Spend more on training, OMB exec says

Government transformation requires more money for workforce training, said Clay Johnson, the Office of Management and Budget’s deputy director for management.

"The most important thing in changing the federal government is you need to have every employee with a really good manager," Johnson said today, speaking during the annual Government Performance Summit in Washington, D.C.

That goal is "probably going to take some money we're not now spending on training," Johnson said. Training budgets at agencies are often among the first items cut when money gets tight, Johnson said.

"We have to stop that," he said. "We have to have monies that we fence off and make sure that's always there and make sure we work Congress."

The goal of transformation is to show that government programs improve, Johnson said. One method to achieve that is to broaden civil service reforms under way at the Defense and Homeland Security departments, he said.

The general schedule system for civil service salaries was established when a majority of government employees were typists, Johnson said. Now, that's no longer true, but government employees are "being paid and thought of as if they were bureaucrats."

The Bush administration's determination to spread civil service reform governmentwide scares many employees, Johnson said. "Our challenge at OMB and the agency leadership is to make sure that employees get that civil service modernization is not bad for employees," he said. "Things that are bad for employees are never going to happen."

Officials will not automatically eliminate managers of inefficient programs, Johnson said. "If we’re going to be trying to do things, by definition we're not going be successful 100 percent of the time," he said.

Instituting change will also require Congress to begin cutting programs that the Performance Assessment Rating Tool demonstrates are inefficient, Johnson said.

OMB officials conduct the evaluation process "with the premise that we want programs to work," Johnson had testified last week before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee’s subcommittee on federal financial management.

"We're not engaging in a witch hunt," he said, addressing fears that the evaluation process targets programs that administration officials dislike. "Our first effort is to try to get them to work."

However, programs that are recommended for budget reduction or elimination sometimes instead receive increased funding from Congress.

"Focusing on performance generally has not been good politics," Johnson said today. To place more emphasis on results in government, officials should make PART scores more available to the public, he added.

OMB officials are building a Web site for the public to view results of the PART scores without the jargon of the performance evaluations, Johnson said. The site should be online later this summer, he said.

"The citizens' expectations of their government will increase," he said. "We're going to be very candid with them about what we're doing and about what we're committed to do."

Federal agencies have an image problem, Johnson said. "If their impression of the federal government is long lines and bureaucrats, their expectation of us is pretty low," Johnson said.

About the Author

David Perera is a special contributor to Defense Systems.

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