OMB: Agencies improve but management goals still tough to meet

Agencies are making progress on key administration management goals such as e-government, financial management and competitive sourcing, but plenty of work still needs to be done, according to White House officials.

Ten agencies have improved in one or more of the initiatives, and two agencies have faltered in one initiative since the first report card came out Sept. 30, 2001, according Bush administration officials. On Thursday, they released details of the newest report that rates agencies on five management initiatives.

Full details will be published Feb. 3 in the president's fiscal 2004 budget request.

The quarterly scorecards measure the status and progress of 26 departments and agencies in achieving the president's goals in five areas. Agencies are graded on two levels: they get one grade for their status relative to the five management agenda initiatives, and a second grade for their progress toward meeting the agenda goals. Grades are green for success, yellow for mixed results and red for unsatisfactory.

The five areas are:

  • Human capital, or better work force planning

  • Competitive sourcing, or subjecting more federal work to public-private competition

  • Financial performance, or improving the accuracy and timeliness of federal financial reports

  • E-government, or promoting cross-agency information technology projects that improve services to citizens

  • Budget and performance integration, or linking program performance to federal funding

  • On the September 2001 scorecard, 15 percent of agencies got yellow or green status scores. Now, that percentage has almost doubled, said Mark Everson, deputy director for management in the Office of Management and Budget.

    Even so, the agency status evaluations released today are mostly red. Only the National Science Foundation received green scores for status, in financial performance and e-government. NASA and the Small Business Administration lost ground in financial performance, moving from yellow to red. Every agency got a red score in competitive sourcing.

    "It's either the toughest initiative or I'm the toughest grader," said Angela Styles, administrator of OMB's Office of Federal Procurement Policy.

    In contrast, the scores for progress show a sea of green, with a smattering of yellows and reds.

    Most agencies got green progress scores in competitive sourcing. In order to get a green progress score, agencies must have ongoing plans for competitions; an infrastructure for the competitions, including allocation of staff and other resources; and completed business case analyses for the competitions, Styles said.

    "Given where we started ? zero infrastructure ? we've made a lot of progress," she said. Many agencies will move from red to yellow as they begin using the new OMB Circular A-76, which outlines procedures for public-private competitions, Styles said. She said her office received more than 700 comments on a draft of the circular, and she expects the final circular will be published in February.

    Some planned competitions will include as many as 2,700 employees; others will include as few as 50. Currently, plans are in the works for competing 7 percent to 10 percent of the commercial, federal jobs, but solicitations are not ready to be issued, Styles said.

    "I have told agencies they will not get to yellow until they have active public-private competitions going on," Styles said.

    No agency got a red progress score for e-government. Still, there is much room for improvement, officials said. The government spends about $60 billion a year on information technology.

    "Much of it is misspent," said OMB Director Mitchell Daniels. Because of that, OMB officials have used their authority under the Clinger-Cohen Act to withhold funds until agencies have adequate business cases that call for cross-agency collaboration, he said.

    "We are not going to build more systems that will only work for [one] agency," he said.

    Of the 1,400 major IT projects included in the president's budget request, half of them ? worth a total of $21 billion ? are considered at-risk, said Mark Forman, associate director of OMB's Office of Information Technology and E-Government.

    Three hundred fifty programs are at-risk because they don't have adequate program management, Forman said.

    "We will not release money ? to a program that doesn't have a world-class project manager," Forman said, adding that these project management positions cannot be contracted out, because the manager must understand the agency's mission and goals for the project, as well as the technology. Projects must get off the at-risk list before they are funded, he said.

    More than 450 at-risk programs are not integrated with the agency's modernization plans, and more than 600 at-risk programs need better security and better risk-management plans. Several hundred don't have quantifiable performance metrics, Forman said.

    It's "totally normal" for progress scores to be better than status scores, because the president chose to focus on particularly difficult management issues that will take time to fix, Everson said.

    Officials said the report cards have created friendly competition among agency officials.

    "Everybody wants to do well," Everson said.

    Those who do well may be rewarded with a pay boost. The president's budget request will include a $500 million Human Capital Performance Fund, which will allow managers to reward top-performing employees and those who have especially critical skills, said Dan Blair, deputy director of the Office of Personnel Management. Agencies will have to submit pay-for-performance plans to OPM before receiving the money, he said.

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