Johnson: Agencies need to keep focus on improvement

WILLIAMSBURG, Va. -- Federal agencies are realizing unprecedented success in improving administration and management, but they still need to apply greater "clarity, transparency and candor" in implementing improvements, Clay Johnson, deputy director for management, Office of Management and Budget, said at a conference today.

"We are in the process of achieving management success that would have been thought impossible 10 to 15 years ago," Johnson said at the 45th annual Interagency Resources Management Conference, sponsored by the General Services Administration.

Federal agency executives are starting to reap the rewards of applying the president's management agenda after a period of skepticism, he said.

It took anyone observing about a year "to understand that the president's management agenda is to make agencies work better," Johnson told a group of about 250 government administrators and contractors. "Congress still doesn't understand it."

Some agency heads objected to sharing information with each other and with the public about their failures and shortcomings in reaching OMB's management goals, Johnson said. However, candor and openness are critical to moving forward.

"The most important things driving performance are not enough clarity, transparency and candor," he said. "I've had people say, why are we telling the public about programs that don't work? Our goal is to make them work."

Implementing IT programs, in particular, requires great specificity about what the projects' goals are and the plans for achieving them.

"We're not good at clarifying, really specifying, what we want to buy," Johnson said. "What is the definition of IT success? Program success."

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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