Score cards show mixed results

Mid-Session Review

Federal agencies are still a long way from meeting the goals of the President's Management Agenda, but White House officials took an important step last week by recognizing the progress that has been made, experts said.

Virtually every agency is progressing significantly on at least one of the President's Management Agenda items, but several are in danger of not meeting goals they set for themselves, according to a White House report. Two agencies, the U.S. Agency for International Development and the Army Corps of Engineers, received no green marks for progress.

This is the first time the Mid-Session Review, which the Office of Management and Budget submitted to Congress July 15, includes a chapter on the management of federal agencies.

The chapter reflects the management focus of the Bush administration's fiscal 2003 budget request by updating the color-coded baseline score card first released in that budget and — for the first time — providing a score card grading how agencies are improving their scores based on goals they set.

The baseline score card sets out specific requirements for agencies to receive a red, yellow or green score in the five areas of the President's Management Agenda: strategic workforce management, expanded use of e-government, increased competitive bidding of government services, improved financial performance and linking performance to budgets.

In February, the National Science Foundation received the only green baseline score, for its financial management efforts. So most agencies had nowhere to go but up.

The Mid-Session Review outlines additional requirements for assessing agencies' progress on each of their initiatives. For instance, agencies that received a red score are "in serious jeopardy" and are "unlikely to realize objectives absent significant management intervention," according to the report (see chart).

NSF credits its Administration and Management Strategic Plan for part of its success. That plan is the basis for the agency's work during the coming year, said Andrea Norris, director of the division of information systems at NSF. The plan outlines a strategy for re-examining the agency's business processes and determining how information technology and best practices can improve those processes, she said.

"That will help inform us both in potential improvements in the process itself, but also in the [IT] investment to support" the change, Norris said.

This progress update serves several purposes, said Jessica Crawford, project manager for the Government Performance Project at Syracuse University's Maxwell School. It is a good internal management and public relations tool, showing the public and Congress that agencies really are making progress, she said.

"You want to recognize high performance, and you also want to recognize over time those that improve," Crawford said.

Overall, the expanding e-government initiative saw the most improvement, with 16 of the 26 agencies evaluated by OMB receiving green progress scores and no agency receiving a red score. Agencies are having the most trouble integrating budget and performance information, which many consider to be the most complex goal to achieve.

Seven agencies received green progress scores on four of the five agenda items, and one, NASA, received green on all five. However, a green on the progress report does not necessarily mean agencies' baseline scores will go up to green.

"When those goals and objectives start making actual change in my products and services here in Treasury, I'll move from red in my status to yellow in my status," said Mayi Canales, acting chief information officer at the Treasury Department. "That's what I'm hoping for in the next few months."

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