2024 Emerging Leaders

Kyle Gardiner

Played a leading role in streamlining burdensome government forms, shifting how federal agencies collect information and ensuring deserving recipients receive public benefits.

Burdensome federal government forms, confusing questions, badly designed online applications or unnecessary documentation requirements can be a factor in whether or not families and individuals receive food assistance, disability benefits, housing subsidies and more.  

Research indicates the burden does not fall equally on everyone, leading to disproportionate underuse of critical federal services and programs as well as unequal costs of access for people and communities most in need. 

Kyle Gardiner, a 33-year-old policy analyst at the Office of Management and Budget, has used economic, behavioral science and public administration research to better understand, measure and remove the burdens built into public benefit forms. 

“Kyle has taken the lead at OMB in revolutionizing how the government thinks about its forms,” said Richard Revesz, the administrator of OMB’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. “Through his work under a little-known statute called the Paperwork Reduction Act, he has helped lead efforts to issue government-wide guidance on minimizing burdens in public benefit programs.” 

True to form 

The complexity of government forms can be a painful, time-consuming process leading to billions of dollars yearly in unclaimed benefits. Revamping forms is not always top of mind for government agencies and can be an onerous process. 

Gardiner, who has aspired to work in government since middle school, is known as an evangelist of burden reduction with an infectious ability to attract support. He saw a problem and set out on a year-long quest with a colleague to amplify the issue. This resulted in the April 2022 “Burden Reduction Memo” on how to reduce barriers, particularly for underserved individuals. 

Gardiner faced challenges getting agencies to reconsider the definition of a burden, said Shagufta Ahmed, chief of staff at the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. 

“What he totally brought to the table, which was novel, was expanding the definition to look at the psychological costs, the learning costs and the impacts upon potential dignity in terms of providing information,” she said. 

Checking the boxes 

Gardiner did more than just try to convince agencies to redefine what constitutes a burden, however. 

He collaborated with the Social Security Administration to overhaul its disability recertification process, including bringing it online for the first time. Instead of requiring beneficiaries to fill out every aspect of the lengthy form, SSA designed the online application to populate the form with the person’s existing data. He also worked with Ahmed on a Department of Education regulation forgiving debt for people with disabilities. 

In July 2023, the White House published “Reducing Time Taxes and Administrative Burdens,” a report Gardiner co-authored with examples of the Biden administration’s efforts to reduce the public’s time spent interacting with government agencies, including initiatives at the departments of Homeland Security and Agriculture, and the Small Business Administration. 

“He’s really driving forward these meaningful, concrete changes that dramatically improve the way people access basic services,” said Jamie Keene, White House special assistant to the president for equality and opportunity. 

Gardiner is excited to continue helping government reach those in need. 

“The federal government can feel big, but it is so satisfying when you have just that one inkling of an idea that you’re able to get out there and try to convince your peers and your colleagues, and then your supervisors that it’s worth pursuing,” Gardiner said.