Agencies highlight accomplishments, prepare for new performance goals

Friday - 2/14/2014, 5:07am EST

Jason Miller on In Depth.

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The White House will issue new performance goals for agencies as part of its fiscal 2015 budget request to Congress on March 4.

This would be the third time agencies updated their three-to-eight high priority goals since the Obama administration took office in 2009, and the first time the administration revised the cross-agency priority goals since 2011.

Over the past year, agencies and the Office of Management and Budget have worked on coming up with either new goals or expanding current goals based on how much progress they made over the last few years.

Beth Cobert, the OMB deputy director for management, said in the 2015 budget request, the administration will establish a new strategic plan that will highlight both new agency-specific and new cross-agency goals.

"We are actively working through the budget process to update the goals — both the agency goals and the cross-agency priority goals. It's been a process where we too have tried to apply the lessons learned," Cobert said Thursday during a briefing with reporters. "We've been in active dialogue with the agencies to make sure we have goals that are defined clearly, and to make sure we have goals that are implementation focused. And we've been in a process to figure out how do we define new goals and not just keep goals on a list, but keep those goals visible. It's been a very active dialogue with OMB, the agencies and across agencies to make sure we have goals that are meaningful, that will be measurable and will drive important results for the American people."

More user-friendly portal

Part of this update of goals will be more to put data on Performance.gov, as well as to improve its usability features.

Performance.gov is potentially useful, one former federal official said, but it's hard to compare progress, and the site is less than user friendly.

OMB recently hired Lisa Danzig to lead the day-to-day performance management effort.

In addition to the new goals, OMB updated the progress on the current agency specific and cross-agency priority goals.

A new report from OMB highlights how agencies met or exceed their goals over the last two years.

For example, the Treasury Department sent more money out electronically in 2012 and 2013 than via paper check.

Treasury reported the number of paper benefit payments sent out dropped from 131 million in 2010 to 39 million in 2013. At the same time, Treasury says electronic collections jumped from 85 percent of total collections in 2010 to 97 percent in 2013, thus reducing their costs.

"We use the agency performance goals and the goals we set forth in our strategic plan, and we do quarterly reviews with each bureau. That's a lot of staff time and meeting time at pretty high levels at Treasury in order to gain visibility into how well we are doing on goals we really want to lean into," said Nani Coloretti, Treasury's assistant secretary for management. "So what we've done over time is really socialized that in the agency that allows for problem solving, cross- cutting conversations and more in-depth reviews."

Bringing CXOs together

She added by bringing the right people together to work on the goals, from technology, acquisition, finance, human capital to the program side, Treasury can look at the data and metrics to drive change.

Coloretti said meeting the goal of moving to electronic payment processing rather than paper increased security and the efficiency of government processing. She said this was just one way Treasury is managed better today than previously.

The Commerce Department reported a mixed bag of progress against its goals.

On one hand, OMB found Commerce's International Trade Administration (ITA) met its goal of increasing the annual number of new markets that current U.S. exporters enter with ITA assistance to 6,100, a 7 percent increase.

"What I've done is convened a, what I call, the department management council, which is comprised of all the deputy agency heads within the Commerce Department and we've been meeting weekly to develop a detailed action plan," said Patrick Gallagher, the out-going director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology and who's performing the duties of the deputy secretary of Commerce. "These are, in turn, turned into subordinate action plans within each agency that they are actively managing to. So, you get this cascading set of metrics that's really important because the real power of this system isn't accountability in the sense of pass/fail, but it's accountability in the sense of ownership and responsibility, and making sure everyone understands their role. In particular, it provides managers like myself an invaluable tool to identify areas that need that particular focus."