Red, Yellow, Green

Timothy B. Clark

We give our own grades to President Bush's management record.

For many years, public administration scholars lamented the demise of the "M" in OMB. Management was no longer a priority of the White House office, all its focus having shifted to "B" for budgeting, or so they said. Some argued for moving governmentwide management oversight into a new Office of Federal Management.

The clamor diminished after our first "MBA president" unveiled a management agenda and appointed one of his closest friends, Clay Johnson, to pursue it. From his post as deputy director for management at the Office of Management and Budget, Johnson has overseen an extensive effort to improve back-office systems important to any well-managed organization: human resources, financial management, information technology and performance budgeting. In these categories, and that of competitive sourcing, agencies were graded in a stoplight red, yellow and green color scheme.

At the beginning, most agencies showed up in red or yellow in many categories, and many launched campaigns to "get to green." At Cabinet meetings, President Bush would signal his displeasure with agency chiefs who'd earned too many reds. Now, six years later, there are more greens than reds in the tally, but as Johnson says, there's still "a lot of work to be done."

We thought it a good time to make our own assessment of the administration's performance in the management arena.

A team led by Executive Editor Anne Laurent took a wide-ranging look at progress and challenges in a context a bit broader than the administration's own report card. We give the administration a solid yellow-"mixed results," in Bush parlance. Least successful, we thought, has been its e-government program. It earns a red light, while OMB's efforts to match budgets to program performance earns our only green. Now we invite you to offer your own judgments on the management agenda by voting online here.

Our annual technology outlook, on the cover this month, looks at key issues that federal managers and contractors will be facing in 2008. Tougher privacy rules, an overhaul of Internet technology and tighter security all will be high on government's agenda.

This is the key month for charitable giving, as people make up their minds about the groups they want to support with year-end contributions. The Combined Federal Campaign, expected to raise $60 million in the national capital region and $270 million worldwide, is the biggest game in town. The CFC has lowered the bar for getting on its roster of 22,000 organizations, no longer insisting they demonstrate that administrative costs don't exceed 25 percent.

This makes it more difficult to know whether charities effectively are supporting the causes they espouse. But people who live and work in the Washington area can find great small charities by using the Catalogue for Philanthropy, whose fourth edition, just out, lists 68 groups. These, and groups previously vetted by the Catalogue's expert team, can be found here.

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