EPA system looks ahead, in detail

KEY PLAYERS: Ouverson, center, didn't do it alone. From right: Jeff Johnston, Kathy Sedlak O'Brien, Ed Walsh, Jackye Herzfeld and Will Anderson also played crucial roles.

When Congress passed the Government Performance and Results Act in 1993, the Environmental Protection Agency took the challenge head on.

Officials ordered the finance and budget departments to develop a performance-based budget that tied funding to metrics.

Now EPA is considered one of the federal leaders in performance-based budgeting, said Kathy Sedlak O'Brien, the deputy director of planning, analysis and accountability in the CFO's Office.

'We produced consolidated annual plans and budgets since the fiscal 1999 budget,' Sedlak O'Brien said. 'The Budget Automation System has helped make this possible.'

The Office of Management and Budget encouraged the tactic but didn't require it until the 2005 budget submission. Agencies previously could separate their performance plans from their budget submissions.

EPA's early adoption of the performance-based budgeting process helped it earn one of the first green scores for financial performance on the President's Management Agenda scorecard. OMB awarded the agency the highest mark in June 2003. EPA is one of just five agencies to receive a green score in that category. It was the agency's second green score, along with a green on e-government.

The system also helped the agency win a 2003 Presidential Quality Award for management excellence for improved financial performance. And EPA was a finalist for a Presidential Quality Award for budget and performance integration in 2002.

EPA structures its budget around its strategic plan, which features five goals and 21 objectives, said Terry Ouverson, director of systems, planning and integration.

From the strategic plan, EPA officials construct the annual performance strategy.

'The annual plan flows from the same architecture as the strategic plan, so you have a forward-looking document, which is several years looking forward. And then you have an annual plan that takes the same architecture and shows what will you get next year,' said Ed Walsh, staff director of the formulation, control and policy staff. 'That is the important part of the annual plan. You are able to measure distinct chunks of time against the budget.'

Such precise measurement allows EPA budget officials to say, 'Here is what you get for this amount, and here are the proposed outputs,' Walsh said.

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