Closing in on green

The President's Management Agenda score card

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Information technology has become a vital tool in helping 26 federal agencies move closer to a coveted green score in every category on the President's Management Agenda.

Federal officials released reports last month on agency efforts to reach the goals and e-government objectives that President Bush announced in August 2001. Technology was an integral part of their success, according to several experts of management and IT.

"There's definitely tech being applied across the five" score card areas, said Dave McClure, vice president for e-government at the Council for Excellence in Government. The use of technology is not limited to e-government, he added.

Agencies are consolidating human resources systems governmentwide. For competitive sourcing, large procurements are managed online. Financial management activities are automated to improve data quality and to close the books faster. And in budget and performance integration, agencies are using automation and technology to collect information, McClure said.

Based on the President's Management Agenda, Office of Management and Budget officials give agencies scores in five disciplines: strategic management of human resources, competitive sourcing, financial performance, e-government, and budget and performance integration. Since the agenda's inception, agency officials have struggled to meet the standards.

OMB officials administer the scoring in two categories: status and progress. A red score means that an agency has a number of serious flaws, a yellow score shows improvement, and a green score demonstrates that an agency has met all of the standards for success.

"The results reports that were released show that agencies — because they are being reviewed, scored and rated on management progress — are making major changes," said Carl DeMaio, president of the Performance Institute, a Washington, D.C., think tank. "What gets measured gets done."

The following is an overview of specific programs in which agencies are using technology to become performance-based organizations and achieve a green score.

Strategic management of human resources

Interior Department officials have developed an automated recruitment system, the Fire Integrated Recruitment and Employment System. It makes applying for positions easier and has increased wild land firefighter applications by 44 percent.

Homeland Security Department officials have unveiled a performance-based and mission-oriented human resources management system. The program enables DHS officials to act swiftly and decisively in response to mission needs.

Defense Department officials have consolidated nine personnel systems into a National Security Personnel System, which was authorized under the 2004 Defense Authorization Act. The new system supports faster hiring and pay based on performance instead of tenure. It replaces the pay scale with pay bands.

NASA officials have set up a Competency Management System, a workforce planning and analysis tool. It creates an agencywide inventory of employee competencies that NASA officials need to accomplish their mission, and it introduces consistent terminology for all of NASA's centers.

Competitive sourcing

Agriculture Department officials have launched AgLearn, an online system that offers around-the-clock access to training and courses. Managers can supervise staff development, offer courses at lower cost and track employees' learning progress.

Office of Personnel Management officials have used competition to save money by creating a nationwide self-scheduling system for testing applicants. The system, which will start Sept. 30, is expected to save the agency as much as $250,000 a year in postage.

Improved financial performance

DHS officials needed to integrate financial systems, but the task was challenging because most of the organizations brought together to form the department had their own financial management systems, processes and deficiencies. So DHS officials have created a new resource transformation initiative, Electronically Managing Enterprise Resources for Government Efficiency and Effectiveness, a program designed to consolidate budget, financial management, procurement and asset management functions and eliminate costly, duplicative systems.

In 2002 and 2003, all of the USDA's agencies achieved clean audits by revamping business, financial management and accounting processes and by installing a standard general ledger accounting system.

USDA officials have transformed the Food Stamp program from a paper-based system to one based on electronic benefits. The change has improved the program's accuracy and saved nearly $1 billion.

E-government

Labor Department officials have launched DisabilityInfo.gov, a Web site with information for citizens with disabilities.

Labor officials have developed the Enterprisewide Directory System to synchronize e-mail and other directory functions and improve communication and efficiency throughout the agency.

Reed, a student in Boston, served as a reporting intern for Federal Computer Week.

Making the grade

Reaching green, or passing, in all five disciplines of the President's Management Agenda requires significant improvements in government efficiency and effectiveness, according to management experts.

"The big thing that comes out of these reports is that we're not going to be performance-based in five or 10 years," said Carl DeMaio, president of the Performance Institute, a Washington, D.C., think tank.

Agencies are performance-based now, he said, adding that "agencies that are not performance-based are more the exception than the rule."

Despite marked improvements, most agencies find that the road to five greens is long and tough, another management expert said.

For starters, "officials at many agencies need to more focus more on security, on investment data and on cost data," said Dave McClure, vice president for e-government at the Council for Excellence in Government. "There are clearly areas for improvement."

— Margaret A.T. Reed

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