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Performance.gov gets some data on agency goal progress

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The Office of Management and Budget says it is adding actual performance data to its Performance.gov website on federal agency programs, but that the push for data and the website itself are still works in progress.

OMB asked agencies "to identify a small set of ambitious, specific [existing] goals that they are trying to accomplish in the next 2 years without any new funding or new legislation," said Shelley Metzenbaum, OMB's associate director for performance and personnel management during a Dec. 13 press briefing.

Twenty-four agencies provided OMB with a list of goals and related information, and Metzenbaum says the website tries to put that in as plain of language as possible for the public, with minimal use of acronyms. "We've explained why the goals were chosen, the strategies for each goal. We've explained the progress we've made for each goal."

David Hayes, the Interior Department's deputy secretary, said this push from OMB helped Interior to establish meaningful goals. "The idea here was to break from the past where traditionally our departments are asked to identify a zillion goals."

Agencies will provide OMB with details on these goals including expected outcomes, action plans, strategies, metrics and milestones. Metzenbaum said the website will note problems that arise in meeting these goals and agencies will provide explanations and what steps they plan to take to resolve them.

Each goal will be assigned an agency official so the public has someone to hold accountable. Initially, feedback from the public on these issues will come from a very basic form on the site, but OMB says it has plans to improve and better direct the feedback options in the future.

Another area will be improved at a later date is the way data is visually represented. Agency goals get their own webpage on the site and have an "Indicator List" tab that tries to show progress through a bar chart. Metzenbaum said OMB recognizes that not all of this information is best represented in this way and that OMB plans to make changes so visual data is more easily understood, but implementing that is largely a funding issue.

The site will provide a way for agencies to help keep their management and performance on track, said Tony Miller, deputy secretary and chief operating officer at the Education Department. Miller pointed to Education's work with poorly-performing schools as an area where the OMB-directed goals and data-driven reviews will provide accountability and measurements for its progress.

Hayes said one big improvement from Interior's work with OMB is identifying the next objectives for projects ahead of time, and this "had never been done at [Interior] before, and the performance is pretty amazing."

The data on the site won't always be 100 percent accurate, but Metzenbaum said that OMB will vet all the data provided by agencies before it is put up on the site. "We want to make the data useful and sometimes you don't need a 100 percent accuracy rate," she said, but "part of the transparency, we hope, will tell us if there are errors."

For more:
- go to the Performance.gov
- see one of the new goals pages from Interior

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