Panel: Management agenda in feds' hands

It will be up to federal employees to carry the results of the President’s Management Agenda and program performance improvement into the next administration, according to a panel of experts.

The initiatives have attracted bipartisan support because agencies have clear goals and are open and transparent about those goals, said Clay Johnson, deputy director for management at the Office of Management and Budget. Agencies and their employees have taken ownership of the management initiatives and are more accountable for their performance and progress, he added.

“If these were just politically pushed initiatives, we wouldn’t be so far along,” he said Feb. 25 at the Government Performance Summit, sponsored by the Performance Institute. “There is more transparency in the federal government than ever before.” He cited the President’s Management Agenda, the Program Assessment Rating Tool (PART) and the list of high-risk projects compiled by the Government Accountability Office.

However, transformation can take five to seven years to gain a foothold, making it difficult to sustain, said Ron Sanders, chief human capital officer at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. Continued improvement depends on career employees’ commitment and courage, he added.

“I predict that opponents will come out of the woodwork and say it was just a Bush administration program,” Sanders said. Such efforts have been difficult because they demand rigor, but progress must be sustained, he added.

“We are orders of magnitude better than we were four years ago, for example, with human capital standards,” he said.

An executive order issued last year formalized agencies’ use of the PART process to improve the performance of their programs every year by setting clear goals and strategies for accomplishing them. Even before that process was formalized, agencies using PART saw improvements, said Robert Shea, OMB’s associate director for management.

“With it, agencies have greater clarity in the definitions of success,” he said.

The executive order established agency performance improvement officers and a council that meets monthly to discuss best practices. The council has task forces focused on results, the workforce, transparency, evaluation and the challenges for small agencies.

Each presidential administration has its own goals, funding and policy initiatives, Johnson said. But he added that the goals, transparency and accountability established by the Bush administration provide a starting place for his successor.

About the Author

Mary Mosquera is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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