The Congressional Government Efficiency Caucus took a victory lap of sorts on Feb. 15, while hoisting high hopes for the future of project management in the federal government.
In an event partnered with the Project Management Institute, the caucus touted the December 2016 signing of the Project Management Improvement Accountability Act — a law codifying best practices for program management for federal agencies — and weighed what's next for its implementation.
The law's sponsors — Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa; Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D.; and Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va. — were on hand to talk about the next steps for the measure and what lies ahead.
"I love it when things that are common sense actually come to fruition," Ernst said. "We need to make sure our biggest government projects and programs are being run appropriately and are being managed by people with the right expertise in those areas."
The law establishes standards similar to those in the private sector for agencies to apply for program management service, sets up a Program Management Policy Council under the Office of Management and Budget and calls for annual reviews of program management effectiveness.
Stakeholders said they hope the efficiency measures set by the law will help lead to big savings. Jordan Sims, PMI’s director of organization relations and programs, said that research has shown 1 percent of efficiency gained in the federal space meant $995 billion saved over a decade.
But while the hopes for the law are high, it may be a while before it is implemented.
With OMB director Mick Mulvaney reaching confirmation on Feb. 16, the Trump administration will likely have a list of priorities ahead of the measure, not to mention the guidance it will need to craft to stand up the policy council and agency hierarchies.
"There’s no question that this will probably take longer than we would like," said Rob Burton, a federal procurement partner at Crowell & Moring and a former OMB deputy administrator under George W. Bush.
"Leadership from the top is very important, and as long as we have that, I think OMB will move very aggressively to get this implemented."
But for the moment, the legislators were celebrating the bipartisanship of getting the law on the books and the potential it has to help make the federal government more efficient.
"Only 16 percent of federal agencies kind of have standardized project management practices," Connolly said. "That means we have enormous room for growth and improvement."