Bush budget pushes performance

PART assessments

The White House is ready to measure the effectiveness of agency programs — but most agencies are not. The Bush administration is seeking help on how to get past that hurdle.

The fiscal 2004 budget, released last week, includes a new volume — Performance and Management Assessments — that includes the first set of specific evaluations of federal program effectiveness using a tool developed by the Office of Management and Budget.

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 prove that their programs are indeed returning the results promised.

"We want an instrument that will be useful and usable across administrations that will have different philosophies," OMB Director Mitchell Daniels Jr. said.

OMB reviewed 234 programs for the fiscal 2004 budget, representing almost one-fifth of government programs and about $480 billion in funding. Another one-fifth will be added yearly until all programs are being reviewed. Several information technology programs were included in the first review.

The tool is a multipart questionnaire that results in an overall rating of ineffective, adequate, moderately effective or effective.

However, half of the programs evaluated this first time received a rating of "results not demonstrated" because agencies are not asking the correct questions or don't have mechanisms to collect data to measure performance, said Marcus Peacock, leader of the budget and performance integration area of the President's Management Agenda.

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, he said.

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 is asking agencies for help, providing an e-mail address for comments (performance@omb.eop.gov).

PART is the White House's effort to put the budget and performance integration mandated in the Government Performance and Results Act into practice, and this first year of reviews is a big step forward, said Carl DeMaio, president of the Performance Institute.

"Federal managers for years have said that performance budgeting and GPRA would go away eventually if they waited long enough," he said. "Anyone in government who doubted whether GPRA is real need only look at the president's [fiscal 2004] budget proposal."

Although the tool is not perfect, the PART ratings did influence the administration's budget decisions, including rewarding funding, providing funding to address problems and removing funding.

"In virtually every case, there was some effect," Peacock said.

The fiscal 2004 budget also included the latest update of the President's Management Agenda score card, which uses a red-yellow-green rating system to measure agencies' success on and progress toward addressing the five areas in the agenda: strategic workforce management, expanded use of e-government, increased competitive bidding of government services, improved financial performance and linking performance to budgets.

Red still dominates the score card, but 16 agencies moved from red to yellow in any one of the five areas. One agency, the National Science Foundation, moved from yellow to green in e-government.

Many more agencies received green scores on the related progress score cards, which measure how well agencies are doing on plans to raise their scores.

This progress indicates that agency officials are focused on specific management issues. Combined with healthy competition among agencies and departments, this helps to improve government performance, said Mark Everson, OMB's deputy director for management.

Overall, the government is clearly a long way from its goal, Everson said. "We started all right, [but there is] a lot more distance to travel," he said.


Moving it along

The Office of Management and Budget used its Program Assessment Rating Tool to measure the effectiveness of several information technology programs, including:

* The Pentagon's communications infrastructure, including the Defense Information System Network and Global Information Grid. It received a rating of "results not demonstrated" because of a lack of long-term goals and metrics.

* The Energy Department's Advanced Simulation and Computing program. It received a rating of "effective."

* The U.S. Geological Survey's national mapping geospatial information program. It received a rating of "results not demonstrated" because the program is in transition.


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