Agencies move out of red zone on job competitions

Nearly half of federal agencies evaluated on the Office of Management and Budget's latest traffic light-style management scorecard earned yellow ratings for competitive sourcing, a marked contrast from six months ago, when all agencies got red marks in that area.

In the last quarter of fiscal 2003, eight agencies moved from red to yellow in ratings on their efforts to put federal jobs up for competition with the private sector. The General Services Administration and the Transportation, Justice, Interior, Health and Human Services, Energy, Commerce and Agriculture departments all moved up a notch.

The scorecard, released quarterly by OMB, tracks the progress of agencies in implementing the president's five-part management agenda. Agencies improved the most in competitive sourcing, with 11 of 26 agencies earning the middle-level rating on the latest scorecard. Three of those agencies reached yellow on the third quarter scorecard published in early July.

Higher grades on competitive sourcing could reflect a change in the criteria for earning a yellow light. OMB previously pushed most agencies to work toward competing 15 percent of positions designated as "commercial in nature" in order to earn a yellow rating. In July, OMB announced that it would eliminate the uniform 15 percent target and establish customized goals for each agency.

Under the revised criteria, agencies get a yellow light if they reach their individual, OMB-approved target. Over the past two quarters, they must also have finished 75 percent of all streamlined competitions-those where fewer than 65 full-time equivalent jobs are put up for bids-within a 90-day timeframe and followed through on at least 80 percent of publicly announced competitions.

Agency grades for electronic government initiatives remained stagnant in the fourth quarter, and one agency lost ground. The Smithsonian Institution moved from a yellow light to a red light in this area. Scores in the financial management and human capital arenas also remained unchanged from the third quarter scorecard.

Agencies are making progress on e-government initiatives, an OMB official said, but since "so many elements of the e-government scorecard are tied to the budget cycle," the administration does not expect status ratings to change between the third and fourth quarters of the fiscal year. The administration does expect to see "movement" in the next quarter, the official said.

OMB's first scorecard, released in February 2002, contained only one green light, 19 yellow lights and 110 red lights.

While the mix has improved, a majority of the 130 grades on scorecard are still red. The Bush administration is pressing agencies to move out of the red light category over the next nine months. In an April 17 memorandum, Clay Johnson, deputy director for management at OMB, outlined a set of specific targets he would like agencies to meet by July 1, 2004.

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