White House to change program assessments

White House wants new ways of judging programs

President Barack Obama’s administration is reworking how agencies rate their programs’ performances, all but tossing out the previous administration’s system.

“A reformed performance improvement and analysis framework will switch the focus from grading programs as successful or unsuccessful to requiring agency leaders to set priority goals, demonstrate progress in achieving goals, and explain performance trends,” according to supplemental information included in the White House’s recently released fiscal 2010 budget proposal.

Administration officials have asked major agencies to set several high-priority goals, meaningful measures and targets for reaching those goals, according to the document titled "Building a High-Performing Government." President Barack Obama will use this information as the basis for his meetings with Cabinet officers to review how they’re improving their programs, the document states.

Officials this year plan to work with the Performance Improvement Council to set courses of action for:

  • Establishing a comprehensive program and performance measurement system that links agency and governmentwide goals.

  • Emphasizing the reporting of performance trends and explaining those trends.

  • Streamlining reporting requirements.

  • Comparing how different program strategies help to improve programs.

Officials also want to talk with Congress, outside experts and the general public about constructing a more open process that improves programs and cuts down on waste, the document states.

President George W. Bush’s Program Assessment Rating Tool (PART) helped to set performance measures for federal programs, but the Obama administration said PART “has been less successful in encouraging the actual use of performance measurement as a performance improvement tool."

Officials cited a report by the Government Accountability Office in 2008 that said 26 percent of federal managers familiar with PART said agencies used the measurements in management decision making, and 14 percent of them considered PART as improving performance tool.

About the Author

Matthew Weigelt is a freelance journalist who writes about acquisition and procurement.

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