The President’s Management Agenda, released March 20, 2018, focuses on actions that can have cross-agency impact and break down systems and information silos, according to agency leaders who spoke at the agenda’s launch event in Kansas City, Mo.

The agenda focuses on three drivers of better government — IT modernization, a modern workforce, and data transparency and accountability — that will be fulfilled through what are being labeled “cross-agency priority goals,” including:

  1. Modernizing IT to increase productivity and security;
  2. Leveraging data as a strategic asset;
  3. Developing a workforce of the 21st century;
  4. Improving customer experience with federal services;
  5. Sharing quality services;
  6. Shifting from low- to high-value work;
  7. Leveraging common contracts and best practices to drive savings and efficiencies;
  8. Focusing on results-oriented accountability for grants;
  9. Making correct payments;
  10. Improving outcomes through IT spending transparency;
  11. Improving management of major acquisitions;
  12. Modernizing infrastructure permitting;
  13. Promoting security clearance and credentialing reform; and
  14. Improving the transfer of federally funded technologies from lab to market.

“We’re not inventing something wholly new. What we are doing is focusing on gettin’ ‘er done. We’re focusing on execution,” said Office of Management and Budget Deputy Director for Management Margaret Weichert.

“So a key part of the President’s Management Agenda is establishing cross-agency priority goals, or what we call CAP goals, to actually compliment the broad vision and get into execution and on the ground tactics,” Weichert continued. “Each CAP goal will be led by an interagency team of senior federal leaders.”

Much of the PMA reiterates the administration’s already established goals from reports and the FY19 budget request, such as modernizing IT through the Centers of Excellence program and Technology Modernization Fund. Under that technology modernization is a priority to use the data stored within federal systems more effectively, securely and transparently.

“The United States government holds some of the most important data in the world,” said federal CIO Suzette Kent. “The President’s Management Agenda is empowering technologies with a strategic view of data as one of our mission-critical assets.”

To put agencies’ money where their mouth is in data transparency, the agenda allows the public to track the progress of CAP goals through, characterized as a “window into federal agencies’ efforts to deliver a smarter, leaner and more effective government.”

The agenda also repeats administration priorities for a more optimized workforce, with goals that have been both supported and criticized by federal employee unions.

“We’re going to streamline recruiting; we’re going to make sure we have the training involved to close the next generation of what we need as skills in the federal government. We need to reexamine each and every one of our agencies, and we need to close those gaps,” said Office of Personnel Management Director Jeff Pon.

One component of the workforce change is to streamline the often-rigid general schedule requirements for federal jobs, which don’t fit well with modern technology and cybersecurity career expectations.

Pon added that he also wants to reduce the number of paper systems used by OPM and move to a system that can use common data sources for federal employee management, health benefits and retirement benefits.

However, the PMA also reiterated an administrative desire to make it easier to fire certain federal employees deemed “poor performers,” a concept originally introduced by President Donald Trump in his 2018 State of the Union address and deeply criticized by employee unions as an attack on their due-process rights.

The PMA has received initial support from employee and industry groups, which applauded the focus on long-term solutions to management problems.

“The PMA rightly identifies many of the impediments our federal government confronts on a daily basis, while also correctly recognizing that the necessary solutions will require long-term commitment,” Senior Executives Association President Bill Valdez said.

“SEA shares a long-term modernization vision and looks forward to working with the administration as it begins to implement the PMA, recognizing that a successful implementation cannot be achieved without involving career senior executives in the process.”

Partnership for Public Service President and CEO Max Stier also commended the PMA’s focus on finding bipartisan solutions in Congress to many management issues, saying:

“Congress has not holistically updated federal personnel rules in 40 years, and the government’s pay structure is almost 70 years old. Federal management and compensation systems are largely outdated, which stifles innovation and discourages top talent from joining the government. There is ample ground for bipartisan cooperation in addressing the archaic civil service system that has become an obstacle to a well-functioning government, and many of the president’s proposals provide a good starting point.”

The PMA’s success will likely be a testing ground for Weichert, Pon, Kent and GSA Administrator Emily Murphy, who all started their leadership positions within the past four months and have primary responsibility for the agenda.

Jessie Bur covers federal IT and management.

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