OMB will create new performance management framework for agencies

OMB Chief Performance Officer Jeff Zients OMB Chief Performance Officer Jeff Zients Liz Lynch/National Journal

The Office of Management and Budget is developing a new federal performance management framework, the government's chief performance officer told lawmakers on Thursday.

The approach will incorporate elements from other initiatives, including the Bush administration's Performance Assessment Rating Tool and the 1993 Government Performance and Results Act, OMB's Jeff Zients told a Senate subcommittee.

"Our governmentwide performance measurement framework will be focused on outcomes, allow comparisons across programs and agencies, and show trends over time," Zients said.

Zients has recruited Shelley Metzenbaum to help lead the effort to design the plan. Metzenbaum founded the Collins Center for Public Management at the McCormack Graduate School of Policy Studies at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. She also has served as executive director of the Executive Session on Public Sector Performance Management at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government.

After three months as chief performance officer and deputy director for management, Zients said his "initial sense" is Congress and previous administrations have laid a strong foundation for the improvement of government performance. He named GPRA and PART in particular as important starting points. The programs, however, place too much emphasis on producing performance information for the purpose of compliance, and pay too little attention to analyzing and acting on the information collected, he said.

"The evidence suggests that requirements of the GPRA have proved a persistent driver pushing agencies to articulate what they are trying to accomplish and to measure progress toward these goals," Zients said. "It also suggests that the PART questions helped translate expectations for performance information down to the program level, where so many key government decisions are made."

Despite the advances made by the Clinton and Bush administrations, agencies now need to focus on using performance information as a tool to facilitate long-term strategic decisions and support employees, contractors and other stakeholders, he said. The administration will rely heavily on information technologies to accomplish those goals, he added.

Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., said while agencies routinely generate "a tremendous amount" of performance data, they are not necessarily using that information to get better results.

"The [Government Accountability Office] has shown time and again that federal managers have significantly more performance information available today than they did a decade ago," said Carper, who is chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Federal Financial Management, Government Information, Federal Services and International Security. "However, the GAO findings also reveal that federal managers have shown little or no progress in increasing their use of performance information to manage results."

Bernice Steinhardt, GAO director of strategic issues, said the commitment of agency leaders and the communication of that commitment to managers were crucial to ensuring performance information drives decision-making. GAO studies have demonstrated that a lack of commitment from agency leadership often leads to inconsistent use of performance data across the agency.

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