Some aspects of Bush management agenda could endure

Bush'shandlingoftheeconomy?Changeisontheway.America'scredibilityabroad?They'llfixit.Globalwarming,healthcareandfederalspending?Thecurrentpresident'spoliciesappearfinished.Whenitcomestogovernmentmanagementandreform,however,neithercandidateillustratedavisionthatwasdramaticallydifferentfromtheoneBushoutlinedeightyearsago.

"Whatmattersmostisperformanceandresults,"BushsaidofhisPresident'sManagementAgendain2002."Inthelongterm,therearefewitemsmoreurgentthanensuringthatthefederalgovernmentiswell-runandresults-oriented."

NowcomparethosewordstoObama'sduringaSept.22speechinGreenBay,Wis."Wewillfiregovernmentmanagerswhoaren'tgettingresults;wewillcutfundingforprogramsthatarewastingyourmoney,"hesaid.AndMcCaininArlington,Va.,onJune3said:"Iwanttofreezediscretionaryspendinguntilwehavecompletedtop-to-bottomreviewsofallfederalprogramstoweedoutfailingones."

Bush'sapprovalratingsareparkedsouthof30percent,buthismanagementagendahasbeensomewhatsuccessful.ThefivekeytenetsofthePMA-strategicallymanaginghumancapital,encouragingpublic-privatejobcompetition,improvingfinancialreporting,expandingelectronicgovernmentandintegratingperformance-havebecomestandardoperatingproceduresingovernmentduringthepasteightyears.

President-electObamaundoubtedlywillwanttostamphisownimprintonmanagementreform,possiblydoingawaywithstoplight-stylescorecards,forexample,butthecorefocusofthePMAcouldbearoundforyearstocome."Weexpecttheagendatobemoresimilarthanitwouldbedifferent,"saysJonDesenberg,seniorpolicydirectorforthePerformanceInstitute,anArlington,Va.-basedthinktank."Ofcourse,thenameswouldchange,butIthinkthecenterpiecetoeverything...isthattop-to-bottomreviewoffederalprograms."

Managementobserversanticipatefinancialreporting,electronicgovernmentandhumancapitalinitiativeshavethebestchanceofsurvivingintact,becauseoftheirrelativesuccessasmuchastheirlackofpoliticalcontroversy.Mostagreegovernmenthasmadesignificantstridesinfinancialreporting.Allmajoragenciesnowissuetheirfinancialstatementswithin45daysoftheendofthefiscalyearandallbutfivereceivedapassingscoreontheirlastaudits.Obamaisn'tlikelytoriskreversingthistrend.

Dittowiththee-governmentagenda,whichadvancedtheClinton-eragoalofdeliveringmoreservicesandinformationonlinetocitizens.WhilecriticssaytheinitiativeshouldfocusmoreoninformationsecurityanddefiningastandardITinfrastructure,theoverridingconcentrationone-govisheretostay.

ObamawillhavelittlechoiceinadoptingtheBushadministration'shumancapitalplanforimprovingthefederalworkforceandboostingrecruitmentandretention.InApril,theOfficeofPersonnelManagementquietlypostedanoticeintheFederalRegistercementingtheadministration'sentirehumancapitalplan,includingkeymetricsforknowledgemanagementandworkforceplanning,infederalregulations.

"Regardlessoftheadministration,wethinkthatwhatisinregulationisjustgoodbusinesssense,"saysKevinMahoney,OPM'sassociatedirectorofhumancapitalleadership."Anditmakessensetofollowtheframeworkandusetheframeworktokeeptheprogressthatwehavemadeoverthepastsixorsevenyearsgoing."Thenoticedoesnottiethenextadministration'shands,hesays,andthemetricscanbechangedasneeded.

MarkRoth,generalcounselfortheAmericanFederationofGovernmentEmployees,calledthenotice"ludicrous."Itwould"takelessthantwomonthstorescinditwithonesentenceintheFederalRegisterif[Obama]choosesadifferentPMAprogram,"hesays."Soultimately,verylittleharmisdone."

TwocontroversialPMAobjectives-performanceimprovementandcommercialservicesmanagement,formerlyknownascompetitivesourcing-areinthemostjeopardy.ObamahaspledgedtodrasticallyrestructuretheProgramAssessmentRatingTool,whichevaluatestheperformanceofeveryfederalprogram.CriticssayPARThassuppliedasignificantamountofusefuldata,buttheycomplainthatit'sideologicallydrivenandshouldbebetterintegratedwiththebudgetprocess.

Officialsareconfidentthatsomeformofprogramreviewwillcontinue."Therearesomeopportunitiestoassessgovernmentperformancedifferentlythanwe'vedone,"saysDustinBrown,theOfficeofManagementandBudget'sdeputyassistantdirectorformanagement."Butthecoreprinciplesarethesame.We'vejustbeguntoscratchthesurfaceatnewandinnovativewaystolookatgovernmentperformance."

Thesamecan'tbesaidofcompetitivesourcing.PrivatesectorjobcompetitionsarewildlyunpopularwithDemocratsandthelaborunions,allofwhichbackedObama.FederalcontractorshavegrowntiredofCongressrepeatedlyoverturningcompetitionresultsandlargelyhavethrowninthetowel.ApairofbillsthatwouldhavesuspendednewjobcompetitionsforthenextyearatcivilianagenciesandforthreeyearsattheDefenseDepartmentfailedtobecomelaw,butmostagreecompetitivesourcingisallbutdead.

"ThelandscapeinCongressisagainstit,"saysRobertShea,OMB'sformerassociatedirectorofadministrationandgovernmentperformanceandnowdirectorofconsultingfirmGrantThornton'sglobalpublicsector."It'shangingonbyafingernail."


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