GPRA Modernization Act of 2010 Explained: # 1

This post is the first in a series on the recently-passed GPRA Modernization Act of 2010. The bill is 19 pages long and the media has not provided the level of detail that a performance wonk might find helpful. So I’ll be providing summaries and extracts from law and the Senate committee report over the next few days.

Background. Congress recently passed – and President Obama just signed — legislation updating the nearly 20-year-old Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA). This update effort started several years ago through the efforts of Congressman Henry Cuellar (D-TX) then evolved more recently with support from Senators Tom Carper (D-DE) and Mark Warner (D-VA).

The update is based on more than 15 years of experience – documented through numerous GAO reports that culminated in a 2004 overarching assessment. This experience included both the evolution of agency practices as well as increased access to information and collaboration via the Internet.

The original 1993 law required agencies to create multi-year strategic plans, annual performance plans, and annual performance reports. The new legislation makes some significant changes – about 150 actions by one count – to existing law and will take several years to implement.

Overview of New Law. The new legislation creates a more defined performance framework by defining a governance structure and by better connecting plans, programs, and performance information. As described in the Senate committee report, the new law requires more frequent reporting and reviews (quarterly instead of annually) that are intended to increase the use of performance information in program decision-making.

The law will likely change behaviors in the executive branch by creating a more explicit fact-based decision-making framework to implement programs and be more results-oriented. Specific elements include:

· Revised agency strategic planning requirements.

· Revised agency annual performance planning requirements.

· Revised agency performance reporting requirements.

· New requirements to designate cross-cutting federal priority goals and agency-level priority goals.

· New requirements for quarterly reviews and reporting of governmentwide and agency-level priority goals.

· Codifies the existing governance framework that evolved over the past 15 years. Specifically, it legislatively creates (1) chief operating officers, (2) program improvement officers, (3) a governmentwide performance improvement council, and (4) a governmentwide performance website.

· Other new implementation actions, such as better training for program managers and a timetable for action.

Will Take Two to Tango. But for the law to be effective, Congress may have to change its behavior as well. For example, the law requires greater consultation with Congress in the designation of cross-cutting and agency-level priority goals, as well as in the development of agency strategic plans. But to do this, Congress will have to find new ways to coordinate its own efforts across committee jurisdictions. EPA and Homeland Security, for example, each report to over 70 committees and subcommittees, often with differing priorities, so Congress will likely have to find a way to coordinate internally in order to provide meaningful input. This will only increase when the law’s provisions for obtaining congressional input on cross-agency goals become effective.

As noted earlier, I’ll be providing summaries and extracts from the legislation and the Senate committee report over the next few days. . . . or you can download and read the whole bill or the committee report yourself!

ADDITION: Here’s a printable, formatted version of the 8-part blog series.

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Avatar photo Bill Brantley

Thanks for doing this, John! As you go through, would you mind including some analysis on how this might affect project management efforts if applicable?

John Kamensky

Hi Bill – The bill does require OPM to identify key skills and competencies related to performance management, and to incorporate those skills and competencies into relevant program classifications and agency training.

The 1993 GPRA required OPM to develop training, as well, and little happened, but today, Shelley Metzenbaum — who leads OMB’s performance initiatives — is in a position to encourage OPM to make good on this. . . she’s also in charge of OPM’s budget review!

Michael Lennon

Thanks, John, for the summary. Looking forward to forthcoming ones.

Some cynics have argued that previous Annual Performance Reporting was an annual message marketing ritual to Congress from agency-level actors and high-profile agency programs–but that it was mostly irrelevant to sub-agency management and low profile programs.

In addition to greater frequency of reporting, from what you have read thus far, what is your sense regarding breadth or depth of reporting visibility?

Also, are there any glaring red flags or great opportunities that jump out at you?


John Kamensky

Hi Michael – I’ll be posting a series of posts that I hope gets to your “great opportunities” question! Plus, I’ve been invited to talk about this on Monday at 2 p.m. on Francis Rose’s show on WFED (1500 AM), and hope that’ll be an opportunity to address this as well.