GAO: President’s Management Agenda A Very Positive Initiative

GAO praised the administration’s implementatio of the President’s Management Agenda and the subsequent results – but cautioned there is still much to be done.

If the Bush administration was looking for the Government Accountability Office support for one of its initiatives, it has found it, and in a big way, with the President’s Management Agenda – the administration’s strategy to achieve policy and program goals through reform of federal management and improved program performance (See the PMA here.)

While GAO and the administration have differed on several issues, including the use of paid informants to push certain administration-backed initiatives, the government’s auditing agency issued praise for the establishment and subsequent results to date of the PMA.

Implementation of the PMA has been a “very positive initiative” that has served to “raise the visibility of key management challenges, increased attention to achieving outcome-based results, and reinforced the need for agencies to focus on making sustained improvements in addressing long-standing management problems,” including many items on GAO’s high-risk list.

GAO’s work shows that agencies have made progress in the areas covered by the PMA, and the Office of Management and Budget has indicated it will continue to focus on high-risk areas during the President’s second term.

However, GAO also said agencies face numerous challenges – especially as they relate to financial performance. GAO said while agencies have made significant progress in meeting accelerated financial statement reporting deadlines, improvement lags on many financial management reforms, especially at the Department of Defense which needs to overhaul its financial and business operations. According to GAO:

  • The PMA established a separate initiative for improper payments to ensure that agency managers are held accountable for meeting the goals of the Improper Payments Information Act of 2002. Effective implementation of this Act will be an important step toward addressing this area, which involves tens of billions of dollars.
  • The PMA recognizes that people are an important organizational asset. A government-wide framework for advancing human capital reform is needed to avoid further fragmentation within the civil service, ensure management flexibility as appropriate, allow a reasonable degree of consistency, provide adequate safeguards within the overall civilian workforce, and help maintain a level playing field among federal agencies competing for talent.
  • The initiative to integrate management and performance issues with budgeting is critical for progress in government performance and management. OMB’s Program Assessment Rating Tool (PART) is designed to use results-oriented information to assess programs in the budget formulation process. However, more should be done to assess how each program fits within the broad portfolio of tools and strategies used to accomplish federal missions.
  • Many e-government initiatives are showing tangible results. However, the government continues to face challenges, such as establishing a federal enterprise architecture intended to provide a framework to guide agencies’ enterprise architectures and investments.
  • The inclusion of real property asset management on the PMA, an executive order, and agencies’ actions are all positive steps in an area that had been neglected for years. However, the underlying conditions—such as excess and deteriorating properties—continue to exist. More needs to be done in areas such as improving capital planning among agencies.

About the Author

Ralph Smith has several decades of experience working with federal human resources issues. He has written extensively on a full range of human resources topics in books and newsletters and is a co-founder of two companies and several newsletters on federal human resources. Follow Ralph on Twitter: @RalphSmith47