What We Need to do to Make Performance Improvements Stick
I wouldn't be surprised if you missed it. But did you know that, as part of this year's Budget Resolution, the House of Representatives endorsed the use of the Program Assessment Rating Tool (PART)? It's true. The House-passed Budget Resolution includes the following:
It is the sense of the House that . . . authorizing committees should actively engage in oversight . . . utilizing the performance evaluations submitted by such agencies (that are based upon the Program Assessment Rating Tool which is designed to improve agency performance) in order to enact legislation to eliminate waste, fraud, and abuse to ensure the efficient use of taxpayer dollars.
It's a small step, but an important one in our long march to enhance the government's focus on results.
As you know, getting Congress to make more of its decisions based on performance generally, and the PART specifically, is an important goal of this Administration. The Budget Resolution is a positive sign. But we have to do more so that Congress pays more attention to performance. Members of Congress and their staffs must be consulted on agency use of performance information in budget requests and legislative proposals. Before you send reams of performance information to unsuspecting Congressional officials, make sure that they are aware of what you are doing and the benefit it can be to them.
Getting to Green
Department of Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham and other Department of Energy officials have used PART assessments to advocate in favor of their requests of Congress. This is just one of the reasons that the Department of Energy achieved green in status for the Budget and Performance Integration Initiative. Most importantly, the Department of Energy set aggressive, outcome-oriented goals and routinely considers performance information to ensure that they are on track to achieve their goals.
The State Department also achieved green in status for the Budget and Performance Integration Initiative this quarter. To prepare its annual budget, the Department considers performance information, including PART results and the status of PART recommendations.
Congratulations to those at State and Energy for this major achievement. With seven agencies at green in status for the Budget and Performance Integration Initiative, we will be compiling for the use of other agencies detailed evidence of how these agencies proved performance information was a major factor in how they managed their Departments.
Documenting our Achievements
One of the things that distinguishes the Departments of State and Energy is the system they use to monitor both performance information and the implementation of PART recommendations to improve performance. We have devoted tremendous effort to setting better goals. Now our challenge will be to ensure - and prove - we are achieving them.
You may recall from last quarter's update that Clay Johnson sent a memo to all agencies to remind them how important it is that we track and regularly report the status of PART recommendations. Many of you are reporting to OMB the status of PART recommendations - all should be. With more of these systems in place, we should be able to show not only the performance improvements we have achieved, but also the efficiency with which we have achieved them.
We have not been setting clear, outcome-oriented goals just for the sake of setting good goals. We must use data to prove we are achieving results. Many agencies and programs have good news to report. In a meeting with the President this summer, I reported to him some of that good news:
- Health Centers: From 2000 to 2003, the program increased the number of uninsured, underserved and vulnerable people served by 30 percent. The program has a goal to serve 13.2 million people this year, up from 12.4 million in 2003. The long term goal is to create 1,200 new and expanded health center sites to serve an additional 6.1 million people by 2006.
- Broadcasting Board of Governors: The program set goals for weekly audience, program quality, signal strength and cost-per-listener. The program dramatically increased its reach to Arab speaking countries to an estimated 10.5 million listeners each week, up from just 3.9 million in 2002.
- National Weather Service: Increased its tornado warning lead time from 10 minutes to 12 minutes; improved its flash flood warning accuracy from 86 percent to 89 percent; and accurately predicted the tracks of hurricanes within 122 nautical miles. It has set goals to improve these and other key indicators of its ability to protect lives and property from destruction as a result of national disasters.
All programs should be able to state success as clearly as these can.
As you know, we have altered the Budget and Performance Integration Initiative criteria slightly so that in order to achieve and retain a status score of green, an agency must continue to demonstrate improved performance in the programs they administer. I will work with you to define exactly what that means for your agency.
One of the greatest challenges for agencies has been coming up with meaningful measures of the efficiency of programs. Ideally, programs should be able to tell how much it costs to produce a unit of what it is they are achieving. The Patent and Trademark Office, for instance, can tell you what it costs to issue a patent. The Department of Energy can tell you the cost of weatherizing a home. The Department of the Interior is trying to increase the pounds per dollar of healthy rainbow trout that is produced for recreation.
Of course, this isn't easy if your goal is to bring about world peace or cure a major disease. The PART asks what efficiency measures are in place in a program. We are getting better at this - now our challenge is to document our efficiencies and drive continuous improvement. You, through the PART, have asserted that we can get more for the American people with what we are spending today. Let's prove it.
Counselor to the Deputy Director for Management