OMB deputy says Bush will use Results Act to push reforms

The second-ranking official at the Office of Management and Budget said Tuesday that the Bush administration will use the 1993 Government Performance and Results Act as the cornerstone of its efforts to improve federal management. In an exclusive interview with GovExec.com, OMB Deputy Director Sean O'Keefe said management issues were "very much at the top of the agenda" at the agency. O'Keefe said he has spent a lot of time talking to Sen. George Voinovich, R-Ohio, a leading proponent of results-based management on Capitol Hill, about the approach the Bush team should take. O'Keefe also said he is reaching out to appropriations committees in the House and Senate to involve them in discussions about how to best establish performance measures for agencies and link them to budget discussions. O'Keefe said agencies have varying levels of commitment to the Results Act, which mandates that they create strategic plans, set performance goals and report on their progress in achieving them. Some see the law as an effective way to improve management, while others use "an awful lot of happy talk but don't mean any of it," he said. Still others, O'Keefe said, "are flat clueless on it." Nevertheless, O'Keefe said, the federal management agenda "is clearer today than it has been for awhile and there are more tools out there than there have been before." O'Keefe served as Navy Secretary and Defense Department comptroller in the previous Bush administration. Prior to his OMB appointment, he was a professor of business and government policy at Syracuse University's Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. O'Keefe said OMB is in the process of preparing a series of specific management reform proposals that would be implemented during the fiscal 2003 budget cycle. The timing of the release of the proposals, he said, "is still being worked out," but will "certainly be no later than summer." OMB officials are engaged in a "vigorous internal debate," O'Keefe said, over the value of creating a wide-ranging inventory of ideas that are worth pursuing in the management improvement arena. Such an approach could "fall under the weight of being too diffuse," he acknowledged. Earlier this month, O'Keefe issued a memo telling agencies that in preparing fiscal 2002 performance plans, they should make greater use of performance-based contracts, expand online procurement activities and put 5 percent of the jobs they have listed as commercial in nature up for competition with private firms. O'Keefe said the Bush administration has been actively seeking to fill the position of deputy director for management at OMB-a job that will likely also include the duties of federal chief information officer-but have been hampered in their efforts by the onerous nomination and confirmation process.
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