Feds are divided on administration's goals

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Regardless of the outcome of last week's election'tallied after this page went to press'President Bush's Management Agenda will have a lasting impact on the way agencies conduct their business. The administration's top-down management style has consolidated the chain of command on government IT projects and sought to make agency chiefs more accountable.

How successful has it been?

Officials responding to a recent GCN e-mail survey were divided about the effectiveness of the PMA.

Thirty-six percent described agency progress on key PMA initiatives as 'good' while 31 percent characterized it as 'poor.' Another 24 percent said it was 'fair.'

The PMA, launched three years ago, was designed to improve government management and performance, reflecting Bush's more businesslike approach to government.

But government officials evinced a striking difference of opinion on whether the PMA is working. Forty-six percent didn't think agencies are meeting the goal of better management and performance, while 45 percent did.

Among the latter group, an official at a small, independent agency said, 'The PMA and the president's personal interest in management improvement have helped create an atmosphere conducive to management reform.'

'We have become more focused on and clear about the management goals of our agency and their relationship to the agency mission,' added an official at another independent agency.

Among detractors, a program manager at a large executive agency said, 'The PMA is not enforced. It is just a smoke-and-mirrors drill by the administration.'

'Until it is integrated as a standard business practice, it will remain a paper exercise,' commented another official.

Others in the survey noted what they saw as barriers to agency progress on the PMA:
  • The vision and goals of the PMA are not reaching lower-level employees

  • The PMA is not widely embraced by Senior Executive Service appointees

  • Agencies need more funding to make progress, especially on e-gov programs.

Moreover, 58 percent of respondents doubted that the administration's Executive Branch Management Scorecard, a color-coded grading system intended to gauge progress on the PMA, provides agencies with the incentive to improve their management practices.

'I am concerned that there is a lot of focus on the mechanics of getting to green rather than the real intent of the practices,' commented a Transportation Department manager.

'If you have more money, it's easier to get to green in certain areas,' said another official.

An Army official took the long view of Bush's management agenda.

'Every president has a management agenda,' the official said. 'They aren't better or worse in the long haul. They're just different.'

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