Government Management

Observations on OMB's Management Leadership Efforts Gao ID: T-GGD/AIMD-99-65 February 4, 1999

GAO's recent performance and accountability series and high-risk series highlight the long-standing performance and management challenges that hinder the federal government's efforts to get results. The two series discuss many improvements that agencies need to make in their performance, management, and accountability. At the same time, the two series also noted the pivotal role that the federal government's central management agencies -- OMB, in particular -- must play in guiding and overseeing agencies' efforts to address the shortcomings GAO cited and to implement the changes necessary to improve performance. The testimony covers three major points. First, GAO outlines OMB's wide-ranging management responsibilities, noting that the question of whether to integrate or separate management and budget functions has long been debated. Second, GAO discusses the effectiveness of OMB's management leadership, which, in GAO's view, has been uneven. Third, GAO discusses the factors that appear to contribute to sustained improvements in federal management.

GAO noted that: (1) OMB is the lead agency for overseeing a statutory framework of financial, information resources, and performance planning and measurement reforms designed to instill a performance-based approach to federal management, decisionmaking, and accountability; (2) the Chief Financial Officers Act of 1990 mandated significant financial management reforms and established the Deputy Director for Management (DDM) position within OMB; (3) the DDM is to serve as the government's key official for financial management and coordinate and supervise a wide range of general management functions; (4) OMB is responsible for providing guidance and oversight for various other laws and executive orders as well; (5) OMB's perennial challenge is to carry out its central management leadership responsibilities in such a way that leverages opportunities of the budget process, while at the same time ensuring that management concerns receive appropriate attention in an environment driven by budget and policy decisions; (6) prior OMB reorganizations have alternated between seeking to more directly integrate management into the budget review process and creating separate management offices; (7) previous congressional and OMB attempts to elevate the status of management by creating separate management units within OMB sought to ensure that an adequate level of effort was focused on management issues; (8) OMB has focused increased attention on management issues, but there is much more that needs to be done; (9) OMB should ensure that agencies incorporate appropriate goals and strategies in their annual performance plans and describe their relevance to achieving the priority management objectives described in the governmentwide performance plan; (10) the record of OMB's stewardship of management initiatives suggests that creating and sustaining attention to management improvement is a key to addressing the federal government's longstanding problems; (11) in the past, management issues often remained subordinated to budget concerns and timeframes, and the leverage the budget could offer to advance management efforts was not directly used to address management issues; and (12) continued improvement in OMB's strategic plans would provide congressional decisionmakers with better information to use in determining the extent to which OMB is addressing its statutory management and budgetary responsibilities, as well as in assessing OMB's contributions toward achieving desired results.

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