The Office of Management and Budget released a new set of performance-related promises by federal agencies in advance of the New Year. It also refreshed its one-stop performance-tracking website, providing users new tools to interactively explore what the federal government has committed to achieve, and its progress towards those commitments.
Refreshed Agency Priority Goals. By law, large federal agencies designate a small subset of their ongoing initiatives as “priority goals” with a commitment to make specific levels of progress over a two-year period. Some agencies commit to joint goals. For example, the Departments of Agriculture and Commerce have jointly committed to a goal of ensuring all Americans have access to the internet by funding projects that connect 6,250,000 households to reliable, high-speed, affordable internet service.
Twenty-two of the 23 of the largest federal agencies have announced refreshed priority goals for the fiscal years 2024 – 2025 period (see attached summary table). The Department of Justice says its are “forthcoming.” So far, 74 agency priority goals have been posted on performance.gov. Of these, some agencies have noted that the wording of their specific goals are still forthcoming. There were 85 agency priority goals in the previous two-year cycle.
Looking across the goals that have been published, there is a great deal of continuity from the prior cycle of priority goals. About three-quarters extend efforts already underway. For example, in the prior FY 2022-2023 period, the Department of Housing and Urban Development committed to making 20,000 at-risk housing units safe from lead-based paint. For the upcoming FY 2024-2025 period, it is committing to an additional 25,000 housing units.
Five of the new goals reinforce the governmentwide initiative to improve customer experience with services. For example, the Small Business Administration says it will create a customer platform where small business owners can access at least half of SBA’s services via a single log-in. Other new or refreshed goals set bold targets. For example, the Department of Health and Human Services says it will reduce emergency room visits by for acute alcohol use, mental health conditions, suicide, and drug abuse overdose by 10 percent. That won’t be an easy one to meet!
Not all agencies crafted bold targets. A small handful reduced their targets or made their new targets to be unmeasurable. For example, one of the General Services Administration’s priority goals in the FY 2022-2023 cycle was to “increase the adoption of Login.gov. . . .from 16 million to 41 million” users. But in the new cycle, the goal was revised to: “GSA will increase usage of its identity verification platform, as measured by number of users.” And the Department of Interior increased its target for processing Indian trust land applications from an average of 365 days to 650 days (which is still progress from the 2022 average of 985 days!).
Interestingly, while there is a great deal of continuity in many agency goals, most of the named goal leaders are new in their roles. This could reflect typical turnover among senior political appointees, but most agencies also designate a career executive to support their goal leaders – which was a best practice highlighted in reports by the Government Accountability Office.
Refreshed Performance Website. The federal government, also by law, maintains a one-stop website – performance.gov – to track U.S. government goals. These include the goals embedded in each agency’s four-year strategic plans, agency priority goals, and governmentwide cross-agency priority goals. Progress on many of these goals is updated quarterly.
The website refresh highlights several new interactive tools and newly available data sets. One interesting feature is an interactive component that allows visitors to sort the 351 agency strategic objectives (of which the agency priority goals are subsets) by agency or by topic. For example, you can query how many goals touch on climate change – 58, in 14 different agencies.
The refreshed webpage also includes an update on the progress of the three governmentwide initiatives, the President’s Management Agenda. This agenda is championed jointly by the deputy secretaries of all the major agencies and spans a four-year period. The current Agenda’s quarterly progress report was posted in early December and highlights progress on federal workforce, customer experience, and better managing federal business operations.
Other website features focus on Initiatives and data.
The Customer Experience initiative, for example, provides an overview of the commitments by 38 “high impact service providers,” such as the Passport Office, and allows the visitor to looks at an agency’s service improvement action plans and view customer feedback data agencies collect from their customers about the services provided.
The “Data” feature provides granular data on the three Cross-Agency Priority Goals. For example, the governmentwide Workforce priority goal uses federal employee survey data to explore key questions such as “To what extent are there disparities in employee engagement across employee groups and organizational units?” These data allow agencies to compare themselves with other agencies and identify ways to improve themselves.
Finally, an interesting – and inspiring – feature is a showcase of “the people of public service” — thumbnails of dozens of career public servants. This feature, which is also shared on social media, humanizes individuals who serve our communities and quietly transform how government serves the public.
Hopefully, unlike most New Year resolutions, these will stick around and be expanded as the new year progresses!
Image by mdjaff on Freepik