The President’s Management Agenda – A week, a year, an era

Just over a week ago, Office of Management and Budget Deputy Director for Management (DDM) Margaret Weichert hosted a celebration marking the first year of this administration’s President’s Management Agenda (PMA). At this event, a variety of government leaders and external stakeholders gathered to mark the importance of management as a strategic imperative. The current PMA is premised on a foundational “double trio” of drivers that link IT modernization, data strategy and workforce improvement to better results for the nation, in terms of mission performance, service delivery and fiscal stewardship.

The recent event culminated a week that focused on management issues implemented since the new PMA was launched in Kansas City, Kan. one year ago. Other highlights from last week included:

  • A set of panel discussions led off by DDM Weichert, Federal CIO Suzette Kent, and Administrator of General Services Administration Emily Murphy at the National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA).
  • The release of a book by NAPA with reflections on the PMA, edited by NAPA Fellow Alan Balutis with chapters written by 13 fellows (including a chapter on IT modernization that I was honored to contribute), and a foreword from the DDM.
  • The launch of the Government to University (G2U) initiative led by the Volcker Alliance, which will bring together people, skills and research from a network of universities around the country connected to local, state and national governments in a manner very consistent with the PMA priority for a Government Effectiveness Advanced Research (GEAR) Center; the first two G2U sites are in Austin and, appropriate to the establishment of the PMA last year, Kansas City (here are more details from my colleague John Kamensky).
  • And leading off the week was the release of the Analytical Perspectives document from OMB as part of the President’s Budget request, which includes significant detail on the PMA and other management efforts especially in chapter 6 on evidence and effectiveness, chapter 7 on workforce and chapter 19 on technology.

The coalescence of these and related management priorities expand efforts of government working with industry, non-profit and academic counterparts to ideate, pilot, implement, and share effective practices—which agencies leverage every day to deliver thousands of services and provide countless information resources that help and inform the nation. Given the successful leadership, governance, and implementation during the current PMA’s first year, the second year will certainly see continued management progress.

Weichert noted in her remarks at NAPA that the current PMA builds on work of many past and present management leaders, a point echoed in one of the panel sessions by Dave Mader, who served as the OMB controller in the last administration.

The progression of initiatives introduced through President’s Management Agendas represents an important, bipartisan tradition—an era lasting over two decades, in which one administration has handed the management baton off to the next, who has then expanded and added to the PMA.  Reflecting back on this progression, clear patterns emerge:

  • The 1990s: The National Partnership for Reinventing Government brought together teams of change agents under the auspices of the Vice President, who worked with OMB to develop and pilot numerous management reforms to modernize government. One of those initiatives was the development of the first web portal for the US Government, FirstGov, which continues today as USA.Gov.
  • The 2000s: The first formal President’s Management Agenda was introduced in 2001, led by OMB and the President’s Management Council, and focused many initiatives from NPR into five strategic areas of reform:
    • Implementing electronic government;
    • Strengthening human capital;
    • Integrating performance information with budget decision making;
    • Improving financial management; and
    • Modernizing acquisition through competitive sourcing.

The first three of these priority areas laid a foundation for current PMA priorities around IT modernization, workforce improvement and overall performance. The last two have evolved to inform other PMA initiatives that focus on reducing improper payments and implementing category management to help agencies procure more effectively.

  • The 2010s: The next PMA, built over several years beginning in 2009, centered on efforts to make the setting of priority goals more systematic and part of overall agency budget, strategic planning, and performance management activities. The development of “cross-agency priority” (CAP) goals as a high-level, government wide process to focus on key challenges was introduced, bolstered by a revised management statute (the GPRA Modernization Act of 2010).

Among the CAP Goals of this period were “delivering smarter IT,” “buying as one through category management,” “expanding shared services to increase quality,” and “bridging the barriers from lab to market” — each of which (and several others) have continued into the current PMA (for more information, see the 2017 IBM Center report on Cross-Agency Priority Goals).

The current PMA — celebrated over the past week and implemented over the past year — builds on and enhances efforts that occurred over two decades, and importantly adds data as a core goal for government management. This work is often unnoticed by citizens who have little daily contact with government — though who daily depend on government management, whether driving on interstate highways in cars that meet government-issued safety standards, traveling to national parks that are well maintained by skilled government park staff, or receiving social services delivered by caring professionals who work in health, education and similar agencies.

For federal employees and other stakeholders, the PMA creates a path to help agencies both work together and achieve their individual missions in a way that can save money and time. The PMA gives agencies shared goals and creates interagency linkages that help government better perform on the broad range of important and highly diverse programs.

In the current PMA, OMB is leading efforts to raise awareness of the importance of management stewardship to improve government mission performance in serving the nation. This import results from an era of activities that continue to set the stage to build a government for the future that works effectively on behalf of the American people.

Dan Chenok is the executive director for the IBM Center for The Business of Government. Dan worked at OMB for 14 years, ending his tenure as the head of OMB’s Information Policy and Technology office..

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