Success should be judged by results, and data is a powerful tool to determine results. We can't ignore facts. We can't ignore data. -President Barack Obama, July 24, 2009
The quote that says it all. In 2009 the federal government acknowledged the importance of data, of informed decision making, of tracking performance, and in 2010, the federal government did something about it. The GPRA Modernization Act of 2010 was passed. The act required federal agencies to set 2-year Agency Priority Goals, use data-driven measures to gauge success and to make this all available on a public website. Now, just two years later, the site is playing a critical role in the movement towards increased government transparency. Together, the 24 agencies have 103 Agency Priority Goals, 8 Cross Agency Priority Goals (goals that are impacted by a set of agencies such as Exports), and 6 Cross Agency Management Goals. The website represents a new zenith of information availability, transparency and accountability within the government. Performance.gov allows anyone and everyone to see what is being done to improve cybersecurity, reduce gang violence, prevent foreclosures and provide insight into a multitude of other pertinent issues. The general public can now see what their taxes are being used for- and whether they’re doing a good job or not. During a briefing, Shelley Metzenbaum, associate director for performance and personnel management of the Office of Management and Budget, told reporters “what we’ve now done is give you information about those goals: we explain why the goals were chosen, the strategies with each goal, we explain the progress we’ve made with them, and if there were problems, we explain those.” The website provides and in-depth look into what the government actually does and the continued process of self-assessment and improvement that is now underway.
Performance.gov was designed to deliver “a view of the progress underway in cutting waste, streamlining government, and improving performance.” The website’s layout allows you to browse by agency or by the following areas of focus- acquisition, financial management, human resources, technology, performance improvement, open government, sustainability and customer service. You can now access an Agency’s priority and strategic goals, their plans for accomplishing them, and even their financial reports.
This is just the beginning. Performance.gov asserts that “over time, we will add more information from agency strategy plans, performance plans and reports and we will produce this information in formats that allow users to see trends, look at goals contributing to common themes, see programs contributing to common goals, and cross-reference other related data.”
Performance.gov sheds a light on where tax-payers’ dollars are being spent and how key issues are being solved, but this is not its only function. The site represents a new approach to problem solving by the agencies. They each honed in on specific and important goals and were able to improve the methods used to track progress. So, while there is still room for improvement (as is always the attitude in performance management- growth and learning, right?) the site is definitely a good start.