A report released by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) today found that the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has failed to develop complete, timely, and fully transparent goals for the President’s Management Agenda (PMA).

The watchdog agency’s April 4 report states that the PMA goals set by the OMB consist of only three of the five required management areas – with no goals for managing IT.

The GAO made five recommendations to the White House agency – and while OMB  expressed some support for the findings, it also pushed back against the specifics of the recommendations.

The PMA serves to communicate and organize cross-agency priority (CAP) goals required under the GPRA Modernization Act of 2010 (GPRAMA). CAP goals are four-year outcome-oriented goals covering a number of mission and management areas across the Federal government.

The Biden-Harris administration’s PMA, which was released in November 2021, consists of three priority areas: strengthening the Federal workforce; improving the Federal customer experience; and managing Federal financial management and procurement.

Under these three priority areas, OMB designated seven related strategies as CAP goals in August 2022 – including attracting and hiring qualified employees, improving the service design for digital products, and fostering lasting improvements in the Federal acquisition system, among others.

However, GAO found that the administration’s seven designated CAP goals do not address all relevant GPRAMA requirements. The 38-page report explains that OMB designated CAP goals for three of the five management areas required by GPRAMA: financial management, human capital management, and procurement and acquisition management.

“However, as of March 2023, OMB had not designated CAP goals addressing the other two areas: information technology management and federal real property management. These areas are long-standing management challenges facing the federal government,” the report says.

The watchdog agency also argued that OMB’s goals for the PMA were not timely. According to the report, the agency delivered the goals in August 2022, several months after the March deadline.

“Timely release of the CAP goals can help improve congressional oversight and provide important information on program performance,” the agency said.

GAO’s report also found that OMB failed to provide transparency because it did not consistently report quarterly progress toward achieving CAP goals as required by GPRAMA.

“More consistent public reporting could provide greater transparency and allow for reporting on final progress achieved at the end of a goal period. Such final reporting would help ensure continuity between CAP goal cycles,” the agency said. “This reporting would also provide information on progress toward addressing long-standing federal management challenges and high-risk areas.”

GAO made five recommendations to OMB Director Shalanda Young to improve the CAP goals:

  • Develop guidance and procedures to improve the timeliness of the goals;
  • Designate CAP goals addressing IT management and Federal real property management;
  • Ensure consistent quarterly reporting of goal progress; and
  • Report on final progress at the end of the 4-year goal period

OMB generally agreed with GAO’s findings but disagreed with the recommendations. The White House agency stated in its comments on the report that it had concerns using GPRAMA as a tool to drive meaningful results for the public.

Additionally, OMB said that it does not need to designate separate CAP goals addressing IT management and Federal real property management because the PMA currently addresses cross agency efforts in these areas under its strategies to improve customer experiences and plan for the future of Federal work.

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Cate Burgan
Cate Burgan
Cate Burgan is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.