OMB should involve more agencies in priority goals, auditors say

Shelley Metzenbaum, OMB’s associate director of performance and personnel management. Shelley Metzenbaum, OMB’s associate director of performance and personnel management. USDA photo

The Obama administration’s pursuit of 14 crossagency “priority goals” could be broadened to rope in additional agencies, the Government Accountability Office said in a new report.

“If the federal government does not leverage all relevant parties, important opportunities for achieving these goals may be missed,” the auditors said.

As required under the 2010 Government Performance and Results Modernization Act, the administration in its fiscal 2013 budget formalized 14 crossagency policy and management goals. They included advancing education in the key fields of science, technology, engineering and math; veteran career readiness; energy efficiency; boosting exports; and improving cybersecurity; and reducing improper government payments. They are listed on Performance.gov.

For the 14 goals, the mandatory GAO report released Thursday lists the agencies that have a role and reviews its own past reporting on progress on the issue.

The Office of Management and Budget welcomed the recommendations after reading a draft of the report, and agreed the selection of agencies published so far was not comprehensive.

Later Thursday, Shelley Metzenbaum, OMB’s associate director of performance and personnel management, highlighted GAO’s findings in a White House blog post as a way to further President Obama’s ongoing goal of “achieving more mission for the money.”

Metzenbaum said the crossagency themes “reflect the administration’s decision to tap the power of goals, measurement and frequent data-driven reviews as critical change-driving tools to deliver more value to the American people. These goals aim to tackle one of the most difficult challenges the federal government faces: solving national problems for which multiple federal departments and agencies share implementation responsibilities.”

One goal generated skepticism among auditors, who noted a lack of evidence for claimed improvements in real property management, which involves selling off unneeded properties and shrinking agency facility footprints. OMB has reported that it will exceed the president’s goal of realizing $3 billion in savings by the end of 2012, the report said, “but has not provided sufficient data for us to validate this statement.”

The auditors continued: “Effective real property management continues to be hampered by underlying legal and budgetary-related limitations and competing stakeholder interests -- two critical elements to identifying and eliminating waste within the real property portfolio. In addition, the federal government continues to overly rely on leasing to fulfill long-term needs when it would be more efficient in the long run to purchase or construct facilities.”

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