PART is parcel of making GPRA pay off

Rep. Todd R. Platts (R-Pa.)

There's an old saying: 'Begin with the end in mind.' Such an approach should be the driving force behind any type of strategic planning effort.

It was certainly a goal of Congress when it enacted the Government Performance and Results Act more than a decade ago. The end envisioned by Congress was an effective, efficient government that produced tangible results that would form the basis for budgetary decisions.

GPRA was passed in 1993 but did not take effect in practice until fiscal 1999. Consequently, we have only four years of information on which to judge its effectiveness.

It is important to understand what GPRA was intended to achieve: a firm foundation on which to build a structure of performance management. Though inspired by a comprehensive vision, GPRA was not intended to be a comprehensive reform in itself. The act continues to evolve as senior agency leaders better understand its requirements and are given the tools for its effective implementation.

We are seeing progress. Agency strategic plans are becoming more useful, agencies are becoming more comfortable and competent at managing for outcomes, and agencies are now beginning to scratch the surface of linking performance to budget decisions. Needless to say, however, there is still a long way to go.

Outcomes affect budget

Prior efforts to improve government effectiveness, beginning with the Hoover Commission in 1947, failed to achieve the important objective of linking performance to budgeting decisions. The President's Management Agenda is the most aggressive attempt yet toward this goal.

The Bush administration's Program Assessment Rating Tool (PART), implemented for the first time last year, seeks to tie funding sources to outcomes at the program level. PART is a key tool, not only in the President's Management Agenda, but also as part of the broader performance-based accountability effort encompassed by GPRA.

GPRA and the management agenda are mutually dependent efforts; each cannot fully succeed without the other. The program-by-program reviews demanded under PART and the broader strategic planning approach emphasized under GPRA are equally important.

With PART's five-year phase-in across all government programs well under way, Congress and the administration need to work together to ensure that the information gleaned from the PART reviews empowers executive and legislative leaders to make timely, well informed and sometimes difficult programmatic decisions.

The administration and Congress must be prepared to make such difficult decisions based on the information provided by the PART evaluations and within the context of the strategic policy end as delineated by GPRA. Such an approach will better ensure that the government begins with the end in mind when it comes to meeting the needs of citizens in the most efficient, effective and accountable manner possible.

Rep. Todd R. Platts (R-Pa.) is chairman of the House Government Reform Subcommittee on Government Efficiency and Financial Management.

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