Orszag on budget: Programs will be eliminated


Peter Orszag appeared before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committee for a hearing on his nomination as OMB director. It was almost as painless as yesterday’s hearing before the Senate Budget committee.

Senators focused mostly on government management issues, and Orszag made a few notable statements. First, though, a word about the budget. Orszag reiterated, once again, that the Obama administration will release a 2010 budget in “mid-to-late February.”

One new detail: He said the budget will include “some program eliminations.” No word on which programs, though.

On the management side, Orszag said the government’s procurement problems are largely caused by an underfunded acquisition workforce:

It is absolutely OMB’s responsibility to provide oversight and guidance on procurement issues… When you double the procurement budget and the number of acquisition officers stays flat, unless you think their productivity has doubled in that time, it’s no surprise they get sloppy.

He had some harsh words for the Program Assessment and Rating Tool (PART), the Bush administration’s performance management system:

It is not particularly effective. Frankly, most federal officials don’t even know about it; only a quarter of senior government officials have even heard of PART. And most who are knowledgeable don’t use it. There’s a lot of going through the motions, filling out forms.

It was developed without consultation with Congress and the agencies, and it’s too focused on process rather than outcome.

Orszag said the metrics for the IRS were a good example of PART’s problems. The agency is evaluated based on the number of audits it conducts — which Orszag called a focus on “process, rather than outcomes.”

I would like to see a performance measurement system that says, hit this compliance rate for the tax code. Don’t just tell me what your audit rate is, because I don’t care about that.


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