Hitting Our Pace
If you have ever run a long distance race, such as a 10K, you know there is a point fairly early on after about a quarter mile or so -- where your system starts to hit a rhythm. You start to get comfortable with the change from standing still to running. Your body has warmed up and everything starts to beat, breath, move together you hit a pace. This year we will start hitting our pace on Budget and Performance Integration.
The creation and implementation of the Program Assessment Rating Tool (PART) last year was not easy. And we are currently modifying the PART to improve areas people found needed some work. For example, some of the examiners using the PART continued to ask if a programs mission was an appropriate one for the federal government. This was a question that is important to ask, but not in the PART. So we are clarifying these questions. Overall, however, the revised PART will be very much like the old PART; so comparisons between the PART results for last year and results for this coming year will be informative.
The most important aspect of the review of last years PARTs that we will do this year is to focus on implementing the recommendations that came out of last years PART reviews. The recommendations address major weaknesses identified through the PART, and their successful implementation should improve PART ratings, which will indicate that programs are producing improved results. Therefore, we should not slavishly go back through each question and answer last years PART and see if the answer is the same or different. We plan to assume there is no change unless someone brings new information that would indicate otherwise. We will closely follow the implementation of the recommendations that came out of the PART process and then determine to what extent these efforts change the answers to PART questions before the next scores are released.
In particular, about half of the ratings on last years PARTs were Results Not Demonstrated. This was primarily because many programs do not have adequate performance measures. One of the recommendations for these programs was to establish such measures this year. We are working on tools that will help program managers identify measures that are adequate particularly for programs where measures seem problematic, like programs that have long-term goals or that contribute only a small amount of funding to a larger endeavor. These tools will be available on the web and as part of a training course later this spring.
In addition to working on last years PARTs, we are applying the PART to another 20 percent of federal programs this year. This should be a bit easier since we are starting earlier and many folks have been through the exercise once already. On the other hand, some of the programs may be tougher to do than last year as some agencies attempted to pick the low hanging fruit first programs which were easier to measure or had the best available data. And it may be impossible for OMB to formally review all these PARTs given the workload involved, but that should not be a limiting factor. Indeed, if the PART is as valuable as I suspect it is, it is natural that agencies will move faster than the five year schedule set out for formal PART ratings. I encourage agencies to use the PART. I know of at least one non-profit organization that is planning on posting, in one place, agencies own PART assessments on the web. This openness and transparency help the quality of the review and will lead to better recommendations for improving accountability and getting results.
Finally, I and others have noticed the increasing confusion between the overall Budget and Performance Integration criteria for red/yellow/green, the PART effort, and GPRA. We have clarified the criteria for the Budget and Performance Integration Initiative so that they explicitly make the connection between these other efforts. In short, the scorecard is intended to reflect the fact that GPRA documents must become more meaningful and must be used to actually make decisions regarding the management and resource needs of programs at an agency. The PART is intended to guide programs in this direction.
When senior managers and decision makers periodically sit down to review information that shows what results we are getting for what we are spending, and then use that information to make decisions for the purpose of improving program performance, we will know we are experiencing some success. At that point, we will be able to finally see the finish line.
The Five Initatives: