Reporter notebook: The scorecard

*The Homeland Security Department is moving forward on all aspects of the management agenda, but when it comes to e-government, it seems to have hit a snag.

Norm Lorentz, chief technology officer in the Office of Management and Budget's Office of E-Government and Information Technology, analogized the complexity of the task to "painting a 747 in full flight." But at the briefing to update the President's Management Agenda scorecard, officials couldn't say why integrating, consolidating, or developing information systems at DHS is so much harder than using performance information in budget decisions.

*Competitive sourcing draws rants and raves whenever it comes up, but several agencies are surging ahead, despite the controversy. The Education Department is making such enormous progress that Angela Styles, administrator of OMB's Office of Federal Procurement Policy, is singling them out for praise.

It's not that the department has competed the greatest number of positions, which, as always, goes to the Defense Department. But Education officials have completely revamped their process for determining what should or shouldn't be competed and ensured they can use the process in the future.

"They have built an infrastructure for public-private competition that I think can be a model for other agencies," Styles said.

*OMB officials highlighted both the Social Security Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency for their improvements in financial management. OMB likes what those two agencies are doing because they both developed financial systems and processes that fully incorporate performance information, said Robert Shea, counselor to the controller in OMB's Office of Federal Financial Management.

The EPA, for example, is using the financial and performance information on all of the grants that it administers to determine if money should be taken from one grantee and given to another performing a similar task more productively, Shea said.

"They're not just collecting financial information, they're also using it and acting on it to improve performance," he said.

*The U.S. government may struggle to understand how OMB's Program Assessment Rating Tool helps improve performance, but other organizations are jumping on it with enthusiasm.

The PART evaluates the quality of a program's performance metrics and goals, assesses the effort of an organization to meet those goals and formulates recommendations for future performance and efficiency improvements.

U.S. agencies are starting their second round of PART evaluations, and there is vocal disagreement about the tool's effectiveness. But the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (http://www.sepa.org.uk) saw such potential in the PART that is has run all of its programs through the tool, said Marcus Peacock, associate director of Natural Resource Programs at OMB and leader of the budget-performance integration portion of the President's Management Agenda.

Even within U.S. agencies, some are more eager to use the PART than others. Several agencies, including NASA and the Agriculture and Labor departments, are putting more programs through the tool than is necessary, Peacock said.

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