PART to compare programs

The Office of Management and Budget plans to focus on identifying cross-government areas so agencies can compare similar programs and improve their performance, an OMB official said today.

These areas will be part of the Program Assessment Rating Tool (PART) process, which measures program performance through a survey. The tool is one element of the budget and performance integration initiative in the President's Management Agenda.

By finding cross-agency areas for assessment, agencies can look to successful programs for guidance and best practices, said Robert Shea, OMB's counsel to the deputy director for management. Assessment categories, such as asset management, will be based on administrative and congressional priorities. Officials will set up working groups in each of these discrete cross-cutting areas, he said.

"Ideally, we focus resources on activities with the best results, but consolidation may not be the answer," Shea said, speaking at an enterprise architecture conference in Washington, D.C. "But the poor-performing programs can learn a lot from the high-performing programs."

Finding these areas depends on running more programs through PART. For fiscal 2004, 234 programs, or about 20 percent, were assessed using the tool. For fiscal 2005, OMB officials will examine 175 new programs.

The plan is to assess an additional 20 percent of programs each year until all are evaluated.

"The promise of PART is the ability to assess like government programs," Shea said. "We will choose cross-cutting areas to apply the PART to in coming years. We're not there yet."

During the fiscal 2004 budget process, more than half of the programs assessed using PART could not demonstrate results and had poor performance measures or data. About 40 percent were deemed effective or moderately effective, and the rest fell into the adequate or ineffective range, he said.

But agencies' fiscal 2005 budget submissions will show program performance improvement over last year's budget, due in part to the tool, Shea said. Officials have refined PART and provided extensive training for agencies and OMB officials, he said.

This year, programs that OMB officials believed would earn different ratings a second time around, will indeed be evaluated again. It would be too difficult for them to assess all 234 programs on top of the 175 new ones, so about 80 are being rerated, Shea said.

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