OMB would toughen how agencies measure program value

Agencies can expect changes in how they evaluate the effectiveness of their major programs and recommendations in the fiscal 2010 budget proposal to eliminate some programs, said Peter Orszag, President Barack Obama’s nominee to be director of the Office of Management and Budget.

Among the changes that he outlined for senators at a hearing considering his nomination, Orszag said he would seek tighter integration of government performance and budgeting. During the transition, Obama said his team already had begun to go through agency programs to identify programs that are ineffective or duplicative.

“The president will release his budget policy outline in February, and it will contain some program eliminations in it,” Orszag told the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee Jan. 14.

Agencies use the Program Assessment Rating Tool (PART) to evaluate the management and performance of individual programs, but it has not been very effective, said Orszag, former director of the Congressional Budget Office.

“For one, most federal officials don’t know about it. A study has showed that one quarter didn’t know about it, and of those who were knowledgeable about it, most did not use it,” he said.

PART was developed without consultation by Congress and the agencies, and Orszag said he plans to revamp it with their involvement. An effective measurement process must also involve transparency and civic engagement, he said.

“We should be focusing our metrics on results and outcomes, not what we’re doing to get there, and let agencies focus on how to get there,” Orszag said. “It’s hard to do anything if you don’t measure it because you don’t know what to change and where you’re going. It’s crucially important.”

Orszag said as OMB director, he would seek to further integrate crosscutting issues into the government’s performance management process. The most significant challenges that the country faces require coordination of multiple agencies and programs, and OMB can play an important role in examining program areas that address common goals. OMB and agencies need to rely on a more risk-based approach in which to improve programs that are of the greatest importance, interest or need, Orszag said.


About the Author

Mary Mosquera is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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