OMB council to tackle performance standards

Federal Register notice

The Office of Management and Budget last week announced the establishment of the Performance Measurement Advisory Council, a group that could finally move agencies toward compliance with the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA) of 1993, experts say.

Council members will advise OMB on developing performance measurement standards that will allow officials to assess the effectiveness of agencies' programs and initiatives. OMB also will call on the council for help in using the recommended performance measures to make management and budget decisions at all levels.

GPRA requires that all agencies develop and report on performance measures for every program. But agencies are struggling to set and determine appropriate goals and measures, and implementation of the law has been slow.

The creation of the council demonstrates that the Bush administration's performance push is a "sincere and serious" effort to find the best possible solution, not just the most politically visible one, said Christopher Wye, director of the Center for Improving Government Performance at the National Academy of Public Administration.

The new council will be composed of about six members who are experts in performance measurement, with particular weight given to candidates' expertise, professional qualifications and ability to provide diverse viewpoints to the council, according to a May 29 Federal Register notice.

"The council's proposed functions are essential to OMB's successful implementation of an effective system of program evaluation," the notice stated.

"Since the passage of GPRA, everyone has been trying to figure out how to measure mission performance in the federal government," said Bruce McConnell, a former top official with the Office of Management and Budget and president of McConnell International LLC, a marketing and consulting firm.

"The idea of bringing in private-sector expertise is attractive, but the hardest part is really understanding the mission of the agencies," McConnell said. Industry may have more experience with measuring performance than the government, but the two sectors have very different missions and goals, he said.

Many experts expect agencies' capabilities to grow in the coming years in part because of increased experience with GPRA, but also because performance measurement is a key part of the President's Management Agenda.

The council will operate for only nine months, unless OMB renews the charter. The short time frame will force the group to develop recommendations instead of simply discussing the problems, McConnell said. "It's refreshing that they're going to have to get something done quickly," he added.


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