Bush not linking performance to budget yet

President Bush's first budget does not include new provisions that tie federal agencies' funding to management performance, a top architect of the President's budget said Tuesday. Sean O'Keefe, President Bush's nominee to be deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget, said at his Senate confirmation hearing that the new administration has not had time to integrate new federal management reforms into its fiscal 2002 budget proposal. O'Keefe was responding to a statement by Sen. George Voinovich, R-Ohio, about the importance of connecting management initiatives with the budget process. "If there are any such linkages between budget priorities and the performance initiatives that you [Sen. Voinovich] have outlined in the 2002 budget, it will be purely coincidental," said O'Keefe in testimony before the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee. The Bush administration will integrate government management initiatives in its fiscal 2003 budget, O'Keefe said. "This administration has had a month," O'Keefe said after the hearing. "To get to the level of [budgetary detail] where specific [management] initiatives are included in the budget takes time… While I think [Voinovich] is dead right, the likelihood is it will not be until the next budget that you will see this administration's imprint on this matter." Although the deputy director at OMB is chiefly responsible for crafting the administration's budget, senators asked O'Keefe a variety of questions on federal management problems. In a telling exchange, O'Keefe and committee Chairman Sen. Fred Thompson, R-Tenn., expressed differing views on how the 1993 Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA) might best be leveraged to encourage better management throughout government. O'Keefe, a former professor at Syracuse's Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, said requirements such as GPRA are most effective when they are used as a "management tool" by agencies to uncover management shortcomings and aid internal planning. Using GPRA primarily as a means to reward or punish agencies for their management performance yields "mixed results," he said. Thompson replied that agencies must be held accountable for complying with GPRA. "Let me tell you what you're walking into," he said. "In our review, we found some agencies had set no goals for [resolving] any management problems." Thompson said "somebody needs to ride herd" on GPRA compliance. O'Keefe made a similar point about how agencies' annual financial audits, required under the 1990 Chief Financial Officers Act, should be used to improve federal management. He said agencies currently view audits as a compliance requirement, instead of as a management tool that can aid their performance. "Until that mindset changes, [the CFO Act]'s utility…will be incomplete," said O'Keefe. The lack of federal management initiatives in the administration's first budget is a troubling sign, according to one government reform expert. "Last summer, President Bush made a few very significant speeches about the need for management improvement, [yet] they have no follow through," said Brookings Institution scholar Paul C. Light. Light noted that the Bush team has yet to fill out its management roster, since OMB's deputy director for management has not yet been appointed. "It's a time for cautious pessimism about whether they will develop a [government reform] plan of their own," he said. In a pre-confirmation questionnaire submitted to the committee, O'Keefe addressed the much-discussed possibility of combining the duties of the deputy director for management with those of a federal chief information officer. He said his office is still considering whether to create a separate position for a federal CIO within OMB or whether to officially designate OMB's deputy director for management as the federal CIO.

While admitting that uniting the two jobs "would be similar to the status quo in practice," O'Keefe said the deputy director for management would enjoy "a direct grant of authority from the President." O'Keefe also left open the possibility of adding another high-level position on technology issues to the administration. "I intend to look closely at the question of whether the deputy director for management should be reinforced by a new, political-level technology leadership position in the coming months," O'Keefe wrote.

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