The Business of Government Hour

 

About the show

The Business of Government Hour features a conversation about management with a government executive who is changing the way government does business. The executives discuss their careers and the management challenges facing their organizations. Past government executives include Administrators, Chief Financial Officers, Chief Information Officers, Chief Operating Officers, Commissioners, Controllers, Directors, and Undersecretaries.

The interviews

Join the IBM Center for a weekly conversation about management with a government executive who is changing the way government does business.

Robert Shea interview

Friday, March 23rd, 2007 - 20:00
Phrase: 
"My job is to make performance an increasingly important factor, and the PART is a very powerful tool. There's a tremendous opportunity to make greater use of this on the Hill."
Radio show date: 
Sat, 03/24/2007
Guest: 
Intro text: 
Managing for Performance and Results; Leadership; Collaboration: Networks and Partnerships; Strategic Thinking; Innovation...

Managing for Performance and Results; Leadership; Collaboration: Networks and Partnerships; Strategic Thinking; Innovation

Complete transcript: 

Originally Broadcast Saturday, December 9, 2006

Washington, D.C.

Mr. Breul: Good morning, and welcome to The Business of Government Hour. I'm Jonathan Breul, your host, and senior fellow of The IBM Center for The Business of Government. We created the Center in 1998 to encourage discussion and research into new approaches to improving government effectiveness. You can find out more about the Center by visiting us on the web at businessofgovernment.org.

The Business of Government Radio Hour features a conversation about management with a government executive who is changing the way government does business. Our special guest this morning is Robert Shea, Associate Director for Management at the U.S. Office of Management and Budget.

Good morning, Robert.

Mr. Shea: Good morning, Jonathan.

Mr. Breul: And joining us in our conversation is John Kamensky, senior fellow at The IBM Center for The Business of Government.

Good morning, John.

Mr. Kamensky: Hi. How're you doing, Jonathan?

Mr. Breul: Let's begin by talking about the Office of Management and Budget. Robert, could you tell us about OMB, what is its mission, how is it organized, and give us a sense of the size of the staff?

Mr. Shea: OMB is a great storied institution, part of the Executive Office of the President. It's got about 500 employees. Its primary responsibility is to serve the President in executing his budget responsibilities, his oversight of the Executive Branch and the implementation of programs, and ensuring that regulations are issued in compliance with the law in an effective and efficient way.

It has the most talented group of employees in the federal government. It was rated recently by its own employees as the best place in government to work. It's a great place to be, very exciting. You have a very high sense of purpose at OMB, because you are every day trying to figure out how to serve the American people better every day.

Mr. Breul: Now that you've given us some sense of the larger OMB organization, could you elaborate on the management side of OMB, its specific purpose, its role within the larger organization?

Mr. Shea: Sure. The two big sides of OMB are the budget side and the management side. Most of the employees work on the budget side; that is, they prepare the budget, work with agencies to enact and implement that budget. But they also oversee the management of agencies. And the management side helps them to do that better.

We have an Office of Federal Procurement Policy, an Office of Federal Financial Management, an Office of Information Technology and E-Gov, and an Office of Personnel and Performance Management. Those all fall under the Deputy Director for Management, Clay Johnson, and are headed by folks who implement laws that have been enacted over time to improve government management, including the Office of Federal Procurement Act, the Chief Financial Officers Act, the E-Gov Act, the Clinger-Cohen Act.

All of these are intended -- and of course the Government Performance and Results Act, which really is the foundation for all of the management improvement acts that have been passed over time -- all of them are designed to make programs work better, more efficiently, and effectively on behalf of the American people. And we have chosen to implement those statutes, and measure implementation of those statutes, with the President's Management Agenda scorecard.

So for each of those offices, there is also an initiative on improving financial performance, strategic management of human capital, expanded electronic government, competitive sourcing and budget and performance integration, all of which have clear definitions of success criteria which we use to judge agency performance every quarter, so that we are improving the timeliness and accuracy of financial information that agencies can use to manage, that agencies have the employees they need to accomplish their missions, that they're reducing duplicative IT systems, managing IT projects more effectively and securely, that they're setting clear outcome goals for their programs and working to achieve them better and more efficiently every year, and reducing the cost of commercial activities.

So we've got about 60 people, all of whom are working diligently with their counterparts on the budget side of OMB and individuals and agencies to improve agency and program performance.

Mr. Kamensky: Well, that's a broad scope of responsibilities that the management side has. What are your specific responsibilities as the Associate Director for Management in OMB?

Mr. Shea: I often say that my duties are as assigned. But I lead the -- my primary responsibility is leading the budget and performance integration initiative, which implements the spirit of the Government Performance and Results Act.

Agencies have to have clear outcome-oriented long-term goals and measure their progress achieving those goals on an annual basis, and reporting on how well they're doing and identify strategies to do better, to do more for less. So I work with agencies to achieve the specific criteria for that initiative, and we measure and report our status in that initiative through the scorecard.

But I also -- because I've got some experience working on Capitol Hill -- help my colleagues work with the Congress in reporting on the extent to which we we're complying with the various management statutes in place. I also advise on various policy matters, particularly in Executive Branch organization and personnel policy.

Mr. Kamensky: You also chair two councils -- you just mentioned one of them -- the Council on Budget and Performance Integration. The other one is this Credit Council. What are these two councils, what is the role, and how do they tie back into this President's Management Agenda?

Mr. Shea: I'd like to say there is no activity in which the government is engaged where there aren't multiple players trying to achieve the same objective, and those are two examples. Every agency is trying to do a better job of setting clear goals and reporting on the extent to which they are achieving them, and trying to do the more efficiently.

Likewise, we have a massive number of loans and loan guarantees that we issue every year. Multiple agencies are doing that. We get each of these groups together to come up with and share best practices on how to achieve those objectives. We've got a meeting with the budget and performance integration leads. And two of the things we'll talk about are making sure that agency congressional budget justifications integrate performance information in a way that is both useful to them and useful to their primary audience on the Hill, the appropriators, but we'll also come up with ways to reduce duplicative reporting requirements.

Everybody wants agencies to report on how they're doing, how efficiently they're performing. I mean, sometimes we get carried away. So we want to make sure we are not creating duplicative reporting requirements that detract from an agency's ability to focus on what they should be doing, which is actual program performance.

Now, the Credit Council is made up of representatives from the major lending agencies: SBA, the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Education, Housing and Urban Development, the Veterans Affairs Department. These are folks who manage massive loan portfolios. And we want to make sure that they are working together to find the best way to assess the creditworthiness of individuals and manage their loan portfolios so that the risk to the taxpayer is not too great, while at the same time, we are reaching our target borrower population, that the program goals of these loan portfolios are achieved in the most efficient way possible.

Mr. Breul: Let's step aside for a moment and look at your career. How did you begin your career and how did you get to OMB? What was the path that took you to where you are now?

Mr. Shea: I started with the House of Representatives Committee on Government Reform and became passionate about improving agency and program performance there. I then spent a couple of years working for my good friend, Congressman Pete Sessions of Dallas, as his legislative director, and got some good experience advising a senior political leader on a broad array of public policy. But this fellow had an intense interest in improving government results. So it was a good match.

I then had the privilege of working for Senator Fred Thompson as Chairman of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, another dynamic leader committed to improving government management and program performance.

As a staffer on that committee, I got the privilege of working with agency officials, Executive Branch officials, particularly those from OMB in their Senate confirmation process. That's where I met Mark Everson, then-comptroller at OMB, now IRS Commissioner. And he asked me to come work for him at OMB.

He was then promoted to Deputy for Management, left OMB and was replaced by Clay Johnson. And Clay asked me to stay on, lead the Budget and Performance Integration Initiative and help him administer the President's Management Agenda as Associate Director for Management. I've worked with three directors of OMB, two deputy directors for management, a senator and two congressmen, and all of them committed to -- not only public service, but service that contributes to the improved performance and service to Americans. So I am proud to be associated with people who I know the American people would be glad to know are working on their behalf.

Mr. Breul: How has OMB's Program Assessment Rating Tool changed the way government does business?

We will ask Robert Shea, Associate Director for Management at OMB, to tell us about this, when the conversation about management continues on The Business of Government Hour.

(Intermission)

Mr. Breul: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I'm you host, Jonathan Breul, and this morning's conversation is with Robert Shea, Associate Director for Management at OMB.

Also joining us in our conversation is John Kamensky, senior fellow at The IBM Center for The Business of Government.

In 2003, OMB initiated its Program Assessment Rating Tool, commonly referred to as PART. Robert, would you tell us about PART: its purpose, its scope, how is it designed, and what's the overall status of the PART initiative today?

Mr. Shea: The Program Assessment Rating Tool is a simple device to guide agencies in OMB in assessing the management and performance of programs. It's comprised of 25 or so basic questions: asking whether a program's purpose is clear and it's well-designed to achieve its objectives, whether it's got outcome-oriented long-term and annual goals and aggressive targets, whether it's well-managed. Most importantly, the tool asks whether a program achieves its goals.

We've asked these questions of virtually every program in the government now. We've assessed 100 percent of government spending, give or take 5 or 8 percent. And the purpose is to ascertain what barriers exist to improving a program's performance, and once we identify those barriers, come up with strategies to overcome them. The way it works is agencies tell us what the right answers to these questions are, like any self-assessment that's going to appear more generous than it should be.

So we at OMB kind of look at the evidence that has been provided and try to work with the agency to come up with the right answers to these questions, and then come up with a reasonable, accurate, and objective overall assessment for a program. Once OMB and the agency staff arrive at the right answer, my staff does an audit of all the parts to make sure that they are consistent with the rules, whether we've applied the questions consistently to programs across the government. After that, if an agency didn't like its overall assessment, it can appeal to a high-level committee comprised of deputies from various agencies in the government.

And then we arrive at a final rating. We use that not only to identify strategies to improve programs, but to make decisions about programs, about whether we need to propose legislative fixes to make them perform better, what their budget level ought to be, is this program performing at a high enough level where we can invest more, or do we need to fix something before we scale it up.

Hopefully, we can make more and more of those decisions. But for the first time, we've had this uniform set of assessments to make decisions like this across government, so we can see the performance of programs within agencies, but also perhaps more importantly, like programs across government -- programs with similar goals.

Mr. Breul: How has the PART introduced a new level of transparency and led to a more citizen-centric government?

Mr. Shea: As long as we've been doing the Program Assessment Rating Tool, we have published all of the answers and the evidence upon which those answers are based on the Internet at OMB's website. But it was so difficult to navigate that you might as well not have been posting it at all.

Analysts might have been able to look at the data and made some use of it; people familiar with a specific program might have found it useful. But otherwise, it wasn't very accessible. So we stepped back and launched a website called expectmore.gov. to sort of summarize all of the program assessments in a language that was more easily understandable by the average reader or visitor to the site, and made it searchable by a common search tool.

But all the evidence is there. We haven't reduced the amount of information that's there. We've just summarized it in a way that's more accessible, readable, understandable so that people can make greater use of it.

We've had more than a couple of million visitors to the site, which is more modest than I would like it to be, but is a lot more than visited in the past. And I hope that that information could be much more usable in the future; that people will visit the site as a way to look at how other programs are finding out how to do better and better every year.

But also, the whole program is accountable. You know, ultimately we ought to be candid about whether or not we are achieving our objectives on behalf of the American people and trying to collaborate on ways to do better in the future.

I will tell you one of the most visited sites on expectmore.gov is the Gallaudet University PART. We are the federal investment in Gallaudet University. Taxpayers invest $100 million a year in Gallaudet. So we thought it was a useful program to assess, and when you look at the data, it shows that graduates in jobs or degree programs commensurate with their degrees from Gallaudet reduced by a dramatic amount -- and the PART makes you ask why, what's causing that? And there has been a lot of discussion between us and Gallaudet. Gallaudet is an important storied institution that is serving a pivotal role, educating deaf people, both from K through 12 all the way through the postgraduate level, doing very important research on deaf education.

But the PART highlighted what really was invisible to most, and that was a decrease in some of their performance. And so hopefully, we will come up with ways to improve. That's the most high-profile assessment we've done, but all of these programs provide an opportunity to identify weaknesses and strategies to overcome them.

Mr. Kamensky: Well, in the first year, I have noticed that it was treated largely as a compliance exercise, and the next year, it seemed to be that a lot more senior executives were paying attention to the process. How does this PART score wind up influencing an agency's budget, either in the President's budget or up on the Hill in the appropriations process? And are you trying to generate more interest up on the Hill on this?

Mr. Shea: Well, starting with your first point about the compliance exercise, PART is what you make it. The Program Assessment Rating Tool can be a very effective way to drive greater performance in your organization, because it's really basic questions about a program's performance and management that we all ought to be asking whether or not we are achieving.

As far as the use of this as a device to make budget decisions, we ought to be making decisions based on performance and management of programs. This just gives us a uniform way to produce that evidence and use it as a factor in decision-making. But you know, John, that we don't make these decisions based on one factor alone, there are a lot of drivers to decisions about program budgets.

My job is to make performance an increasingly important factor, and the PART is a very powerful tool. But decisions will be made to increase funding or decrease funding for a program that are not related to performance. A program may have outlived its usefulness. The original purpose might have gone away, or the program may not be a priority for a particular administration or committee chairman.

So a lot of factors go into the decision-making about program funding. A program that is rated ineffective may need additional funds to address a particular weakness. And a higher performing program may, as I say, have outlived its usefulness or not be a high priority, and therefore its funding can be diverted to other uses. And if you look at the PART ratings, there is a slight correlation: higher performing programs tend to in the aggregate get higher budgets, and programs in the lower rated category tend to get less funding. But there is no direct correlation between a program's rating and its funding level.

There's a tremendous opportunity to make greater use of this on the Hill. Some resist it -- I fail to understand why except that I think some may view criticism of a program that they created as a personal slight. And I can't say enough or clearly enough or repeat enough that this is intended to be a characterization of the status quo about a program's performance and management, and we want these programs to work as much as anyone else. And the path forward is to address whatever weaknesses we find, not ignore them.

Mr. Breul: Last year, in 2005, the PART won the prestigious Innovations in American Government Award. Could you tell our listeners a little bit about the award and what the significance is of receiving it?

Mr. Shea: The Ash Institute, in collaboration with the Kennedy School of Government and the Council for Excellence in Government, every year receive nominations for innovations in American government, things that they think ought to be replicated because of the promise of the particular innovation to improving the lives of Americans for the performance and management of government.

And in 2005, they recognized the Program Assessment Rating Tool as one of those innovations worthy of replication. It was a high honor to have received that award. It was not received by me. It was -- rightly went to the folks at OMB who developed the tool. It was an important recognition that I think validated for all of us who have been toiling at this the methodology we're using to assess program performance and management. The program comes with a $100,000 grant, which because we are OMB, we couldn't receive, we had to take the award alone as compensation.

Mr. Breul: What is expectmore.gov, and how does the PART facilitate budget performance integration?

We will ask Robert Shea, Associate Director for Management at OMB, to share with us the answers to these questions when we return and continue our conversation about management on The Business of Government Hour.

(Intermission)

Mr. Breul: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I'm your host, Jonathan Breul. This morning's conversation is with Robert Shea, Associate Director for Management at the Office of Management and Budget.

Also joining us in our conversation is John Kamensky, senior fellow at The IBM Center for The Business of Government.

Robert, during our last segment, you mentioned a new website, www.expectmore.gov. What are the plans to expand the application of expectmore.gov, and what are your plans to use it in the future to share information on programs, and specifically to assist Congress during the reauthorization of programs?

Mr. Shea: Well, expectmore.gov now includes all the programs that have been assessed to date. The remaining programs we've assessed will be posted there early next year. So you'll have the most comprehensive information on the performance and management of federal programs anywhere. It's an incredibly comprehensive site, useful information if you want to fix a program, if you want to identify what other programs are doing particularly innovative things to improve their performance, the relative performance of like programs.

We can do a lot more of that. We can identify or make it easier to find similar programs so that a poorer-performing program can go to one of its partner programs or a program with a similar missions to find out better ways to crack the nut. I think it can be a particularly useful source of best practices for programs across the government.

As far as congressional authorization is concerned, I am trying to figure out a way to link a program's statutory authorization on the site so that folks who are involved in the reauthorization program of a program either at the agency or in the Congress, or anywhere for that matter, can go not only for the statutory basis for the program, but also to find out when its authorization might be up and when the right time might be to interject some reforms into the reauthorization process.

We're not there yet. I hope it will be part of the site when it's refreshed in the early next year, but certainly in the near future, it's something that that site ought to provide, expectmore.gov. I encourage everybody to visit now and often.

Mr. Breul: How has the PART submission process evolved? Originally, it was a paper exercise. Now, you use a PART web application, it's web-based. What are the future plans to further enhance the PART web application?

Mr. Shea: We used to submit PART answers over the Internet on an Excel spreadsheet and then have to convert that so that we could publish it online. Now, we have evolved to an online collaboration tool that allows agencies to input their answers and evidence more easily, and then for OMB and agencies to collaborate on what the right answers are to those questions online.

It's much quicker, much more collaborative, but even that can be better. For instance, right now, you really can't see what the specific edits are that somebody made to the data in the application. And we want to make sure that people can have an easy way to track what's going on with their program assessment. And we also want agencies to be able to more easily access data about other ongoing assessments so that if they are having a particular challenge, whether it's the right performance measures or efficiency improvement strategies or reform efforts, we want them to access that information more readily. PART web is a tool that's in its future evolution can facilitate that to a much greater degree.

Mr. Kamensky: I see some really big differences between departments in the program assessment ratings under the PART process. Is this because of the inherent nature of the programs these departments have, or is it related to something else?

Mr. Shea: The differences in the application of the tool are probably as varied as the difference in departments themselves. A large department can have pockets that embrace the tool and really use it to aggressively drive performance improvements or reform strategies when the rest of the department might not do quite as much as you would hope to use the tool. And so we try to be as uniform in the application of the tool as possible through the process I described of auditing PART results and giving agencies an opportunity to appeal to a high-level board that's overseeing the whole process so that it's consistently applied throughout the government.

Each of these program's assessments, like programs themselves, can be better. And we ought to be as critical as we can about the status of a program so that we can drive it to improve even more. And everybody who looks at a PART ought to be highly critical of the assessment. They ought to question the answers to the questions on the PART, don't give us the benefit of the doubt, because the more and more people who provide their input into this process, the more accurate and reliable and useful it will be.

Mr. Kamensky: One of the key initiatives in the President's Management Agenda is the Budget Performance Integration Initiative. Could you tell us a little bit more about this initiative and how PART plays a role in helping that particular initiative be successful?

Mr. Shea: The Budget and Performance Integration Initiative is one of the five initiatives on the President's Management Agenda which each major agency is complying with. It ensures that agencies have a strategic plan that's got really good long-term outcome-oriented goals, that it uses data on a regular basis to make decisions about how to improve program performance and efficiency, that individuals in the organization are assessed based on their contribution to the achievement of the agency's and program's mission and goals.

The Program Assessment Rating Tool gives you a really good way to assess the performance and management at the program level and then to use that improvement strategies that you've identified through that tool to improve strategic goals, individual performance goals, and efficiency efforts. We just want to see the PART as another source of information agencies can use to improve their performance.

Mr. Breul: With all the success that you have had with PART, could you tell us whether its success has piqued the interests of other countries? Have other countries come to you and sought to emulate or imitate the PART tool?

Mr. Shea: Yes. In fact, I was surprised several years ago to learn that the Scottish EPA had applied the PART. I am less surprised with the successive governments that come to me asking for information on how they can apply this tool to their affairs. I was recently at a meeting of OECD in Paris, in which my partner representatives were all very eager to learn about this tool. Australia, Canada, Korea, Thailand, all have expressed an interest in applying this precise tool.

I had a visit, far less exotic, from a local government near us right now that wanted to consult with us on how they could apply this tool to their affairs. It's really simple. A set of questions that asks of federal programs, what could legitimately be asked of any activity. Do you have clear goals, and is your program well-designed to achieve those goals? Do you have long-term and short-term targets? Are you well-managed? And are you achieving your goals? Those are basic questions that we ought to be asking about what we're doing so that we can do it better.

Mr. Breul: Are you finding similar interests by state and local governments? Has anyone from a governor's office or a mayor's office come to visit, sought to pick up the essential elements of the PART?

Mr. Shea: I have had some modest interest -- not a lot -- but like I say, one of the local governments from the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area approached me about applying the tool there. So I think that would be very exciting.

Mr. Breul: And what about interest from Congress? Have you had any particular entrees or invitations from them to follow-up and dig more deeply into expectmore.gov or how the PART tool itself operates?

Mr. Shea: There is increasing interest from the Congress in the Program Assessment Rating Tool and our conclusions about programs. Some of that interest is good; some of it is not so good. I'd like to hope that more and more in Congress find this information useful in performing their jobs in reauthorization, oversight, appropriations, because like us, they want the programs that they authorize and fund to work better every year.

And you see increasing citations to assessments of programs in congressional reports and the like -- hearings. So I hope that grows. And I hope it grows in a positive way that people really find this information more and more useful.

Mr. Breul: What's next for PART and for other government management reforms,? We will ask Robert Shea, Associate Director for Management at OMB, to share this with us when our conversation about management continues on The Business of Government Hour.

(Intermission)

Mr. Breul: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I'm your host, Jonathan Breul, and this morning's conversation is with Robert Shea, Associate Director for Management at OMB.

Also joining us in our conversation is John Kamensky, senior fellow at The IBM Center for The Business of Government.

Robert, with the forthcoming Fiscal Year 2008 budget, which is going to be released in February of 2007, the Administration is going to release the results of the fifth round of the PART assessments, completing 100 percent of programs and dollars. What are the plans for PART next year, and does OMB plan to go back and re-PART specific programs? Are you going to go look at programs that got low scores, or are you going to take a look at programs in various cross-cutting areas?

Mr. Shea: I hope we're going to do all of those things, having assessed virtually 100 percent of the federal budget, have improvement plans for most programs. Everybody has identified steps that they are going to take to improve the programs they manage. So we need to track those; we need to ensure that people are being as aggressive as they can in implementing those improvement plans. So that's the first thing we'll do, make sure everybody is doing what they said they would do to improve their programs.

Programs that have done enough to warrant a reassessment will get reassessed, and hopefully their ratings will improve. But then we'll have to identify improvements that the programs will have to take again to improve even more. So this is a continuing cycle of improvement that we can engage in now with the PART.

Now, as you say, having assessed 100 percent of the programs, what is the opportunity for looking at cross-cutting areas? I think the highest value use of the Program Assessment Rating Tool is in getting like programs together, programs with similar missions, and collaborate on better ways to jointly improve their performance. We've done this in a myriad of areas. In grant programs, for instance, we've come up with a common strategy that programs can use to share information about specific funded activities that are more effective than others so that we can scale those up.

We have collaborated this past year with programs aimed at improving achievement in math and science among America's youth. And you will find a real lack of clarity about the goals of those programs. We've fixed that. And now we are going to get more and more evidence about which math and science programs are most effective so that we can share those lessons with the hundreds of other programs that are aimed at improving math and science achievement. That's the real potential for the future of the PART. I intend to drive its use for collaboration among like programs.

Mr. Breul: The President recently signed into law a new piece of legislation, the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act. What does this legislation envision? And can you tell us something about the role of the blogger community in the passage of this new act?

Mr. Shea: That was something to behold. This was a piece of legislation which had a very noble purpose but which I didn't give very high odds of passage, because I knew the opposition among many in Congress was great. What it does is it requires us to post on a regularly updated basis those federal expenditures and grants and contracts and loans, et cetera, to organizations other than to individuals, and to post that in a searchable, easily accessible format on the Internet. And we are going to implement that Act as the authors of that Act intend it to be created. We will collaborate with them in the development and planning of that website.

Now, one of the forces that helped this bill get enacted was the blogger community on the Internet. They were passionate, both on the left and the right, for this legislation, because they saw it as a way to improve accountability of government for taxpayer spending. And they got wind of efforts to defeat it and shined the bright light of the Internet on those activities and overcame them -- by sheer force, got very powerful members of Congress to relent and in the end support passage and enactment of this legislation.

Mr. Kamensky: This has been, you know, a fascinating phenomenon, that this has happened. The question then becomes, is there the ability to leverage this kind of change in the culture of Washington and new ways to focus attention on management issues that might otherwise not have been paid attention to?

Mr. Shea: I think one of our watchwords in implementing the President's Management Agenda has been transparency. We grade agencies every quarter, post their grades on the Internet. We also assess programs and post all of the evidence on which those assessments are based in easily accessible websites, searchable and understandable by the American public. The reason we do that is because we think we're on the side of right. We think what we're doing is the best way to achieve our goals. And if others disagree with us, we want to know that. If they have a better way to achieve the goals, we want to know that, because no one wants to achieve our mutual goals more than we do.

So I think the blogger community, just like any other media outlet, is a great way to both communicate and collaborate on our plans to achieve goals. So we have a new vessel for communicating our plans. I anticipate that the feedback we get might be a little more aggressive than we're used to, but bring it on. We want feedback so that people can buy into what we are doing.

Mr. Kamensky: And do you have some plan for leveraging this?

Mr. Shea: Well, I think that's it. I think regularly communicating with the folks who are involved in that website, not only on the implementation of the plans to comply with the Act, but also in the implementation of the President's Management Agenda overall.

Mr. Kamensky: Separately, how significant is the proposed Program Assessment and Results Act, which is a proposal in Congress, to the continued and future success of the government management reform efforts?

Mr. Shea: Well, I think one of the questions the Program Assessment Rating Tool asks is whether a program's statutory design adequately helps it achieve its goal or whether it's flawed in some way. If it's flawed, I generally suggest that we try to remedy that flaw in statute. So there are a number of statutory reforms that have been proposed as a result of the PART highlighting a flaw. We've not been that successful in getting those reforms enacted. So in the future, there's a great opportunity for improvement.

And when you see like programs that suffer from generally the same flaws, you can accelerate the performance of those programs by perhaps reforming them all at the same time. Reauthorization, as we've talked about, is an opportunity to tee up those reforms for agencies and the Congress, and the President as well.

Mr. Breul: Let me turn the conversation back to OMB for a moment. OMB has a reputation for being a very demanding and stressful place to work. And yet to the surprise of many, it achieved the number one ranking in the Partnership for Public Services' best places to work in the federal government survey.

What are some of the benefits of working in such an environment, and in particular, what advice would you give to a person considering a career in the public service or possibly even being interested in joining OMB?

Mr. Shea: OMB is a very demanding place to work, just like any federal job. We are doing a better job at telework. So I'm able to spend more time with my beautiful wife and charming three girls. But it's still tough -- the hours are long, and there is no downturn in the workload throughout the year. There's always something going through OMB. When every policy matter, legislative matter, budget matter, management matter, regulatory matter comes through OMB, there's just no let-up in the workload. But that's also why it's an attractive place to work.

But the work we are doing will have an impact on the performance and management of the federal government, and therefore, the lives of the American people. You can have a real impact on mission at any job at OMB. And that is an incredible reward. There is a challenge of staying the best place to work, because while our employees are the most talented, there's a limit. You've got to have a reasonable workload-family balance. And so that's a continuing challenge that we have to confront.

But the advice I'd give to people who are considering a job at OMB is to come. If you're talented and have an interest in public service, serving the American people, OMB is the most exciting place to be because it's where I think you can have the greatest impact.

I would recommend you visit www.omb.gov for more information about not only OMB in general, but opportunities to come work there.

Mr. Breul: Robert, that's great advice. We've reached the end of our time, and that will have to be the last question. I want to thank you for fitting this into your very busy schedule today. And more importantly, John and I would like to thank you for your dedicated service to the public.

Mr. Shea: Thank you very much, Jonathan, John. This has been fun. And for those listening, if you want to get more information about the President's Management Agenda, I invite you to visit www.results.gov., where we update regularly the status of the scorecard and other President's Management Agenda initiatives.

And not to sound like a broken record, but for more information about program performance and management and our assessments in general, visit www.expectmore.gov.

Mr. Breul: This has been The Business of Government Hour, featuring a conversation with Robert Shea, Associate Director for Management at the Office of Management and Budget.

Be sure to visit us on the web at businessofgovernment.org. There, you can learn more about our programs and get a transcript of today's fascinating conversation. Once again, that's businessofgovernment.org.

As you enjoy the rest of your day, please take time to remember the men and women of our armed forces and civil service abroad who can't hear this morning's show on how we are improving their government but who deserve our unconditional respect and support.

For The Business of Government Hour, I'm Jonathan Breul. Thank you for listening.

Robert Shea interview
03/24/2007
"My job is to make performance an increasingly important factor, and the PART is a very powerful tool. There's a tremendous opportunity to make greater use of this on the Hill."

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