OMB's Johnson: Management Agenda gaining wide support

Federal agencies have embraced the President’s Management Agenda to the point that “it’s almost gone from the President’s Management Agenda to the Agencies’ Management Agenda,” said Clay Johnson III, deputy director for management in the Office of Management and Budget.

The management agenda outlines goals for improvement in five areas: human capital, competitive sourcing, financial performance, budget and performance integration and e-government.

“The career employees get this. Everyone wants to work for a successful organization,” said Johnson, who spoke today to government and industry officials at a Capitol Hill luncheon sponsored by the IBM Endowment for the Business of Government.

Some agencies are so enthusiastic about aspects of the management agenda that they have already surpassed OMB’s goals, and most agencies have set goals for management improvement by July 2004 that exceed what OMB officials asked, Johnson said.

For example, some agencies have already assessed the effectiveness of 80 percent of their programs using the new Program Assessment Rating Tool. OMB had planned to have 60 percent of programs assessed by next year.

The Program Assessment Rating Tool assesses the purpose and design, strategic planning, management, and results and accountability of federal programs.

The agencies, while initially skeptical of the new process because they feared losing program funds, have realized the goal is to figure out how to do things better, not to kill programs, Johnson said.

Agencies are graded on their management each quarter. The results are published in a scorecard of green, yellow and red ratings. Most agencies are far from green, the highest score. For example, on the scorecard published July 15, only the National Science Foundation received a top score in e-government.

The average agency will improve from red to yellow scores by July 2004, Johnson said. So far, agencies have focused on developing initiatives in each of the five areas. Over the next nine months, they will focus on implementing them, he said.

That means actually using the performance evaluation systems that agencies are developing. The systems will help distinguish, for the first time, between high- and low-performing federal employees. It means actually using program-specific financial information to make decisions, and increasing use of e-government systems that improve the way citizens and government interact, Johnson said.

“The big [e-government] challenge now is to maximize usage and give the citizenry a different look and sense of the response of their federal government,” he said.

Implementation also means accelerating agency activities in competitive sourcing – putting government jobs that are commercial in nature up for competition with the private sector. For its part, OMB needs to do a better job educating employees and members of Congress about the initiative, Johnson said.

“There’s a lot of misinformation about competitive sourcing,” he said. “We have not done as good a job as we need to do in informing people about competitive sourcing. We’re talking about things that are really, really commercial in nature,” not inherently governmental functions.

For instance, the government isn’t going to lose institutional knowledge by putting the jobs of auto mechanics up for competition, Johnson said.

Numerous bills have been introduced in Congress that would roll back the competitive sourcing agenda, however. Johnson said the administration supports the bills that require more reporting about competitive sourcing projects. He said the president would veto any bills that prohibit public-private job competitions.

“We believe amendments that have to do with prohibiting competitive sourcing activities will not be approved,” he added.

Gail Repsher Emery writes for Washington Technology magazine

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