Adding a Player


John Kamensky, Senior Fellow, IBM Center for The Business of GovernmentIn my November 6th blog, I missed a beat.  I had described four forces that will likely influence the next Administration’s management agenda:  the President-elect, the bureaucracy, the Congress, and the think tanks.  One that I’d missed:  the current President!

President Bush made that clear the week after that blog entry by releasing a new Executive Order, “Improving Government Program Performance.”

The new executive order says it is intended “to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the Federal Government and promote greater accountability. . .”  The Order:

·        Requires each agency head to create annual and long-term goals.  These goals are to have “objectively measurable outcomes” and measure progress towards those goals. Individuals must be held accountable for meeting those goals.  The Order also requires agency heads to justify their budget requests based on “objective performance information” and post “updated and accurate” program-level performance information on their agency’s websites.

·        Requires each agency head to appoint a “Performance Improvement Officer.”  This newly-designated officer is to be a senior executive who will be the focal point for the development of their agency’s strategic plan, annual performance plan, and annual performance report – all of which are required by the Government Performance and Results Act.  They are also responsible for assessing the goals and targets proposed by program managers, as well as assessing the measures being used by the programs.  In addition, they are responsible for assessing performance and advising on “performance measures in personnel performance appraisals.”

·        Creates a government-wide “Performance Improvement Council.” The deputy director for management of the Office of Management and Budget will chair a cross-agency council of performance improvement officers.  Collectively, they will develop criteria for evaluating program performance (which could be the existing Program Assessment Rating Tool (PART), or some variation). They will also be able to share best practices as well as develop a website “that provides the public with information on who well each agency performs.”  Currently, OMB sponsors a website,, that provides program-level performance assessments done using the PART.

This executive order embeds in the machinery of government a single point of accountability in each agency and government-wide for creating, tracking, and reporting performance and results — 14 years after the passage of the Results Act.   Over the years, this responsibility has been performed in different places in different agencies.  Some placed this responsibility with their chief financial officer.  Others placed it in their planning or budgeting units.  Some split the responsibilities across their agencies.  This Executive Order finally creates a single focal point of accountability.  It also creates a cross-agency network of these officials so they can share best practices, much like other cross-agency councils such as the Chief Financial Officers Council.

So, in the upcoming year, senior executives will be designated as their agency’s “performance improvement officer” and a cross-agency council of performance officers will convene and likely set an agenda for 2008 and 2009.   As a result, the next Administration will inherit a network of performance improvement executives – largely career public servants — who will be responsible for advocating improved performance and making results of agency programs publicly available.   The Executive Order does not enshrine this Administration’s management agenda or the PART.  Therefore, if the next Administration wants a different focus, it will have an administrative foundation upon which it could rapidly build and deploy a variety of new performance-oriented initiatives.


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One Response to “Adding a Player”

  1. Norman M. Macdonald Says:

    In my over 47 years of federal service I was involved in a number of projects similar to this but on a less grandious scale. The problem is in all but one case, they were top down and failed to achieve their goals. The lack of understanding of the tactical part of government, by this I mean what is the effect on field delivery. The one exception was Al Gore’s reinventing government that encouraged field involvement and you can see it’s positive effect is still alive here in the boondocks.

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