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Welcome to "Ask the White House" -- an online interactive forum where you can submit questions to Administration officials and friends of the White House. Visit the "Ask the White House" archives to read other discussions with White House officials.


Clay Johnson
Deputy Director for Management, Office of Management and Budget

February 9, 2006

Clay Johnson
Americans deserve to have the government spend their hard-earned tax dollars effectively, and better every year. The President, every member of Congress and every federal employee needs to be held accountable for getting results with the money they spend.

With the help of what we call the President's Management Agenda the federal government is getting better at managing our people, costs, investments, assets and programs; so we spend the taxpayers. money on real needs and get what we pay for. In general we clearly define the desired human resource, financial management, program management, etc. practices and then hold agencies accountable for adopting and establishing those practices.

We're making great progress. We're very committed to making these improvements because the President has made it clear that it's a priority. We're also very transparent about we are doing well and where we aren't, because we want to be held accountable for getting this done.

Michael, from Powell, TN writes:
Could you explain the new online tool

Clay Johnson
Michael, thanks for visiting This new website allows the general public to review the performance of every Federal program. Today the site includes assessments of almost 800 programs accounting for 80 percent of the Federal budget; the rest will be completed within a year. For every program assessed, visitors can find a rating of the program’s performance, its strengths and weaknesses, and the program’s improvement plan. also links to detailed program assessments and the program’s own site. Visitors can search for desired programs in many ways, including by type of program or rating. It shows where Federal programs are succeeding, admits where they fall short, and lays out what all programs are doing to get greater results.

Anonymous writes:
Hi Mr. Johnson, I was reading about the new bill that the President signed, The Deficit Reduction Act, and was impressed by what it will accomplish. There is no doubt that Medicare and Medicaid need to be streamlined and that future spending should be held to the amount budgeted.

In regards to other government programs, is the sight designed to allow for the average citizen to discuss or notify proper persons of problems they have experienced or noted regarding various government programs--almost like a "watchdog hotline" of sorts? If not, is there a forum for this? Thank you

Clay Johnson
Yes, there is information about how to provide general feedback. If you want to report some instance of waste, fraud or abuse you can go to

Bret, from Rockville MD writes:
Where can I find the list of the 141 programs that have been cut as stated as "Terminates or reduces 141 programs that are not getting results or not fulfilling essential priorities, for a proposed savings of $14.7 billion" at

Clay Johnson
The list of 141 programs that we are proposing for major savings and reform can be found online at These reductions will help meet the President’s deficit reduction goals and cut the deficit in half by 2009.

John, from Columbus, Ohio writes:
Dear Mr. Johnson, I have heard that the Federal Budget does not evaluate returns for certain programs, but instead funds them and actualy adds to them with the thought it will cost more the next year. For instance, food stamps while a good program is not being evaluated. It has its funding increased every year by whatever percent, even though Ohio is begging people to use the program. If we don't evaluate need, then how can we act fiscally responsible for the country. If people need it, then lets use it. If it isn't being used, then don't fund it. The question is how are we evaluating programs. Thanks

Clay Johnson
We use an instrument called the PART, a series of 25 or 30 questions we ask of each program. We have evaluated programs that account for 80% of the budget and will assess the remaining 20% this year. You can find more at

Kharis, from Boston ,MA writes:
Do you believe federal government will be able to recover from budget deficits incurred over the last few years without raising taxes for the people? Especially since health and social security experience short falls. Do you think republicans and democrats can put aside differences and become bipartisan? Alternatively, do you see a greater divide for future generations? Economically is it fair to say program funds are close to bankruptcy?

Thank you.

Clay Johnson
Yes. Yes. No. No.

Evan, from Sacramento, CA writes:
Sir,I have reviewed a number of sections of the proposed presidential budget and have only found explicit mention of only a few of the programs that are suggested to be terminated. Can you please provide an actual list of those programs and then post it online in an easy to find location? thank you for your time, Evan

Clay Johnson
The list of proposed reductions and eliminations can be found at

Jeff, from Ely, Nevada writes:
How does the new website measure the performance of government programs?

Clay Johnson
To produce the content for, OMB and Federal agencies assessed the programs using a standardized, objective approach called the Program Assessment Rating Tool, or PART. The PART consists of 25 questions about a program’s performance, design, and management. Once the assessments are complete, programs develop improvement plans to address PART findings. You can learn more about the PART here: /omb/expectmore/part.html

Roger, from St. Paul, MN writes:
I just read a Feb 6 Heritage Foundation report that suggests that Federal Expenditures are scheduled to exceed 70 of GDP by 2047. Shouldn't Republicans be disturbed by this prospect?

Clay Johnson
Ask your son, Alex.

Brian, from Center Point, IA writes:
At Many Programs are listed as "Results Not Demonstrated" does this mean the majority of these programs are not performing, or are they just not able to collect data?

Clay Johnson
Brian- A rating of Results Not Demonstrated indicates that a program has not been able to develop acceptable performance goals or collect data to determine whether it is performing.

Regina, from New York writes:
Did the President sign S1932 (Deficit Reduction Act of 2005)into law? If not, when is it anticipated that he might take this action?

Clay Johnson
Regina- Yes, the President signed the Deficit Reduction Act at a signing ceremony here at the White House yesterday. That law will be an important step towards slowing the growth of some of our entitlement program -- a key part of reducing the deficit. You can read the President’s remarks at yesterday’s ceremony here:

Cajus, from Dallas writes:
As the Deputy Director for Management, you must do a lot of interviewing and hiring. What are the characteristics that you look when interviewing someone for a manager position, and how big a role does a person's work experiencehistory play in getting hired?

Clay Johnson
I don't do much interviewing in my current position, but I did a lot of it in my previous position as the Assistant to the President for Presidential Personnel. My staff and I paid a lot of attention to previous work experience as we were trying to predict how someone will perform in the future based on an assessment of how they have performed in the past, preferably in similar situations.

Chris, from California writes:
Please explain the difference between discretionary spending and non-discretionary spending. Thanks.

Clay Johnson
Discretionary spending is the money Congress has to appropriate every year, while non-discretionary spending is mandatory programs like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid that increase automatically every year. The President has had great success slowing the rate of growth in discretionary programs – last year discretionary spending growth was below inflation and we hope to do the same. To slow the growth of non-discretionary spending, the President is proposing Social Security and Medicare reforms.

KIM, from south korea writes:
How have been you nice to meet you through even by e-mail. Looks like long face...why do blue? everything,s good why do worry about...Please smile more big smiling you can doyou,ve ability..absolutely

Now suggestion idoms you known to it ( you bet) 1.national income and product accounts 2.summary of theGNPidentity 3.externalities and the social value of output. Thanks so much God blessing with you

Clay Johnson
I am smiling.

Jason, from Schmidt writes:
How long does it take to complete the whole budget? How many people are involved in the planning and compiling of it? It seems like a rather dreadful task.

Clay Johnson
Jason- Producing the budget is a year-long process that involves not only the approximately 400 employees at OMB, but thousands of civil servants and political appointees throughout the Federal government. If you like public policy, management issues, and numbers, working at OMB is one of the best jobs in government.

Cliff, from Brimfield, Ohio writes:
Director Johnson: How are federal programs measured? In dollars spent vs results? Production in dollars spent or just how does one measure the programs in simple terms? Thank You

Clay Johnson
That’s a good question, Cliff. While some people may measure a programs’ success by how much it spends, the President believes we need look at a programs’ results. The President’s Management Agenda is putting the emphasis on results by demanding federal programs set goals and then reach them. To learn more about the PMA, please visit

Marty, from Lansing, Michigan writes:
The President's past history on budgets has show an unwillingness to cut spending; especially after Congress returns it to him for signing. When he gets this one back, will he veto it if it includes more spending than he suggests? If not, WHY?

Clay Johnson
Marty- The Administration works very hard with Congress to meet the President’s fiscal restraint goals, and we’ve had great success. For example, last year the Congress met the President’s goal of keeping discretionary spending growth below inflation; actually reduce non-security discretionary spending from the previous year’s level; and slow the unsustainable growth of mandatory spending.

Sami, from Maryland writes:
Im confused. Ive been looking at the Presidents Management Agenda scorecards, and I read the criteria. But the scorecards are too simplistic and the criteria too general for me to be able to tell what is going on. For example, NSF has a green in Human Capital, but a yellow in making progress in Human Capital. At the same time, GSA has had a yellow in Human Capital for two years, but a green in making progress in Human Capital over the same period. Whats GSAs holdup in getting to green? Where specifically is GSA lacking?

Clay Johnson
NSF has implemented and adopted the desired human capital practices; so they are rated green on status. Every agency has specific tasks they have agreed to do each quarter, whether they are green, yellow or red. NSF performed some of the tasks but not all; so they’re rated yellow on progress.

Kate, from Bethesda, MD writes:
What is it like to work at the White House?

Clay Johnson
The hours are long. No two days are alike. It’s an unbelievable honor.

Everyone is so committed to doing the right thing for America that it’s exhilarating. Sometimes you get wrapped up in your job and forget that it’s the White House, but then a friend or family member comes to visit and you’re reminded that there is only one White House and you’re working in it.

Clay Johnson
I encourage you to look at, our attempt to be very candid and transparent about where we are spending you money effectively and not, and in every case, what we are doing to get better. We want to be held accountable for serving our citizens and taxpayers well.

I also encourage you to look at, to learn more about the President's Management Agenda, our efforts to improve the way we spend and account for the taxpayers' money.

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