Budget summary is littered with management proposals

Obama administration pledges to reconfigure President Bush’s tool for evaluating effectiveness of federal programs.

Scattered throughout the more than $3 trillion fiscal 2010 budget the Obama administration outlined on Thursday are management initiatives designed to help the president meet his goal of cutting the federal deficit in half by the end of his first term.

The focus on making government more efficient is one reason the administration is confident it can return federal spending to a sustainable path, said Peter Orszag, director of the Office of Management and Budget. The deficit is expected to reach $1.75 trillion in fiscal 2009.

"There is solid evidence that each dollar spent on program integrity … yields $1.60 in savings and reduced erroneous payments," Orszag said. "This budget contains $50 billion in reduced errors in payments."

In addition to eliminating redundant or wasteful payments and programs, the Obama administration plans to "fundamentally reconfigure" the Program Assessment Rating Tool, a questionnaire the Bush administration used to determine which federal programs were effective.

The summary said Obama will address criticisms of PART by opening up the "insular performance measurement process" to the public, Congress and outside experts. The administration pledged to eliminate "ideological performance goals and replace them with goals Americans care about and that are based on congressional intent and feedback from the people served by government programs."

Programs will not be measured in isolation, but in the context of other programs serving the same population or meeting the same goals, the budget outline stated.

Obama also will attempt to find savings through contracting discipline and reforms. The president will implement Government Accountability Office recommendations on reducing payment errors, lowering procurement costs by using purchase cards, and improving property management, according to the summary.

Other procurement goals included reviewing agencies' use of sole source, cost-plus contracts; improving the quality of the acquisition workforce; and using technology to enhance transparency.

"We will review acquisition programs that are on the GAO high-risk list for being over budget and prone to abuse," the budget stated. "The administration also will clarify what is inherently a governmental function and what is a commercial one. Critical government functions will not be performed by the private sector for purely ideological reasons."

The administration will go after tax-delinquent federal contractors that owe the Treasury Department billions of dollars, according to the summary. While the Internal Revenue Service currently collects some of this debt by levying federal payments made to the contractors, administrative procedures sometimes prevent the government from recovering the entire sum owed.

"In fact, IRS loses the opportunity to collect approximately $114 million per year in tax debt because of administrative delays," the budget outline stated. "The budget proposes to address this problem by streamlining administrative processes in order to make it easier for IRS to collect tax debt owed by federal contractors."

The section devoted to Defense Department spending also focused on acquisition, stating that the Pentagon must reform its procurement processes by setting realistic requirements, sticking to them, and preventing programs from proceeding to the next stage of the acquisition cycle until the risk of cost and scheduling overruns has been reduced.