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Reason Foundation

Sen. Coburn Sings PART's Praises

Leonard Gilroy
June 14, 2006, 7:40am

At least one senator sees the value in tying budget decisions to agency performance:
Sen. Tom Coburn, R.-Okla., chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Federal Financial Management, Government Information and International Security, held a hearing to address the transparency of, and potential for bias in, the administration's Program Assessment Rating Tool. In opening remarks, Coburn praised the PART process, which entails quantifying the success of federal programs through a standardized set of questions, for bringing a new tool to bear on program assessment. He acknowledged that any such tool would be a "blunt instrument" given the size and scope of government activities, but chided other lawmakers for not taking PART scores into account in making budget decisions, in part out of loyalty to pet programs that might be underperforming. Coburn highlighted a vote by the House appropriations subcommittee that funds the Labor, Education and Health and Human Services departments to insert language prohibiting the use of PART assessments at those agencies in the appropriations bill. . . . . Testifying that the PART improves management by shining a bright light on programs, [OMB's deputy director for management Clay] Johnson pointed to the government's ExpectMore.gov website, which makes PART data available for public scrutiny. Johnson's statements walked a fine line between pushing what he described as a secondary use of the tool in informing budget decisions, and deference to Congress's constitutional power to regulate spending. The administration rates agencies on budget-performance integration in its quarterly traffic-light-style management score card, and encourages Congress to consider programs' PART scores in making budget decisions.
Full article here.

Leonard Gilroy is Director of Government Reform


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