The state of federal management: A story of gradual improvement

Before the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 Americans seemed to answer the question, "What do you want the federal government to do?" with a simple "less." But at least they wanted that less to be done better.

The quest to devise measurable indicators of results was codified in the 1993 Government Performance and Results Act, and has been reflected in the Clinton administration's Reinventing Government initiative and the Bush administration's President's Management Agenda. It is having some effect. The state of federal management has improved and is improving, as data on outputs, if not social outcomes, gets better and managers are impelled to pay more attention to them.

That trend has been reflected in the Federal Performance Project, conducted by Government Executive over the past four years in partnership with the Pew Charitable Trusts and with, first, Syracuse University's Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, and later, The George Washington University Department of Public Administration. Under the project, agencies were assigned letter grades in five management areas: finance, human resources, information technology, capital assets (when it was relevant), and a broader category called managing for results.

Late last year, Government Executive asked Gregory Treverton, a senior analyst at RAND former vice chair of the National Intelligence Council, to evaluate the Federal Performance Project in the context of recent efforts to improve federal management.

Click here for his full report.

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