Forest Service to track performance

Bids from management consultants to help the Forest Service set up a performance accountability information system were due this week.

The Forest Service, which has had difficulty getting good marks in the past on performance budgeting, plans to try an automated approach. The agency announced in a solicitation this month that it intends to conduct a software pilot in its Alaska region using the Hyperion Performance Scorecard and Hyperion Application Link, from Hyperion Solutions Corp. The deadline for bids was March 19.

If the pilot is successful, the agency plans to use the same software in all nine regions of the Forest Service.

The Office of Management and Budget, whose role is to help federal agencies carry out the President's Management Agenda, has not been satisfied in the past with efforts from Forest Service and Agriculture Department officials to link their spending accounts to their strategic goals.

"OMB is after us to do a better job of articulating what we plan to do with the money we're getting," said the Forest Service's Larry Mastic, project manager for the agency's performance accountability information system. OMB then wants to see "what we did with the money in terms of results."

The problem with performance accountability systems, said Paul Strassmann, an information systems consultant with Strassmann Inc. Consulting Services, is their inability to create performance metrics that can be audited. That is something that only the Forest Service managers, for example, can do.

"They'll most likely get their inputs down to the nearest penny," Strassmann said. But the harder part will be measuring output, or benefits, he said. "That is the area where all of these systems fail or succeed."

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