Keep Your Eyes Moving on What Needs Attention

April 24, 2013 | By Jerry Ashworth | Post a Comment

1405557_boys_green_eyeLast night, my family and I sat down to watch a very interesting and entertaining show on the National Geographic Channel called “Brain Games.” The show basically uses mind games to teach you how your brain works and, in some cases, doesn’t work. In one game, for example, you were told to focus on a cheerleader in the middle of the screen holding a big sign with an “X” on it and not to take your gaze off that sign. Then two other cheerleaders appeared for a second on the left and right sides of the screen and you were told, without looking at them, to select one to be on your cheerleading team. However, while one was your traditional female teen cheerleader, the other was a male in a cheerleading outfit and wig. You’d be surprised at how often you would wind up picking the male cheerleader.

Why, you ask? Because the cheerleaders were in our periphery vision. Because our brains were telling us to focus only on the “X” in the middle, our eyes couldn’t concentrate on the blurs on the sides to pick out any subtleties that would help us determine which cheerleader was female and which was a male in a cheerleading costume.

I kind of feel like the current grants management environment is similar to this periphery test. Because a lot of the focus now is on the Office of Management and Budget’s proposed grants reform guidance and the potential sweeping changes that could result from it in the next year or so, any other current  issues related to managing grants lying on the periphery could go untouched. Policymakers may say, “Why opt to change something now when it could all change again once the OMB proposal becomes final?” There may be hot-button issues affecting grants at a certain agency that need to be addressed now, yet they may be put on the back burner until OMB takes final action on the grants reform proposal.

I would hope this is not happening. However, there is some evidence that may support it. We here at Thompson track the Federal Register on a daily basis. We publish any agency notices, proposed rules and final rules that affect grant programs in the Federal Agency Issuances section of the Federal Grants Management Handbook. If I were to compare the number of issuances this year so far compared to this time last year and to previous years, I have no doubt it would show that agencies have taken fewer actions this year.

Now, other factors could affect this. I’m sure budget cutbacks and the sequestration also play a huge role.

I guess what I’m saying is that agencies should not be so focused on potential future changes that they don’t overlook changes that need to be made now for the betterment of grant programs. Otherwise, we’ll have a squad of nothing but male cheerleaders in drag.

Have you noticed the same thing? Do you think agencies are waiting to take action on grants?


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