Statements and Speeches

"Improving Federal Program Management using Performance Information"

Opening Statement: Subcommittee on Federal Financial Management, Government Information, Federal Services, and International Security

Jul 24 2008

The subcommittee will come to order.

I would like to thank my colleagues, our distinguished witnesses and guests for joining Senator Coburn and me today. I also want to welcome Governor Martin O’Malley, of the Free State of Maryland. Thank you for your willingness to share your experiences and perspectives on how the federal government can achieve better results through improved performance. You have been a true visionary – leading the City of Baltimore and now the State of Maryland – to adopt some of the very management practices we will be talking about today.

In a little less than six months from now, we will inaugurate a new president on the steps of the U.S. Capitol building, just a short walk from here. Our new Chief Executive will face soaring federal deficits at home and dangerous security threats abroad. No matter we elect, we must make sure that our next president has the information and tools he needs to keep the ship of state headed toward the horizon. 

Though our politics may differ, we can all agree that the strength of our democracy hinges on the ability of our government to deliver on its promises to the people. We have a responsibility to be judicious stewards of the resources taxpayers invest in America and ensure those resources are managed honestly and effectively.

Earlier this month, this subcommittee heard from witnesses, including the former Comptroller General of the United States David Walker, about the dire fiscal situation our country faces in the coming years. Over the next two decades, 80 million baby boomers will become eligible for Social Security and Medicare. Today, these two programs already make up more than 40 percent of the government’s total expenses.

As boomers start to draw benefits, some experts we heard from said that the share of these programs could equal, within just 40 years, what our entire government spends today. Without any changes, we will not have extra funds to prepare a world-class workforce for the 21st century, make us energy independent, meet our transportation needs, or address our pressing national security needs. There is only so much pie to go around, so how we manage who is getting the next slice, and how big it’s going to be, becomes increasingly important.

In 1993, the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA) was enacted to help us better manage our nation’s finite resources, and improve the effectiveness and delivery of federal programs by collecting and providing to Congress a tremendous amount of performance data. However, Senator Coburn and I asked if and how all this information had translated into results. Producing information does not by itself improve performance. And we knew there has been little increase in the actual use of performance data by agency managers since the Government Performance and Results Act was fully implemented in 1997. A lot of work has been done by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and others on how this data could be used, but nobody has really determined whether agencies are putting theory into practice.

With that in mind, a little over a year ago, Senator Coburn and I asked the GAO to examine how performance information is being used to better manage federal agencies, and if managers could be using this information more often in their decision-making process.

We also asked that GAO consider the recent efforts by the administration to make the agency performance information more useful, through initiatives such as the Program Assessment Rating Tool, or PART, a key component of President Bush’s Management Agenda.

I am eager to hear the GAO’s findings. I want us to focus our discussion on several crucial questions that, I hope, will begin to create a blueprint for the next Administration. Here are several key questions:

To what extent are federal agencies using performance information to execute key management tasks, such as identifying performance problems and taking corrective actions or identifying and sharing best practices?

For those agencies that appear to use performance information the least, to what extent do they employ practices GAO has identified that could encourage the use of performance information? For example, is the performance information of sufficient quality and relevance to be useful to agency managers?

How can federal agencies make better use of performance information to improve results?

Finally, what lessons can be learned from the administration’s efforts to improve the usefulness and employment of performance information through the Program Assessment Rating Tool and the President’s Management Agenda?

Today, with these questions in mind, I hope we can do the following:

· One, accurately assess how well and how often federal agencies use performance information to correct problems and promote best practices;

· Two, discuss how next Administration can increase and improve the use of performance information; and

· Three, solicit ideas about how Congress can play an active and effective role moving forward.

We must do all we can to ensure that the presidential transition is streamlined and that the next President has a clear picture of the strengths and weaknesses of the agencies under his direction.

We face unparalleled challenges both here and abroad, and these require a knowledgeable and nimble federal government that can respond effectively. With concerns growing over the mounting federal deficit and national debt, the American people deserve to know that every dollar we send to Washington is being used to its utmost potential.

Performance information is an invaluable tool that can do just that. If used effectively, it can identify problems, find solutions, and produce results.

Thanks again to our witnesses for taking this opportunity to talk with us today about the challenges before us and how best to address them.