Performance.gov goes live after lengthy preparations

The long-anticipated and many-times-delayed central federal website Performance.gov went live Thursday morning, providing a new dashboard through which the general public can track spending, cost-cutting and progress in hiring agency by agency.

"Performance.gov advances the commitment in the president's [fiscal] 2011 budget to communicate candidly and concisely what the federal government is trying to accomplish, how it is trying to accomplish it and why these efforts are important," reads the home page of the site, which is coordinated by the Office of Management and Budget. "It provides a window on the administration's efforts to deliver a more effective, smarter and leaner government."

Searchable by agency or by theme, according to OMB, the site links to 24 Cabinet departments and eight other major agencies so users can track data on improving the return on contract spending, reducing improper payments, eliminating unneeded federal real estate, achieving technology-driven productivity gains, accelerating performance on agency priorities, and satisfaction in the hiring process.

The themes, or "areas of focus," include acquisition, financial management, human resources, technology, performance improvement, open government, sustainability and customer service.

The emphasis on performance includes explanations of how agency goals and measures will change with implementation of the 2010 modernization of the Government Performance and Results Act.

Set in motion in 2009 with President Obama's public embrace of the value of federal data, Performance.gov has been used internally by agencies for months as a way of sharing best practices.

Its public debut was delayed repeatedly, most recently in the wake of cuts this April in federal spending on information technology. Last October, Shelley Metzenbaum, associate director for performance and personnel management at OMB, said the site would be unveiled in the "not-too-distant future." In May, Chief Performance Officer Jeffrey Zients made a similar comment.

Peformance.gov links to related dashboard sites at USAspending.gov, Data.gov, Whitehouse.gov, Recovery.gov and USA.gov. The new site also invites feedback to improve usability.

The launch drew praise from Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Federal Financial Management, Government Information, Federal Services and International Security.

"The launch of Performance.gov takes us a step closer to our goal of creating a more transparent, efficient and accountable government," Carper said in a news release. "It is a common-sense solution that gives Americans the ability to monitor how their tax dollars are being spent and to stay informed on government operations, which will help keep the federal government accountable and on track."

Carper added that the site "shows that the administration is serious about tracking performance goals, holding agencies accountable for their decisions and stopping wasteful spending before it begins, all in an effort to produce better results for less money in the federal government."

John Palguta, vice president for policy at the nonprofit Partnership for Public Service, said the site is an excellent example of the government trying to be transparent.

"The heavy reliance on metrics, such as federal employee responses to an annual anonymous survey, helps make sure that this is not a public relations gimmick," he said. "The fact that the information is provided on an agency-by-agency basis with some agencies clearly lagging behind others also demonstrates a willingness to show the good, the bad, and maybe even the ugly."

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