House passes bill to improve agency performance

Legislation requires agencies to designate senior officials to serve as chief operating and performance improvement officers.

This story has been updated. House lawmakers on Tuesday afternoon approved a bill that would dramatically reform the federal government's ability to track and improve agency performance.

The 2010 Government Performance and Results Modernization Actpassed by a vote of 216-139. Eight Republicans voted for the bill, while one Democrat voted against it. The Senate unanimously passed its version last Thursday.

"This bill will make the government more effective, more efficient and improve the performance of federal agencies," said Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, the bill's chief sponsor.

The first major revision to the landmark 1993 Government Performance and Results Act, the new legislation would require agencies to designate senior officials to serve as chief operating and performance improvement officers. The COO likely would be an agency deputy secretary while the performance improvement officer would be a senior executive.

These two officials would be responsible for finding significant cost savings through the elimination of redundant programs, and for better coordinating common administrative functions such as purchasing.

The bill also mandates that agencies post quarterly performance updates on a single government website instead of submitting them to Congress annually.

In addition, agencies would be required to identify little-used or outdated reports required by the executive branch or Congress, with an aim toward reducing such reports by 10 percent within a year. In subsequent years, the Office of Management and Budget director will set a goal for eliminating even more reports. Critics argue the reporting requirements associated with the original Government Performance and Results Act are onerous and often unnecessary.

Some Republicans, however, expressed opposition to the measure. Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., said the bill was severely flawed because it does not directly address methods to eliminate or consolidate government programs. "This will not end the perpetual funding of failed federal programs," Foxx said.

Critics also argue that the bill merely codifies what President Obama has already begun to implement. "[The bill] is written by the administration, codified by the Senate and sent over to us in the 11th hour," said Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., the incoming chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, who voted against the measure.

The bill, which was widely expected to sail to passage with little to no controversy, hit a speed bump in the Senate in early November when procurement analysts raised questions about a provision that some believed could prevent contractors from assisting with GPRA-required plans -- a lucrative business in the Washington region for federal consulting firms.

Senate Democrats acquiesced to those concerns, submitting committee report language clarifying that contractors and grantees can assist agencies and departments "in the preparation of these [GPRA] plans and reports." The bill then passed by unanimous consent. Industry officials said on Tuesday they now fully support passage of the legislation.

Since the House bill is identical to the version the Senate passed, it now heads to President Obama for signature.