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Thursday, March 15, 2007

Management agenda will set a course beyond Bush administration, OMB official predicts

The president’s management agenda will continue into the next administration because career employees support it, Clay Johnson, the Office of Management and Budget’s deputy director for management, told federal financial managers at a March 13 conference.

“The next administration is going to come in — Republican or Democrat — and once again the career staff is going to lead the way,” Johnson said. “The career staff is going to say ‘OK, sit down and let us tell you how to run this place. Here’s how we hold ourselves accountable.’

“I believe it’s you, the career staff, in every agency that gets some of this [institutionalized] for every agency,” he added. “The real reason it will continue is that it’s good for you and it’s good for your agencies.”

The president’s management agenda is an OMB-led effort to encourage a series of initiatives — financial performance, competitive sourcing, e-government, human capital management and budget-performance integration. While the PMA is accepted, it is far from universally popular with managers. Johnson’s pitch appeared aimed at converting managers into advocates for the effort.

He also called for Congress to fund management reforms. “It costs money to get good data,” he said. “It costs money to eliminate improper payments.”

Johnson spoke at a Washington conference on financial management hosted by General Service Administration’s Financial Systems Integration Office.

Government Accountability Office Comptroller General David Walker used a subsequent speech to deliver his well-honed talking points on the need to cut federal spending and deficits.

Walker said GAO is preparing to work with congressional allies to introduce legislation to increase financial reporting by the executive branch. One step would be requiring the White House to regularly submit longer-range budgets such as a 40-year plan. That would address shortfalls created by relying on five- and 10-year projections, Walker said.

Walker called for periodic “fiscal sustainability reports,” and said GAO hopes to produce annual, easy-to-read, reports on the government’s fiscal position.

Walker also said agencies need better metrics on how well programs perform. “For the most part, the government has no idea which ones are working,” he said.

-Daniel Friedman, FederalTimes.com

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