Budget opens book on performance

OMB Program Assessment Rating Tool

The fiscal 2004 budget that the White House will release Feb. 3 will have a brand-new volume — Performance and Management Assessment — and it will feature the first group of federal programs to go through the Bush administration's effectiveness rating tool.

The Program Assessment Rating Tool (PART) is the administration's attempt to create a standard mechanism for measuring the effectiveness of every federal program. The results are intended to help inform budget decisions by requiring agencies to prove that their programs are indeed returning the results expected by the administration, Congress and the public.

OMB reviewed 234 programs for the fiscal 2004 budget, representing almost one-fifth of all government programs and about $480 billion in funding. Another one-fifth will be added each year until, by the end of fiscal 2008, the entire inventory of federal programs is being reviewed, said Marcus Peacock, leader of the budget and performance integration area of the President's Management Agenda.

Although the tool is not perfect, the PART ratings did influence the administration's budget decisions. "In virtually every case, there was some effect," Peacock said.

The effects included:

* Awarding additional funding to some programs to reward strong performance.

* Giving additional funding to others to address performance problems.

* Redirecting funding from some poorly performing programs to more effective programs.

However, many reviewed programs received a rating of "results not demonstrated," meaning that the agency simply did not have the capability to measure the program's effectiveness, Peacock said.

And that situation demonstrates one of the biggest shortcomings highlighted by the tool: Agencies are not good at defining the right performance measures for their programs.

OMB has a private-sector advisory council that has helped refine the tool. But to develop it further so the review for the fiscal 2005 budget can benefit, the administration has included a call for comments and ideas in the fiscal 2004 budget documents.

The comments, both on specific reviews included in the budget and on seven general issues with the tool, can be submitted via e-mail at performance@omb.eop.gov.

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