President George W. Bush: Resources for the President's Team The White House
President George W. Bush meets with Dan Bartlett, center, and Josh Bolten in the Oval Office Jan. 9, 2003.  White House photo by Eric Draper.
The Deputy Director for Mgmt
PMA updates, best practices, and general information.
Grading Implementation of the PMA.
Human Capital
Initiative updates, best practices, and general information.
Commercial Services Management
Initiative updates, best practices, and general information.
Improving Financial Performance
Initiative updates, best practices, and general information.
Initiative updates, best practices, and general information.
Performance Improvement
Initiative updates, best practices, and general information.
Sharing Best Practices
Stories of achieving breaktrough results in government.
Department Updates


NASA Implements the President's Management Agenda

NASA Seal The vision and mission of NASA has changed from its former focus on Cold War competition to one of providing science-driven leadership in space and Earth sciences, aeronautics research, and space exploration. However, the ability to execute our mission is critically dependent on strengthening our financial and managerial credibility. We have been using the President's Management Agenda to address a number of weaknesses at NASA and we are seeing tangible changes as a result.

The NASA Approach

Sean O'Keefe, the NASA Administrator, made it clear in his meetings with all levels of NASA the central importance of successfully implementing the President's Management Agenda. We created an internal NASA scorecard with the OMB status and progress scores in each of the five areas of the PMA and a photo of the senior agency leader assigned to "champion" each area, i.e., human capital, competitive sourcing, financial management, e-government, and budget/performance integration. (See At every weekly senior staff meeting, the five PMA champions provide a status report on progress and difficulties to the Administrator.

Challenge:    Stimulate long-term organizational change in support of the President's Management Agenda.
Solution:    Establishment of the "Freedom To Manage" initiative.
Challenge:    Correcting financial management problems - like lack of sufficient documentation or poor tracking of contractor-held property - identified in last year's audit.
Solution:    Devote leadership attention, constant oversight, and resources to the goals of good financial management and a well managed audit.
One of the first steps we took was the creation of a formal agreement or action plan with OMB on the specific steps we would take to "get to yellow" and then "get to green" in each of the five PMA areas. (See The purpose of this was to ensure clear measures of success and a commitment from both the agency and OMB that goal lines would not move without mutual agreement of both parties. This approach has worked well in terms of building confidence within the agency that we are working toward well-defined goals. If there need to be changes to the action plans, as has been the case for our competitive sourcing and e-government efforts, those changes are brought to me as the Administrator's focal point and then negotiated with OMB.

We have a collaborative relationship with our OMB budget examiners who are familiar with the details of NASA programs. This has been aided in part by our decision to work through the existing NASA "chain of command" and not create a separate PMA office. For example, the champion for competitive sourcing is our head of procurement and the champion for financial management is our Deputy CFO. Thus the people who are accountable for the success of the action plans are the people with the authority to make decisions.

In the course of implementing our action plans, it was clear that internal agency teams needed to include cross-functional cooperation (e.g., integrating competitive sourcing with human capital changes). The PMA champions created an internal working group that meets periodically to ensure their efforts are synchronized. Virtually all problems are solved at the working level, but in rare instances where an issue needs to be elevated to the Administrator's Office, it is my job to ensure the issue is crisply and fairly presented and resolved.

Freedom to Manage

To support our work on the President's Management Agenda, NASA has developed an initiative titled "Freedom To Manage (F2M)," whose purpose is to stimulate long-term organizational change in support of the President's Management Agenda.

Shortly after organizing a Freedom to Manage Task Force made up of key managers and staff from NASA Headquarters and from all 10 NASA Field Centers, the Administrator devoted his monthly "NASA Update" television program in April to implementation of the President's Management Agenda at NASA. In the program, Mr. O'Keefe said that being creative and finding new ways to set aside bureaucratic obstacles for managers is at the heart of what Freedom To Manage and what the President's Management Agenda is all about. (

Through the NASA Update program, and later through NASA's in-house web site, Mr. O'Keefe invited his viewers, and subsequently all NASA employees and contractors, to freely share their best suggestions for removing barriers to management and agency performance in such categories as Human Resources, Procurement, Financial Management and External Relations/Intellectual Property.

Thus far, with the help of our employees, NASA's Freedom to Manage Task Force members have identified 350 potential barriers and impediments to efficient management that can be overcome through either internal change, negotiation with an external agency, or legislation. Examples of issues that the Task Force is currently pursuing or has already addressed include:

  • Delegating re-organizational authority to the NASA Centers.
  • Streamlining time and attendance reporting (eliminating an unnecessary timekeeper function).
  • Eliminating duplicative performance evaluations at the end of procurement.
  • Rescinding travel restrictions imposed last year in the wake of the September 11th terrorist attacks.

Given the number of suggestions that came in from around the agency, we added a Google-like search function to the F2M web site ( to allow agency staff to more easily determine what happened to their suggestion or if there were similar ideas or problems raised by others at NASA.

A detailed overview of one of the five PMA areas at NASA can be found in the following section.

Financial Management

NASA's status for financial management dropped from yellow to red early in 2002, due to a disclaimed opinion on our FY 2001 audit. The central challenge arose from difficulties in providing the accurate financial information required by our independent auditors on a timely basis. This was clearly unacceptable and senior managers at headquarters and our field centers worked intensely to make financial records available on schedule for this fiscal year's Financial Statement review. As a result, we reclaimed the clean opinion on our financial statements that we lost last year.

To do this, we instituted weekly status meetings on the financial audit. These meetings proved to be helpful in assessing where we need to focus our attention in delivering timely information to the auditors and a process to communicate issues and seek resolution. Contractor-held property has been a significant challenge for the agency and we are working vigorously with the auditors and the contractors. NASA has resolved all outstanding issues from the FY 2001 audit.

In addition to strengthening our financial statements, we have launched a significant effort within NASA to implement an automated integrated financial management system. NASA's Integrated Financial Management Program (IFMP) has successfully implemented the "core financial management module" at two Centers (known as Wave One). Given the success of the first wave, Wave Two is on schedule to rollout at four additional NASA Centers by February 2003, with complete implementation at all NASA Centers scheduled by July 2003. This is a major undertaking by the agency, and the long-term benefits of an integrated financial management system promise to enhance NASA's ability to use internal financial information to provide the American public with greater transparency and accountability.

Scott Pace, NASA Deputy Chief of Staff

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