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Thursday, July 20, 2006

On PAR at State: Bradford Higgins State Department CFO

"In September 2001, Bradford Higgins was working in executive splendor on Wall Street for Goldman Sachs.

A few months later, he was serving in Iraq and living in a dusty trailer in Baghdad's 120-degree heat.

He describes it as 'the best experience I've ever had.'

Higgins, the State Department's assistant secretary for resources management and chief financial officer, was deeply affected by the loss of several Wall Street friends who died in the Sept. 11 attacks. Soon afterward, he left the comforts of lower Manhattan to serve as CFO of the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq.

'We live in challenging times,' he said. 'And in these times, we really need to focus on results.'

As State's CFO, Higgins is responsible for the department's performance and accountability report, a 480-page snapshot of the department's financial, operational and management performance. Each agency is required by the Government Performance Results Act of 1993 to submit a PAR each year to the president, Congress and the Office of Management and Budget.

'The PAR is our scorecard,' Higgins said. 'It's the key to our planning and performance at State.'

On Wall Street, Higgins relied on an array of market indicators to show results. But showing the results of something as intangible as diplomacy requires the development of a new set of metrics. 'And it's hard to get money from Congress for things that aren't bricks and mortar,' he said.

The PAR uses three kinds of indicators to gauge the department's progress: contextual, outcome and output.

Contextual indicators show the big picture, outcome indicators measure the overall impact of a program and output indicators are measures specific to a particular program.

'Even though diplomacy is a soft science, you can measure outcomes,” said Kevin Covert, State’s performance management officer.

The department uses case studies and graphics to make the document more compelling. State’s PAR, Higgins said, 'tells a story.'"

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