OMB to seek governmentwide personnel reform

The Office of Management and Budget will propose revamping personnel rules across federal agencies, as well as creating two commissions to evaluate federal programs, OMB deputy director for management Clay Johnson said Wednesday.

All three proposals require congressional approval, and Johnson said he was optimistic about receiving it. They will be included in the president's fiscal 2006 budget proposal, which OMB will deliver to Congress on Feb. 7.

The new personnel rules will resemble those being developed at the Defense and Homeland Security departments. They likely will include limits on collective bargaining and a new pay system, but Johnson said he did not yet know the specifics.

Federal unions have been strong critics of the new personnel rules and on Wednesday said they planned to file a lawsuit against Homeland Security over them.

The proposed Sunset Commission would review all 1,200 government programs every 10 years. It would vote on whether or not to recommend keeping each program, and then Congress would vote on the program's reauthorization. Without reauthorization, the programs would automatically end.

"It's a way for agencies to have to justify their value," said Johnson.

The Results Commission would examine how agencies work together to implement programs and recommend ways to improve interagency efficiency.

Johnson emphasized the impact of the President's Management Agenda in improving accountability. The goal, he said, is to show that "every program is better this year than the last."

The latest score card, released last week, showed higher scores for eight agencies and four declining scores. Defense, which holds the largest number of job competitions, dropped from the highest score, green, to yellow, the middle rating.

"It's not easy being green," Johnson said, evoking Kermit the Frog. Defense lost points on its competitive sourcing score because it did not follow through with its job competition plans, he said.

Asked why scores at the Defense and Veterans Affairs departments, the Small Business Administration and the Office of Personnel Management dropped, Johnson said getting to green hasn't gotten harder, but agencies have to work hard to maintain their top status.

He noted improvements in human capital management, which has the highest scores of any initiative. Federal employees, he said, should be thought of as public servants and not as bureaucrats, he said.

"We need to do a better job," he added, "of providing our employees tools to live up to their full potential."

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