Government Performance Project

Partners to rate government performance


About the Government Performance Project

In 1996, the Maxwell School of Citizenship & Public Affairs at Syracuse University was awarded a four-year grant from The Pew Charitable Trusts to rate the management performance of local and state governments and selected federal agencies in the United States. The project, called the Government Performance Project (GPP), is administered by the Maxwell School's recently established Alan K. Campbell Public Affairs Institute.

The project links the Maxwell School with two highly respected magazines in the field of government reporting: Government Executive (which focuses on the federal government) and Governing (which focuses on the states and localities). Information developed by the Maxwell School and material obtained through the magazines' own reporting will be published in these publications.

The Government Performance Project examines government management in five areas:

  • Financial Management, including issues such as budget allocation and forecasting, budget execution, accounting, financial reporting, debt management, and investment.
  • Human Resources Management, including workforce planning, hiring, retention, reward and discipline, and training.
  • Information Technology Management, focusing on managerial uses of IT systems through addressing such issues as hardware and software performance, integration of IT with other management systems, training, cost, and reporting capability.
  • Capital Management, including long-term planning, initial construction or purchasing justification, capital and operating budget interaction, and maintenance.
  • Managing for Results, including strategic planning, performance measurement, and the use of performance information for management.

The project highlights overall management capacity including an examination of the role of leadership in the individual management systems of government entities. The focus, therefore, is not only on the evaluation of performance in these five individual categories, but on how well they are integrated. An equally important aspect is the effective communication of government performance issues to the citizenry.

Project Goals

The project aims to improve both the understanding and practice of government management throughout the United States, on the city, county, state and federal levels. This will be accomplished both through better intellectual understanding of the role and dimensions of management in government and by holding governmental entities publicly accountable for the quality of good management in their jurisdictions.

Toward these ends, the project has the following specific goals:

  • To inform the public about factors that contribute to effective management performance in the public sector. By bringing wide-spread attention to such oft-ignored topics, it is hoped that the level of public debate will be raised from one which tends to focus on politics and personality to one which has greater emphasis on the actual performance of government.
  • To enhance citizen understanding of contemporary management issues in governments: not just how much it costs but what good management capacities tax dollars can buy.
  • To enable the governments and agencies to learn from one another and to improve their performance as a result. At the same time, the project will help to bring widespread recognition to those entities which are strong performers in management-related areas.
  • To create a clearinghouse of information related to government management upon which administrators from any government entity can call to obtain information regarding public sector management practices. This resource will enhance learning across similar units of government.
  • To recognize, over the course of the time, improvement in the states, cities and agencies in the five areas listed above.

Project Status

During the first year of the project, the GPP conducted pilot studies in four federal agencies (DLA, FDA, USCG, and VHA), four states (FL, KS, OH, and OR) and four cities and counties (Cuyahoga County, OH, Hennepin County, MN, Philadelphia, and Phoenix). During the pilot phase, the Maxwell School developed a methodology that will be used-- and improved upon--through the remainder of the project. Pilots were chosen through a careful process that included emphasis on diversity in size and location among the cities, counties and states and a diversity of function among the federal agencies. The pilot year ended in the fall of 1997.

The comprehensive project began in 1997 and includes the study all 50 states and several major cities, and 30 federal agencies identified as having a "high impact" on the American public. The results of the studies are published by Governing and Government Executive, respectively.

Federal agencies evaluated in 1999 were:

Customs (Treasury)
Environmental Protection Agency
Federal Aviation Administration (DOT)
Federal Emergency Management Agency
Federal Housing Administration (HUD)
Food and Drug Administration (HHS)
Food and Nutrition Service (USDA)
Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA)
Health Care Financing Administration (HHS)
Immigration and Naturalization Service (DOJ)
Internal Revenue Service (Treasury)
Occupational Safety and Health Administration (DOL)
Patent and Trademark Office (DOC)
Social Security Administration
Veterans Health Administration (DVA)

Agencies evaluated in 2000 were:

Coast Guard (DOC)
Army Corps of Engineers (DoD)
Veterans Benefits Administration (DVA)
National Park Service (DOI)
Office of Student Financial Assistance (DOI)

These represent regulatory, benefits disbursing/producing and law enforcement agencies, which serve as the focus of our federal analysis.

The Maxwell School uses the data collected to conduct scholarly analysis and to communicate both the methodology and the evaluation in more traditional scholarly outlets.

About the Project Leaders

Patricia W. Ingraham, Professor of Public Administration and Political Science, directs both the GPP and the Campbell Institute. Ingraham is a past president of the National Association of Schools of Public Policy and Administration and a fellow of the National Academy of Public Administration. Philip G. Joyce, Assistant Professor of Public Administration, is Senior Associate for the GPP. Joyce has experience at both the state and federal levels, most recently at the Congressional Budget Office studying the federal budget process and performance measurement. He is past president of American Association for Budget and Program Analysis. Amy Schmit is the project manager. Lead responsibility at Government Executive is with Associate Editor Anne Laurent. Katherine Barrett and Richard Greene are Project Editors for Governing.

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