Assessing the Obama Administration's Performance Agenda
The CRS report is relatively silent on the potential impact of the recently-signed GPRA Modernization Act on congressional involvement in setting government-wide priorities. But it does a good job reprising the history of President Obama’s performance initiatives over the past two years, including:
- The promise to create a “chief performance officer” reporting to him
- The promise to replace the Program Assessment Review Tool (PART) with a new Performance Improvement and Analysis Framework
- The appointment of Jeff Zients as the chief performance officer, and as deputy director for management at the Office of Management and Budget
- A commitment to a governmentwide performance portal
- The creation of “high-priority performance goals”
- A commitment to program evaluation
- The outlining of six “performance strategies” for the Administration’s Accountable Government Initiative.
The report notes that the promise to create a “New Performance Improvement and Analysis Framework” seemed to have fizzled Zients outlined five principles for developing such as system in congressional testimony in October 2009, but no such “framework” has yet been announced. Nevertheless, the Administration has been working on implementing some of the elements of these principles, such as the creation of cascading goals and “relentless” reviews of performance against plans. The framework’s principles have also been reflected in the newly-passed GPRA Modernization Act, as well.
The report offers two key areas for potential oversight:
- Assessing the quality, coverage, and relevance of program evaluations or measurements that are prepared by agencies and provided to Congress for its use in decision-making. Are the findings appropriately qualified and presented? Who defines success in programs that have multiple goals that trade off against one another?
- The need to establish or modify federal performance-related policies and processes, such as program evaluations, planning, and budgeting. Are agencies appropriately balancing their priorities between “getting the work done” and capacity-building?
The report concludes: “significant aspects of the Administration’s performance-related agenda have yet to be articulated. . . if remains to be seen if previous announcements of plans will come to fruition. . . “ and if the Administration “. . . draws on previously announced plans or moves in a new direction.”
So we’ll find out what happens when President Obama releases his FY 2012 budget proposal in the next couple weeks!