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Bush budget rips agencies’ management in key areas

The Bush administration’s proposed fiscal 2003 budget includes a scathing critique of the federal government’s performance, giving almost every agency failing grades in each of five key categories of management.

The Bush administration's proposed fiscal 2003 budget includes a scathing critique of the federal government's performance, giving almost every agency failing grades in each of five key categories of management.

"The federal government is not a well-managed enterprise," Office of Management and Budget Director Mitch Daniels said at a budget briefing Monday. "This is not exactly shocking news."

The budget includes a scorecard rating agencies in five areas: human capital management, competitive sourcing, financial management, electronic government and linking performance to budgets. It uses a simple "traffic light" grading system: green for success, yellow for mixed results, and red for unsatisfactory.

Only the National Science Foundation received a green light in any category-for its financial management. Of the other 129 grades on the scorecard, 110 are red and 19 are yellow.

"The initial scorecard shows a lot of poor scores, reflecting the state of government this administration inherited," the budget says. Budget officials noted, however, that the administration had deliberately chosen to evaluate areas with the most obvious deficiencies in performance across the government.

The administration pledged to update the report twice a year, issuing a mid-year report during the summer in addition to the annual budget report.

Sen. Fred Thompson, R-Tenn., ranking member of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, praised the management initiatives in the budget, saying the document "puts unprecedented emphasis on improving both the efficiency and the effectiveness of the federal government. And that is great news for the future of good government."

The budget makes it clear that in attacking the management problems, the goal is to improve performance while holding spending increases to a minimum-or even cutting costs.

"Improvements in the management of programs can result in greater results for less money by realizing the same productivity gains commonly expected in the private sector," the budget says.

The budget includes a pitch for the administration's proposed Freedom to Manage Act, which is designed to identify and remove barriers to successful management that have been placed on agencies. It notes, for example, that the Agriculture Department is barred from closing or relocating even a single state Rural Development Office.

"Federal managers are greatly limited in how they can use financial, human and other resources to manage programs; they lack much of the discretion given to their private sector counterparts to get the job done," the administration concludes in the budget.

The budget also touts the 2001 Managerial Flexibility Act, which would give agencies more flexibility to fire, hire and retain employees; require the full cost of retirement for employees to be included in agencies' budgets; and overhaul federal property management regulations. The administration also pledged to seek expedited congressional approval of plans for reorganizing agencies. Presidents had such authority for 50 years prior to 1984, when the reorganization law expired.

The budget also recommends transferring several programs "littered across government in sometimes very disorganized ways." These include shifting state and local anti-terrorism programs from the Justice Department to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, transferring veterans employment grants from the Labor Department to the Department of Veterans Affairs and moving an environmental education program from the Environmental Protection agency to the National Science Foundation.