Tuesday, August 7, 2012
OMB has released a new performance framework for the federal government. It is embedded in its guidance to agencies on how they should prepare their budget requests for fiscal year 2014, which is called OMB Circular A-11.

requests for fiscal year 2014, which is called OMB Circular A-11.

Last week, the Office of Management and Budget released its annual technical guidance to agencies regarding how they should submit their budget proposals for fiscal year 2014 for OMB’s review this Fall.  It is referred to in budget circles as “OMB Circular A-11” and is nearly 800 pages in length.  It is typically a synthesis of existing guidance, executive orders, memoranda, etc., and is divided into a series of Parts. Normally it does not change much from one year to the next, and it typically only covers actions agencies should take in the coming year.

I always read the Part that deals with the Administration’s approach to various performance requirements required under the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA) – the development of agency strategic plans, annual performance plans, and annual performance reports.  It is generally short (last year’s was 33 pages) and there are normally just minor changes. 

But this year is different, largely because the guidance lays out how the Administration will implement the many new requirements in the GPRA Modernization Act signed by the President last year.  By one count, the new law contains 152 new requirements or changes to existing law.  So, naturally, I was curious as to how OMB would go about implementing it.

The new guidance is more than double the length of last year’s (82 pages).  It expands on a previous OMB memo and details a multi-year, phased approach to implementing the new requirements.  It does a good job of describing the integration of many “moving parts” that need to come together in coming years.  Here are the highlights:

  • A federal performance framework. This section describes the roles and responsibilities of various officials (such as agency chief operating officers), provides definitions of the many terms used in the performance arena, and lays out a timetable for action.  This section is a substantial revision.
  • Public reporting. The new law requires a one-stop performance web portal for all performance plans, reports, and programs across the government.  This section describes what gets reported, by when.  This section is new.
  • A federal performance plan and cross-agency goals.  The new law requires OMB to develop a federal performance plan that details key cross-agency priority goals.  This section is new.
  • Agency strategic plans.  The new law changes the timing of when agencies are to update their multi-year strategic plans to align them with the 4-year term of office for the president.  The guidance lays out a new timetable, with all agencies submitting new plans by February 2014.  This section is a revision.
  • Agency performance plans.  The new law requires agencies to more tightly link their annual performance plans to their multi-year strategic plans, to the cross-agency goals, and to their own priority goals.   Agencies must also identify “lower priority program activities” at least 5 percent of their discretionary budget), as required by the new law. This section is a revision.
  • Agency priority goals.  The new law requires the 24 largest agencies to identify between 2 – 8 “priority goals.”  The guidance lays out a process for refining or replacing existing priority goals, with drafts due to OMB by early summer 2013.  This section is new.
  • Annual performance reports.  Agencies typically report on their past year’s performance in November, as part of their financial reporting, or in February, as part of their budget submissions.  The new law encourages more frequent reporting, on at least their priority goals.  This section is a revision.
  • Performance and strategic reviews.  The new law requires two sets of reviews.  One is quarterly reviews of progress on agency priority goals.  The other is an annual review and assessment of agency performance goals and objectives.  The quarterly reviews have been a part of the Obama Administration’s performance agenda, so they have been piloted.  But the second set of reviews – of performance goals and objectives – is a new requirement that OMB plans to phase in.  This section is new, and  it is elaborated upon in a separate post.
  • Federal program inventory.  The new law requires a central list of all federal programs, along with a description, financing, and performance information for each.  This will be a massive undertaking, starting with the difficulty of defining what constitutes a program in the first place!  This section is new, and it is elaborated upon in a separate post, as well.

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