Results. Results. Results.
That was the mantra in some quarters of the government yesterday as the Office of Management and Budget and 26 agencies marked the third anniversary of the president's management agenda.
OMB, which oversees President Bush's initiative, issued an 18-page government-wide summary, "The Federal Government Is Results-Oriented: A Report to Federal Employees."
Most of the agency reports run a few dozen pages, although the Defense Department weighed in with a 94-page memo. The Justice Department's report carries the title "Getting Results: Managing the Mission at DOJ" and, apparently to reinforce the message, displayed two stamped imprints of the word "Results."
The reports were posted on an administration Web site (www.results.gov) before noon, not long after Bush met with members of the President's Management Council, an interagency group of federal officials who are mostly top political appointees.
Clay Johnson III, deputy director for management at OMB and chairman of the council, said the president was "very pleased" to hear that agencies are making progress on the agenda and project multimillion-dollar budget savings for major elements of the agenda.
"Our challenge now is to make those projected savings real savings, and so he said, 'Yes, real is better than projected,' and encouraged us to do that with gusto," Johnson said.
The government-wide report covers the five major elements of the president's management agenda, suggesting that substantial savings can be achieved, for example, if agencies can reduce improper payments ($35 billion are made annually) and can create more efficient operations through "competitive sourcing" of jobs.
"In a $2.4 trillion federal budget, each percentage point of overall increased effectiveness and efficiency has a value of $24 billion per year in savings to the taxpayer," the OMB report says.
But critics caution that efficiencyrelated savings are difficult to achieve and even more difficult to document over time. The competitive sourcing initiative, meanwhile, has created anxiety for numerous federal employees who fear that their job security is being threatened. Union complaints have helped prompt congressional action to curb job competitions in some departments.
In addition to competitive sourcing, the president's agenda calls for improvements in the hiring and assignment of personnel; financial management; electronic government; and the linkage of program performance to budgets.
Charts in the OMB report show that several agencies, particularly the Defense Department, face problems in managing their financial accounts and in enhancing the security of their computer operations.
OMB's report was addressed to employees partly because of feedback on the agenda provided at 10 "focus groups" with federal managers and executives, Johnson said. The report will help employees understand how their agencies rank on a management scorecard and, Johnson noted, help them better serve the public -- the reason many employees make a career of government.
The OMB report offers several recommendations, such as recognizing good employee performance through improved communications and rewards. "Giving employees a chance to be heard will help maximize the chances of success," the report says, adding, "Do it 'with them' instead of 'to them.' "
Johnson said he did not know whether Bush would tout the management agenda on the campaign trail ("I'm totally uninvolved in the campaign strategy. It is good for them, and it is good for me.") but predicted that Bush would remind voters, as he has in past elections, that he focuses on results when setting policy.
The Bush management agenda, of course, is not the first time that a White House has tried to make the government work better. But Johnson said he believes the Bush agenda "will be the most lasting of any management initiative any administration has teed up."
In the future, he said, "no one is going to come in and say, 'We really don't care about having good, clean audits; we really don't care about how we manage our people; we really don't care whether programs work or not.' No one is going to say that, because of course we care about all those things."