Get Ready for a Lot More Information on Government Performance

On Tuesday, the House passed the Senate's amendments to the Government Efficiency, Effectiveness, and Performance Improvement Act (HR 2142), also called the Government Performance and Results Modernization Act. The bill now heads to President Obama for his signature.

The bill institutes a range of reforms to government performance management and planning. Among the changes are a number of transparency and reporting requirements which will significantly expand the amount of information available to the public about government performance.

Agencies will be required to post online their quadrennial strategic plans, annual performance plans, and annual performance reports. Performance reports for the first time will be required to include information on the data's accuracy and validity, and any limitations of the data.

In addition, the bill requires the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for the first time to create a government-wide performance plan, and requires that the plan be posted online. The government-wide and agency plans will reference each other, identifying how each agency contributes to overall goals.

Initially, each agency's documents are required be posted on the agency's website. Starting FY 2012, all the performance documents must be posted on a single website in a searchable, machine-readable format.

That site will also contain information on all agencies' programs, including each program's description, how it contributes to the agency's mission and goals, and its funding level. The website will also list priority goals for agencies and the government overall, and will post quarterly results for each goal. The site will identify programs, policies, and tax expenditures contributing to each goal, with an assessment of whether or not they're working.

Making such a vast amount of new information available online could shed valuable light on how well federal agencies and programs are performing. The new site could potentially be a powerful tool in helping citizens to understand what they get for their money – and to demand that under-performing programs shape up.

But effectively communicating complex information about the performance of thousands of federal programs will be no mean feat. The right metrics and a coherent presentation will be needed to make the site accessible.

The requirements codify many of the elements detailed in a September 2010 OMB memo announcing That site is currently accessible only to government officials, although the memo indicated plans to open it to the public.

An interesting provision passed in the earlier House version but left out of the final legislation would have required linking programs' performance to their spending on It also would have required a report on the feasibility of including performance and spending information in a single site.

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