As the Bush administration gears up for a second term, Clay Johnson III, the chief driver of the president's management agenda, intends to make good on its promises.
He appears to face an uphill climb, however. The administration's stoplight scorecard of how 26 agencies are doing in meeting the management agenda shows that several need to improve their performance. Out of 130 agency projects, 35 are marked green, for successful, and the remaining 95 are rated yellow, for mixed results, or red, for unsatisfactory.
Parts of the management agenda, launched in August 2001, have met resistance inside agencies and from federal unions, and other parts have drawn little support in Congress. Despite the agenda's uneven progress across government, Johnson expects to see a "natural acceleration" in the President Bush's second term as agencies become more accomplished in pursuing efforts to improve program performance and hold down costs.
Speed, of course, is important. The administration, at best, has two or three years to make its mark on the bureaucracy before attention turns to the next presidential campaign. Except for the departments of Defense and Homeland Security, most of the government during the president's second term will probably be pinched for cash because of the federal deficit.
In response to questions during a post-election interview, Johnson signaled that he would not endorse linking the administration's management agenda to broader deficit-reduction efforts. But he said Bush's agenda can help reduce federal spending.
"The idea of doing more for less is going to be a big message here," Johnson said.
Johnson, who is deputy director for management at the Office of Management and Budget, said agencies will stay focused on the five government-wide initiatives that are the core of the president's management agenda. They cover:
* Federal personnel. The civil service faces a wave of retirements in the next few years, and some agencies struggle to compete for top talent in the labor market. Kay Coles James, director of the Office of Personnel Management, and Dan Blair, deputy OPM director, have exhorted agencies to improve employment practices, but numerous job applicants still report long waits to hear if they will be hired.
* Competitive sourcing. Federal unions and the administration clash over job competitions, especially over whether federal-private job competitions produce cost savings.
Johnson said inspectors general will be asked to conduct special audits to verify that agencies are saving money through competitive sourcing. OMB also will ask agencies as they prepare budget requests to show how they are using any savings.
The initiative may pick up speed if the administration can get Congress to stop placing restrictions on some agencies. Inside the government, the effort may strengthen once the Senate confirms David Safavian, the former chief of staff at the General Services Administration, as the new procurement policy administrator at OMB.
* Financial management. By most accounts, numerous agencies have steadily improved how they track spending and costs.
In recent congressional testimony, Linda Springer, the OMB controller, said many agencies are preparing audited financial reports in 45 days, a big change from previous years, when agencies took five months to close out their books. Johnson said the administration also is committed to reducing improper payments -- the government makes about $35 billion each year.
* Electronic government. OMB's technology administrator, Karen Evans, is leading the effort to implement two dozen e-gov projects. Improvements have been made in computer security, but some changes are taking longer than envisioned.
* Program performance. OMB has created a program assessment rating tool, or PART, to judge the effectiveness of federal programs. In the second term, Johnson and OMB counselor Robert Shea hope to use it to examine programs with similar functions to see which work best. PART has recommended abolishing 13 programs, but it remains unclear whether Congress will go along.
Johnson, who is part of the inner circle advising Bush on Cabinet appointments for the second term, said he wants to "make sure no balls are dropped" on management issues next year. The second term, he said, will be about "instilling these habits and disciplines we have been working on for the last three years."