New performance goals in the offing

OMB DDM Beth Cobert, testifying before the Senate Homeland Security Committee on Jan. 14, 2014

DDM Beth Cobert -- shown here testifying before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee in January -- says there is more to come on the administration's look at IT procurement and program management.

The Obama administration's performance goals will be refreshed as part of the fiscal 2015 budget plan, and the website where progress on goals is recorded will get a refresh, according to Beth Cobert, deputy director for management at the Office of Management and Budget.

The Obama administration sets goals for individual agencies and across agencies as a way to help government managers convert lofty policy goals into specific, deliverable operational plans with concrete inputs and outputs. OMB just published the final quarterly updates on the last set of agency goals, covering 2012-2013.

There's more good news than bad, according to a blog post from Cobert, with agencies reporting that most goals were met or that significant process was made toward their fulfillment.

The Treasury Department was able to convert more benefit recipients to electronic payment, reducing the number of paper payments from 131 million in 2010 to 39 million in 2013. The shift to electronic payments reduces opportunities for fraud, Nani Coloretti, assistant secretary for management, said on a conference call with reporters.

More examples are listed in Cobert's post, and the entirety of the updates can be accessed on

There's not exactly a report card -- users of the website must drill through several layers of content to see agency goals and data on progress. But the cumbersome navigation might be a feature rather than a bug, at least from OMB's perspective.

The system is not geared toward establishing pass-fail metrics. The goals are an important management tool, said Cobert. The process of managing toward an operational goal is supposed to yield not just tangible results, but insights into whether the goals were too easy or too hard, and how they align with the agency's overall mission.

For example, the Patent and Trademark Office missed its target of reducing the patent application backlog. But according to Patrick Gallagher, who heads the National Institute of Standards and Technology and who is acting as assistant secretary of Commerce, the PTO was able to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of patent examiners. Plans to ramp up staffing were hindered by the sequester, but the application of technology and improved management allowed PTO to keep its backlog relatively flat despite the challenging environment. "Sometimes the real story is the story behind the numbers," Gallagher said.

Cobert also told reporters that more was to come on the administration's look at IT procurement and program management, in the wake of the buggy launch of last October. OMB is "actively conducting a review" on how to maximize innovation and draw on the experience of the private sector.

About the Author

Adam Mazmanian is FCW's senior staff writer, and covers Congress, health IT and governmentwide IT policy. Connect with him on Twitter: @thisismaz.

The 2015 Federal 100

Meet 100 women and men who are doing great things in federal IT.


  • Shutterstock image (by venimo): e-learning concept image, digital content and online webinar icons.

    Can MOOCs make the grade for federal training?

    Massive open online courses can offer specialized IT instruction on a flexible schedule and on the cheap. That may not always mesh with government's preference for structure and certification, however.

  • Shutterstock image (by edel): graduation cap and diploma.

    Cybersecurity: 6 schools with the right stuff

    The federal government craves more cybersecurity professionals. These six schools are helping meet that demand.

  • Rick Holgate

    Holgate to depart ATF

    Former ACT president will take a job with Gartner, follow his spouse to Vienna, Austria.

  • Are VA techies slacking off on Yammer?

    A new IG report cites security and productivity concerns associated with employees' use of the popular online collaboration tool.

  • Shutterstock image: digital fingerprint, cyber crime.

    Exclusive: The OPM breach details you haven't seen

    An official timeline of the Office of Personnel Management breach obtained by FCW pinpoints the hackers’ calibrated extraction of data, and the government's step-by-step response.

  • Stephen Warren

    Deputy CIO Warren exits VA

    The onetime acting CIO at Veterans Affairs will be taking over CIO duties at the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.

  • Shutterstock image: monitoring factors of healthcare.

    DOD awards massive health records contract

    Leidos, Accenture and Cerner pull off an unexpected win of the multi-billion-dollar Defense Healthcare Management System Modernization contract, beating out the presumptive health-records leader.

  • Sweating the OPM data breach -- Illustration by Dragutin Cvijanovic

    Sweating the stolen data

    Millions of background-check records were compromised, OPM now says. Here's the jaw-dropping range of personal data that was exposed.

  • FCW magazine

    Let's talk about Alliant 2

    The General Services Administration is going to great lengths to gather feedback on its IT services GWAC. Will it make for a better acquisition vehicle?

Reader comments

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above