Budgeting for Results with the Help of the PMA
By: Clay Johnson III
The President takes seriously the obligation to spend taxpayer money wisely and on programs that work.
Bringing discipline to a $2.5 trillion budget is not an easy task. You canít simply call for an across-the-board cut in funding to all agencies, regardless of their mission or the results they deliver. President Bush has rejected this notion, and instead has set clear priorities and used performance-based budgeting to ensure the maximum return on taxpayer dollars. As we work to cut the deficit in half, the President uses performance-based budgeting to better determine the appropriate use of taxpayer resources and focuses on two key questions:
Which programs in the federal government meet the priorities of the nation?
Which programs are delivering measurable results?
Under such performance-based budgeting, those agencies and programs that produce results in priority areas are more likely to receive priority in funding, while those that do not meet their goals are likely to see funding reductions.
This performance-based model is in many ways elemental. Yet, when President Bush came to office four years ago, such an approach to budgeting was impossible Ė prior administrations had never effectively measured the success of federal programs in a consistent manner, based on common standards.
A most significant part of the Presidentís Management Agenda is the requirement that every federal program be assessed to determine whether or not it is achieving desired results at an acceptable cost to taxpayers. Now, more than 60 percent of all federal programs have been assessed and those assessments are being used to guide the Presidentís Budget.
This Administration has always been committed to results. We know taxpayer money is well spent when a program demonstrates a measurable, positive impact For example, we are confident that taxpayer dollars are successfully invested when a program charged with supporting troubled youth demonstrates clear results through increased school attendance and decreased law enforcement contacts among its participants, even as it provides those quality services at decreasing costs.
Although many programs are meeting their goals, some are unable to demonstrate a definitive positive impact. Continuing to fund programs that donít work without fixing them would be irresponsible. For instance, we cannot afford to continue funding a family education program when three independent evaluations indicate it has failed to meet its goals in providing quality early childhood education, adult education, and parenting education.
Nor can we afford to continue funding a program that, despite spending billions of dollars in grants, still cannot measure its impact on cities and neighborhoods.
This year, to more responsibly use taxpayer dollars, we propose diverting funding from ineffective programs or those unable to demonstrate results to activities more likely to have a positive impact. Additionally, for some programs, funding is being held constant or reduced until specific steps are taken to address known weaknesses in program management or design.
The end result of this performance-based approach to the budget is significant: we can produce maximum results with the money we propose to spend.
The Presidentís budget shows that priorities and results matter. Proposing a cut in funding for an ineffective program does not mean the Administration is abandoning the goals of that program. It means the Administration is committed to ensuring that taxpayer dollars are used for programs that have a positive, measurable impact. For 2006, the President proposes a budget that ensures that taxpayers get the best results for their money.
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