Managing reforms

"Implementation of the President's Management Agenda and Presentation of the FY 2003 Budget Request"

The Office of Management and Budget's new score card, designed to measure how well agencies manage programs, is necessary to improve government performance but sets high standards that could be difficult to meet, observers say.

The score card uses a simple ranking system to track agency progress in applying each of the governmentwide reforms in the President's Management Agenda. The agenda includes five areas: workforce management, expanded use of e-government, increased competitive sourcing, financial management, and integration of budget and performance data.

OMB and the President's Management Council, which is made up of deputy secretary-level officials, developed the score card as a way to measure and report each agency's progress across the range of reforms.

The score card will give agencies the following scores: green for success, yellow for mixed results and red for unsatisfactory. An agency can receive a red score in one area, such as workforce management, and a green score in another, such as financial management.

An agency that receives a red score in a particular area has met at the most only one of the score card's criteria for that item. An agency that receives a green score has met all of the score card's criteria in an area, demonstrating good management. But achieving success will not be easy for agencies to do, experts say.

"It's a very demanding standard," said Myra Shiplett, director of the National Academy of Public Administration's Center for Human Resources Management. "I think it's going to be a significant challenge even for the best-managed of agencies to meet those standards."

Although challenging, the high standards will ensure that agencies actually make changes and improve service, said Olga Grkavac, executive vice president of the Information Technology Association of America's Enterprise Solutions Division.

OMB will complete the first baseline assessments on fiscal 2001 performance by the end of November and present an overall score card to President Bush and agency heads by the beginning of December, according to an Oct. 30 memo from OMB Director Mitchell Daniels Jr.

But OMB officials are realistic. They do not expect high marks for the baseline evaluation currently under way, Daniels said. "Clearly, the Sept. 30 baseline will show a lot of poor scores for current status," he said.

In fact, "for competitive sourcing, every agency will be in the red," said Angela Styles, administrator of OMB's Office of Federal Procurement Policy.

No agencies have met the president's goal of competing at least 15 percent of the positions that are available for outsourcing, primarily because that goal does not take effect until fiscal 2003.

For some time, most agencies will likely receive yellow scores, Styles said.

Agencies could move back and forth among grades because the all-or-nothing requirements to stay in the green — such as not having any skills gaps in mission- critical applications in workforce management — are hard to achieve.

"And yet, it's hard to argue with that as a goal because it is necessary to a well-managed agency," Shiplett said.

But the "current situation" scores are only half of the score card. The other side will show agencies' progress, which includes whether the agency has developed a reform plan and is meeting scheduled goals. Even if an agency's current situation is still red, "you can get a green [for progress] if you can show you're working toward your goals," Styles said.

OMB plans to use the baseline score card results when evaluating agencies' fiscal 2003 budget requests. Federal management issues will make up "a significant portion" of the fiscal 2003 budget request going to Congress at the beginning of next year, Daniels said.

And there will definitely be penalties and incentives as part of the management review of the budget, Styles said. "OMB is very willing to use the budget as a tool," she said.

It's not easy getting green

The Office of Management and Budget's new performance ranking gives agencies a red, yellow or green rating in a particular management reform area. In the case of the e-government agenda item, agencies must meet the following criteria to achieve green:

* All major system investments have business cases that meet the requirements of OMB Circular A-11.

* On average, all major information technology projects are within 90 percent of the cost, schedule and performance targets set under their business case.

* The agency is showing progress or participation in at least three of the multiagency, e-government initiative areas focused on improving service to citizens, to businesses, to other levels of government, and within the federal government.

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