into poor customer service, and a lack of accountability (especially for offices further up the chain of review who frequently take the longest to review clearance documents). Additional information, including a mock-up of said online/real-time CDN clearance website, can be provided.