OMB asks agencies for self-assessments

The administration conducts its first set of reviews of the three-to-eight high priority goals each agency set last year. OMB is encouraging agencies to conduct...

By Jason Miller
Executive Editor
Federal News Radio

The Office of Management and Budget conducted the first quarterly reviews of how agencies are meeting their individual high-priority goals.

Shelley Metzenbaum, OMB’s associate director for performance and personnel management, said the self-assessments were due Aug. 18, OMB reviewed them by Sept. 1 and started meeting with specific agencies on Sept. 20.

“Every agency goal leader had to do the measures, the quarterly targets and the milestones, and provide a narrative explaining to the public what they were trying to do and why,” Metzenbaum said Wednesday during a panel discussion in Washington sponsored by Government Executive magazine. “And if they didn’t meet a measure or if they didn’t meet a milestone, explain why they didn’t and what they are trying to do in the future.”

All of this information is in a new portal, called Metzenbaum said federal employees can view the online tool, but it is not yet available to the public.

“We are in the kicking the tires stage with,” she said. “What we are doing is not simple. I hope in the not too distant future we can make it open to the public.”

In the fiscal 2011 budget request, OMB asked each agency to choose three-to-eight high priority goals that are focused on outcomes specific to each agency’s mission. OMB listed the goals in the budget request. They included everything from the Defense Department proposing to improve its external civilian hiring end-to-end timeline to 112 days by 2011 to the Department of Housing and Urban Development committing to serve 5.46 million families, 207,000 more than in 2009, by the end of 2011.

Now that agencies have had almost a year to work on these 18-to-24 month goals, OMB wanted to see how things were going.

“We asked the OMB resource management officers or budget examiners, to do an assessment,” Metzenbaum said. “Then my office met with each of the RMOs and looked at the progress of each of the goals. We decided which ones look like they are on track…which ones may need some external help and if so, what kind of help? Do they just need us to bring another agency to the table or do they actually possibly need some technical expertise? On a goal by goal basis we are figuring out what the follow up should be and OMB is following up with each agency.”

She added that OMB doesn’t expect every goal to be met, but does assume agencies will be making a solid effort to meet the milestones.

OMB will continue to review the goals with agencies on a quarterly basis. Metzenbaum said the administration is encouraging deputy secretaries and performance improvement officers to hold agency-only reviews to keep the focus on the goals.

She said the Food and Drug Administration, the Treasury Department’s Bureau of Public Debt and the Transportation Department are a few of the agencies already holding such sessions.

“There are a lot of people at the table so that if you have a goal leader or bureau head who really needs to discuss something, this gives them for the first time, not around a crisis, gives you time to say here are the things we are trying to accomplish and all the relevant people are at the table,” she said.

When OMB finally makes public, it will not provide a governmentwide look at all the high-priority goals. Instead, Metzenbaum said, users can sort by agency goals, theme or by project type.

“You can sort to find out all the goals based on budget categories. Or you could search by a word, such as climate change,” she said. “It will not be the federal government’s full suite of climate change goals because these only will be the high priority goals. But it allows you to look a little more coherently so you can see what we are trying to do.”

The portal also will include a place for best practices and lessons learned. In fact, Metzenbaum said OMB asked the budget examiners to identify best practices that could be shared across government as part of their analysis of the progress reports.

Metzenbaum said OMB isn’t just waiting for best practices to emerge, but is trying to force them out.

She said a new Benefits Processing group will meet in the coming weeks to share ways to improve this function across government. OMB has convened the group to include at least the Social Security Administration and the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation.

“How do we tap into the existing networks and create new ones?” she said. “We are trying to strengthen our problem solving networks.”

OMB also is asking for $3 million in 2011 for three pilots to focus on shared goals around obesity, food safety and job training.

“The pilots are aimed to improve the performance management capabilities and practices of the multiple agencies and programs that work together toward common, priority outcomes,” said the administration in the budget justification.

The funding would let the agencies hire a people to run a program office to collaborate on solving a common problem.

“We think it is a good idea,” she said. “I don’t know if Congress will approve this. I hope they do.”

The General Services Administration’s Office of Governmentwide Policy would administer the funding as part of its $20 million to run the CXO councils.

Even as agencies are in the middle of their first set of high-priority goals, Metzenbaum said OMB will initiate the discussion later in 2011 about goals for 2012 to 2014.

OMB will issue new guidance in late-2011 detailing the next steps agencies should do around performance management. Metzenbaum said the guidance is in the early stages of development.

“In the FY12 budget process, some of the priority goals will continue on in the future, but agencies could say what they think are their goals are or if they new priority goals because a new law passed or whatever,” she said. “We made a decision not to use the FY12 budget process the same way we used the FY11 to get the conversation going because we wanted not to have the system always focused on goal setting, rather goal implementation.”

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