Hill Demands Results from Feds

WASHINGTON (07/24/2000) - House members last week said they intend to keep pressuring agencies and Congress to use program performance measurements to determine whether agencies are accomplishing their missions.

Agencies turned in their first performance reports last year under the Government Performance and Results Act to varying levels of praise and condemnation. GPRA's goal is to demonstrate how program performance relates to agency budgets.

Because Congress passed GPRA eight years ago, many members of Congress and Results Act experts say that agencies should be doing a better job of identifying results, even though agencies were required to submit performance reports only last year.

"I think that Congress should step it up another level," said House Majority Leader Richard Armey (R-Texas), testifying before the House Government Reform Committee's Government Management, Information and Technology Subcommittee.

"While I don't think we should ever be a discouraging voice out there, I think while we continue to be encouraging, we should be more demanding."

Rep. Stephen Horn (R-Calif.), chairman of the subcommittee, suggested holding joint meetings of the House and Senate authorization and appropriations committees to hear from department and agency heads. "I think that we've got to get a dialogue of principals, not just a dialogue of staff," he said.

The biggest challenge for agencies has been to set goals based on results that the agency wants to achieve instead of meas-uring other outputs, such as the number of reports or citations issued.

"We are still learning what the right measurements are," said Joshua Gotbaum, executive associate director, controller and acting deputy director for management at the U.S. Office of Management and Budget.

OMB collects agencies' performance reports and provides guidance to agencies on how to develop them. OMB and agency officials said that developing the reports is a trial-and-error process, and that means mistakes will be made, Gotbaum said.

Some agencies, such as the Transportation Department and the Veterans Health Administration, have done well when linking mission, budget and results, said J. Christopher Mihm, associate director of the General Accounting Office's General Government Division.

Others, such as the State Department, have had trouble distinguishing between outputs, such as reports on the number of employees in security training, and outcomes, such as what programs resulted in better security, Mihm said.

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