Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., was one of the lawmakers who introduced the bill.

Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., was one of the lawmakers who introduced the bill. J. Scott Applewhite/AP

House Members Pursue Holy Grail of Federal Program Efficiency

Bipartisan bill would create project manager career path, standards.

In a sign of new visibility for the three-year-old congressional Government Efficiency Caucus, two House members on Thursday introduced a bill to create a new agency program management career path and set project efficiency standards governmentwide.

The Program Management Improvement and Accountability Act (H.R. 2144) would allow the caucus to coordinate implementation of leading practices by:

  • Creating a formal job series and career path for program managers;
  • Developing a standards-based model for program management consistent across government;
  • Recognizing the key role of executive sponsorship and engagement by having each agency designate a senior program management policy and strategy executive; and,
  • Aligning cross-government approaches through an interagency council on program management. 

The bipartisan bill was introduced by Reps. Todd Young, R-Ind., a former management consultant, and Gerry Connolly, D-Va., a former think tank researcher and county supervisor.

Much of the thinking behind the bill came from decades of research by the nonprofit Project Management Institute, a services consultancy based in Newtown Square, Pa. “By adopting program management standards, organizations increase collaboration, improve decision making and reduce risk,” the institute said in a release welcoming the bill. “The research also shows that utilizing proven best practices and standards reduces wasteful spending and increases the efficiency of managing a program.”

Mark Langley, PMI president and CEO, told Government Executive he is confident that lawmakers will view project management—a topic that could be considered dull and in the weeds-- as important and substantive. “Government organizations waste an average of $119 million for every $1 billion spent on projects and programs due to poor project performance. With numbers like that, how ‘in the weeds’ can this be?” he said. “There’s a misconception among lawmakers and government agencies that strategy and projects aren’t linked. Some have a mind-set that strategy is done at the higher levels, while projects are something separate that belong to another part of the organization, and project management is a technical competency.  However, all strategic change happens through projects and programs.”

Langley also said the bill “fits nicely” in the newly enacted Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act, which empowers chief information officers, as well as the acquisition workforce reforms being pursued by House Armed Services Committee Chairman Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas. It does so by “equipping the government with the means to effectively blend skilled disciplines and leading practices into a sound acquisition program management framework,” he said.