Agency programs performing better, PART shows

Agencies are steadily pushing higher the percentage of their programs that perform effectively, even as they measure more programs each year, the Office of Management and Budget said.

In its latest assessment, OMB rated 78 percent of agency programs as performing, compared with 75 percent last year. Of the programs that were assessed for the first time, 77 percent were rated as performing, while 60 percent were effective or moderately effective.

“Our ultimate goal is to make programs work better,” said Clay Johnson, OMB’s deputy director for management.

Agencies use the Program Assessment Rating Tool (PART), which consists of a scoring system for answers to 25 questions, to measure success. It provides a consistent and transparent approach to evaluate programs.

PART ratings can influence agencies, OMB and Congress on funding, authorization and oversight decisions for the programs, Johnson said. To emphasize that point, OMB moved release of the PART assessments to September so agencies and OMB could use this up-to-date information in the development of the president’s budget.

“While never the only factor in decisions about program budgets, performance should be an increasingly important factor,” Johnson said.

Agency programs saw better ratings because they have adopted more effective performance measures and improved the data gathering of those measures, said Robert Shea, OMB’s associate director for management. The assessments can be found online at ExpectMore.gov.

“We post on the Internet because we want to use transparency to hold people accountable for improvement,” he said.

Agency programs that were performing received ratings of effective, moderately effective and adequate. The remaining programs were rated as ineffective or could not demonstrate results. If agency programs are rated poorly, they can be reassessed when agencies can provide evidence of their improvement.

In the past six years, OMB has assessed 1,000 programs, or 98 percent of the budget, accounting for $2.6 trillion dollars in federal spending. Several large and complex Defense Department programs represent the 2 percent of programs that have yet to be assessed. Those programs account for $57 billion, Shea said. He expects them to be evaluated by the end of next year.

More information is available for what makes programs perform more effectively, Clay said.

“We expect agencies will continue to improve as agencies, the administration and Congress make greater use [of] this information,” he said.

For example, the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas program improved the way it measures success by implementing a system for tracking and analyzing performance data. As a result, more drug trafficking organizations were dismantled at a lower cost. In 2005, 2,183 drug trafficking organizations were taken down for $80,000 each, while in 2006, 2,332 were broken up for $76,000 each.

About the Author

Mary Mosquera is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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