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Friday, November 16, 2007

Bush orders agencies to appoint 'performance improvement officers'

President Bush has issued an executive order requiring heads of federal agencies to set clear annual goals, lay out specific plans for achieving them, and designate "performance improvement officers" to assess progress toward meeting the goals and report on it to the public.

With the order, issued Tuesday and detailed at a press briefing today, the Bush administration hopes to establish a lasting legacy for its management improvement agenda.

The performance improvement officers will be required to oversee agencies' "strategic plans, annual performance plans and annual performance reports as required by law," the order states. The officers also will review the goals of agency programs to determine if they are "sufficiently aggressive toward full achievement of the purposes of the program," and "realistic in light of authority and resources assigned to the specified agency personnel."

Robert Shea, OMB's associate director for management, said the position of performance improvement officer could be assigned to a career employee in order to establish continuity through the next administration, although a final decision has not been made. If a political appointee is named to the role, Shea said, there must be a career official in place that is capable of carrying on the initiative during the next administration.

The order stipulates only that the officer should be a "member of the Senior Executive Service or equivalent service."

The order, which OMB hopes to fully implement by the end of 2008, also mandates the creation of a Performance Improvement Council, chaired by Johnson and including all performance improvement officers and other relevant agency officials.

The impetus for the executive order, Johnson said, was a meeting last year in which President Bush explained that his goal was not only for agencies to earn high grades on his administration's management score card -- which uses a stoplight system of green, yellow or red ratings to assess performance -- but for federal officials to use these tools to "make sure agencies are working better."

The order would formalize many of the administration's performance improvement efforts, some of which have been carried out informally for the past several years, and would build upon initiatives such as the Program Assessment Rating Tool.

-Robert Brodsky, GovExec.com
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