In 2009, the Obama administration directed agencies to identify a handful of priorities that they would commit to achieving in a two-year timeframe. This initiative was embedded into the 2010 GPRA Modernization Act. Agencies are required to identify priority goals and report on their progress quarterly. In late June, agency progress reports were posted on the governmentwide performance.gov website.
When the president’s fiscal 2015 budget was released in March, agencies refreshed their priority goals for the fiscal 2014-2015 time period. There are 89 agency priority goals for the 23 major departments and agencies. Based on my review, 33 are new and the rest are extensions or revisions of goals previously set in the 2012-2013 round of goal-setting. In all cases, agencies have named individuals who serve as the goal leaders.
New goals and associated progress indicators include, for example:
Defense Department: Transition to Veterans
Improve the career readiness of service members transitioning to veteran status by Sept. 30, 2015, which includes:
- Ensuring that at least 85 percent of eligible service members complete new transition requirements prior to separation, including pre-separation counseling, a Labor Department employment workshop, and Veterans Affairs Department benefits briefings.
- Verifying that at least 85 percent of separating service members meet newly established Career Readiness Standards prior to separation.
- Achieving and maintaining 85 percent or more positive responses from service members assessing the effectiveness of the department’s transition assistance training curriculum.
- Accelerating the transition of recovering service members to veteran status by reducing the disability evaluation processing time.
- Supporting the seamless transition of recovering service members by sharing active recovery plans with the VA.
Goal Leader: Virginia S. Penrod, chief of staff, Office of the Under Secretary of Defense, Personnel and Readiness
Social Security Administration: Expand the use of video hearings to deliver a world-class customer experience.
Increase the percentage of video hearings from 26 percent in fiscal 2013 to 30 percent by Sept. 30, 2015.
Goal Leader: Jim Borland, assistant deputy commissioner, Office of Disability Adjudication and Review
Each agency priority goal includes an action plan and measurable indicators of progress and milestones. Progress reviews are conducted quarterly by agency chief operating officers (generally the deputy secretary or equivalent).
The new (or refreshed) goals posted in March underwent their first progress reviews at the end of the quarter, March 31, and the updates were posted on performance.gov in late June to provide an initial baseline of data for assessing progress in coming reviews. Agencies will begin their next quarterly reviews on July 1, and those progress reports will be posted publicly after they are completed, generally six to eight weeks after the end of the quarter.
In the case of the priority goal for veterans, the progress report to date says Defense has developed a military lifecycle implementation plan that will be rolled out to all the services. The department also combined 13 directives and developed an expedited disability process manual to help speed claims once service members are discharged and file for veterans benefits.
On the priority goal for video hearings, the progress report notes that Social Security has created a new quarterly report to track progress on video use and that regional staffs are certified to use the equipment. The report states that administrative review judges have “held 27.2 percent of hearings by video during this fiscal year, while for the month of March alone we held 28.3 percent of hearings by video.”
Reading the Reviews Online
The Government Accountability Office critiqued the performance.gov website last year, including observations about its poor navigation. While it has improved, it is still difficult to move back and forth between priority goals. I’ve created a separate landing page that lists goals by agency and numbers them for easy reference. But beware: The list is static, not dynamic. It will not reflect changes in text or goal leaders since the original posting. And if agencies add or delete goals, then it will affect the numbering.