OMB deputy says performance-based budgeting is top priority

President Bush's chief management priority is to link the performance goals of federal programs to agency budgets, a top administration official said Tuesday. The Bush administration is determined to put teeth behind the 1993 Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA), said Sean O'Keefe, deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget. The 1993 law requires agencies to develop performance-based goals and strategic plans to help them fulfill their missions, but most agencies have failed to effectively use GPRA as a management tool to improve their organizations. "I believe we [the Bush administration] are doing our part to make GPRA implementation a success," O'Keefe said Tuesday during a House Government Reform subcommittee hearing. "First and most critically is the President's very clear signal that he wants his administration and our government to be results-oriented." Bush plans to release a management and performance plan this summer outlining his administration's goals for making government more results-oriented, O'Keefe said. In April, the administration announced that agencies will be required to submit performance-based budgets for selected programs during the fiscal 2003 budget cycle, the first time agencies have been forced to tie their spending decisions to performance goals. O'Keefe emphasized that only certain agency programs will be required to submit performance-based budgets for fiscal 2003. Selected programs must list a specific objective, outline multiple ways to achieve that objective, and identify all the costs associated with attaining the goal. For example, achieving world peace is too broad of a goal for the State Department to accomplish, whereas combating a deadly disease by teaming up with the Health and Human Services Department to establish an AIDS trust fund has a specific focus, said O'Keefe. O'Keefe outlined OMB's top five management priorities in June. In addition to integrating performance criteria into the budget process, the administration plans to focus on managing the federal workforce, increasing competition of government services, improving financial systems and promoting e-government. Tuesday's hearing was the latest rallying cry by lawmakers and other officials to encourage federal agencies and Congress to use the Results Act to improve government performance. Last week, the General Accounting Office released a report that said only seven of 28 agencies studied found 50 percent or more of surveyed managers using performance information in setting program priorities, allocating resources, adopting new approaches, coordinating efforts or setting job expectations for their employees. Earlier this month, Sen. Fred Thompson, R-Tenn., who also testified at Tuesday's hearing, issued a comprehensive report detailing management problems in the federal government as a whole and at individual agencies, and implored the Bush administration to do something about the situation. In May, the Mercatus Center of George Mason University in Arlington, Va. released a report that said federal agencies are doing a slightly better job of telling the public what their missions are and how they plan to meet them. However, linking cost data to results and coming up with performance measures for those goals still poses challenges for most agencies, according to the report.
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