Bush Unveils New Scorecard to Rate Federal Agencies
President Bush yesterday unveiled a management scorecard to rate the performance of federal agencies, including HHS, in a campaign to "bring corporate efficiency to the federal bureaucracy," the Washington Post reports. The scorecard uses a "traffic light system" -- green for "success," yellow for "mixed results" and red for "unsatisfactory" -- to rate the performance of 15 executive departments and 11 smaller agencies (Nakashima, Washington Post, 2/5). The scorecard rates the agencies in five management areas: the ability of staff to meet public needs, financial management, online services, "success in bringing down costs" through competition among public and private suppliers and the "degree to which" agencies have tied spending to results. In the first scorecard released yesterday, HHS received "red lights across the board." The Department of Veterans Affairs also received "poor marks" for "falling short" in the agency's "core missions" to provide health care services and to process pension claims for veterans (Woodward, AP/Nando Times, 2/4). Overall, the scorecard "gave poor or mixed results" to 15 executive departments and 10 of the 11 smaller agencies. The National Science Foundation received the only green light for "stellar performance" in financial management (Washington Post, 2/5). The scorecard credited the NSF for "handling twice as many grant applications as it did a decade ago despite a smaller staff" (AP/Nando Times, 2/5). The Post reports that the "scorecard itself will not be specifically linked to funding" for the agencies but will provide a "way to gauge quickly how well a department is doing" in Bush's management priorities. "Now, with all the new demands on our resources, better management is needed more sorely than ever," Bush said, adding, "When objective measures reveal that government programs are not succeeding, those programs should be reinvented, redirected or retired."
However, Democrats say that Bush's "emphasis on efficiency is merely a way to justify cutting social programs to fund other administration priorities." Federal labor unions also expressed concern that the scorecard will lead to "increased privatization and outsourcing," and some government analysts called the scorecard a "gimmick" (Washington Post, 2/4). Paul Light, director for the Center for Public Service at the Brookings Institution, said that the scorecard "doesn't really matter to anything that matters." He added that both Republican and Democratic presidents have used similar scorecards in the past to provide "cover for cutting programs" that they oppose and spending more on programs that they support. "The next administration will take this set of red lights and green lights and dispose of it. That's why federal agency managers and employees don't take this seriously," Light said. In its scorecard, the Bush administration admitted that the tactic represents an "imperfect way to measure imperfection" and that "some conclusions may prove erroneous over time" (AP/Nando Times, 2/4).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.