<b>WEB EXTRA:</b> Mission Control -- Individuals aren’t the only users of government services

With the release of the president’s proposed 2004 budget, federal managers ought to have a fair idea of whether they’ll receive enough money to cover the anticipated costs of developing and operating systems that support programs.

That shouldn’t end their worries, though. Carrying over from last year’s President’s Management Agenda is a performance improvement imperative now linked to the budget process. The administration even developed a Program Assessment Rating Tool to integrate of performance measures and budget.

In short: No performance improvement, no budget.

The rhetorical objective of the President’s Management Agenda is better and less-expensive service to citizens. By focusing on both internal systems performance and on the quality of citizen interactions, the Bush team hopes it can spur improvements.

But taxpaying citizens aren’t the only government customers, and there’s plenty of room for improvement in noncitizen transactions, too.

Industry has a direct stake in the action of government, so it should also benefit from the promise of performance improvement. But companies don’t vote.

Suppose instead that the experience industry has in dealing with the government could somehow be quantified and that those measures could be applied to government performance? Every company, large or small, could indirectly influence spending on e-government as it relates to industry.

It’s likely agencies and their program managers would get more constructive feedback than they could handle.

By contrast, individual taxpayers are mostly passive. They review campaign rhetoric, vote, watch the swearing-in ceremonies, and repeat the process two or four years later.

Voters rarely make decisions based on the performance of federal agency programs. They vote for or against war, transportation bonds, better schools or a cleaner environment.

So if there’s disconnect between how taxpayers vote and the performance results of federal agencies, why not involve businesses in evaluating the results of government performance improvements?

Bob Deller analyzes the federal IT market. He can be reached at [email protected]

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