Progress Report-Chapter 2


Accountability: Shifting from Inputs to Results

Whether cooperating or feuding, federal managers and workers traditionally have been judged on their inputs--their time and amount of activity--rather than results--what they actually accomplished. As state, local, and foreign governments have begun to evaluate based on outcomes, the federal government is starting to do the same.

And though that shift could focus more attention on federal workers, many of them invite the challenge. In February, Vice President Gore and then-OMB Director Leon E. Panetta announced the designation of 53 projects in 21 agencies as pilot programs under the Government Performance and Results Act of 1993. Later, OMB designated 18 more projects in six agencies. For many agencies, their selection as pilots will require that, for the first time, they clearly define and measure their missions and set performance standards against which the public can evaluate them. Nevertheless, the number participating in the pilot program is nearly three times what the law required.

The pilots vary widely in scope. At their most ambitious, they include the entire Internal Revenue Service, with its $7.4 billion in annual administrative costs and 116,000 people; the Social Security Administration, with $5.6 billion in administrative costs and 65,000 people; the Small Business Administration, with $430 million in operating expenses and 3,800 people; the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, with $300 million in spending and 2,300 people; and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, with $300 million in spending and 700 people.

Other pilots include: [10]

Along with the GPRA, another cornerstone of the new accountability is the performance agreements that President Clinton is signing with Cabinet secretaries and other agency heads. The agreements, seven of which are signed, spell out the agency heads' major goals for their organizations. They are specific commitments, accompanied by measurable performance indicators. [11]

For instance, Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt offered the following list of items that he pledged to accomplish:

While the agreements are signed only by the President and agency heads, the commitments in them are influencing actions and thinking across and beyond the government. For one thing, the Administration treats them as public documents and posts them on the Internet computer network. For another, the agreements are cascading through the organizations, connecting political and career employees for the first time in an unbroken chain of accountability dedicated to accomplishing results.

Indeed, HUD Secretary Henry G. Cisneros involved all of his employees in the process of setting the goals and priorities of his agreement. He gave his managers a vest pocket-sized card that lists the goals, and he gave all department employees a copy of the agreement and HUD reorganization plans. Labor Secretary Robert B. Reich, too, sent his set of goals to every department employee. He also discussed his goals for the year with his SES managers.

Not surprisingly, this sharing of goals is central to their accomplishment. As Tom Glynn, Labor's deputy secretary, put it, "Unless people know what they're supposed to do, they hardly ever do it."[13]

The performance agreements reflect the best in public and private thinking. In developing the NPR's recommendation for agreements, the Administration talked to corporate leaders and studied the agreements that companies are using to instill clarity about results and accountability. Administration officials also studied agreements that Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom have introduced in the last decade as part of their government reform efforts. And they looked at agreements and other approaches to manage for results in Oregon State, Sunnyvale, California, and other state and local governments.

Just as no one model fits every federal agency, the Administration expects the agreements, as they come out, to improve over time. As departments and agencies develop performance measures under the GPRA, they will produce performance agreements that are more outcome-oriented. And as they identify and survey their customers, they will produce agreements that are more customer-focused.

Performance agreements reflect one aspect of the new roles that senior executives--that is, those with supervisory roles--will have to play as labor-management relations evolve in the federal government. (For a fuller discussion of those roles, see the Close-Up "The New Role of Senior Executives.")


Return to Table of Contents