Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, is a sponsor of the bill.

Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, is a sponsor of the bill. Evan Vucci/AP

Senate Clears Bill to Improve Management of Federal Programs

Ernst-Heitkamp plan would create new OMB council and designated agency officers.

The Senate on Thursday passed a bill designed to curb government waste by using private-sector performance standards for federal programs and by creating new agency specialists in the discipline of program management.

The Program Management Improvement and Accountability Act (S. 1550) sponsored by Sens. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, and Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., passed by unanimous consent. It would require the deputy director for management at the Office of Management and Budget to create a Program Management Policy Council and direct agencies to appoint program management improvement officers. The Office of Personnel Management would be required to identify relevant skill sets and create related job classifications for program and project management.

The council and the new officers would then:

  • Adopt and oversee governmentwide standards, policies, and guidelines for program and project agencies;
  • Issue regulations and establish standards and policies for agencies in accordance with nationally accredited standards for program and project management planning and delivery issues;
  • Conduct portfolio reviews of high-risk programs; and,
  • Develop a five-year strategic plan for program and project management, to be submitted to Congress and OMB by the head of each agency.

“This bipartisan legislation puts our federal government back on track by streamlining efforts and outlining strategies to correct widespread deficiencies, lax oversight and unnecessary cost overruns incurred by preventable delays in meeting stated program goals and deadlines,” Ernst said. “By adopting widely accepted management standards that are often used in the private sector, these commonsense reforms ensure that taxpayer dollars are safeguarded by increasing accountability throughout the federal government."

The bill now heads to the House, where a companion bill was introduced in April by Reps. Todd Young, R-Ind., and Gerry Connolly, D-Va.

Many of the bill’s elements align with the agenda of the nonprofit Project Management Institute, whose president and CEO Mark Langley on Friday urged the House to pass the bill “as soon as possible to enhance the government’s ability to effectively manage its portfolio of projects and programs.”