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Performance.gov struggles with reduced funding

Anteromite/Shutterstock.com

Funding cuts in the fiscal 2011 and 2012 budgets required the White House to slow development of a unified website for government performance data, an Office of Management and Budget official said Tuesday.

After about one year in operation, Performance.gov lists most agency goals in bulleted points of one or two sentences rather than in an “objective, quantifiable and measurable form” as required by the 2010 Government Performance and Results Modernization Act.

“Funding shortfalls, in addition to constraints in agency capacity and the need to learn what works before we scale up governmentwide, have necessitated a phased development,” the official said.

The law requires the site to be fully compliant by Oct. 1.

The office is working with agencies and the federal Performance Improvement Council to add more information to the site this fall, Moira Mack, a spokeswoman for federal Chief Information Officer Steven VanRoekel, said. That means the site could still meet the performance act deadline.

“OMB strongly believes Performance.gov will become a key tool for improving the performance of the federal government and increasing the transparency of federal performance,” Mack said. “Within funding and capacity constraints, we will continue to develop Performance.gov to provide more dynamic, useful and current performance information.”

After fixing the website’s malfunctioning search engine, OMB added significant information about governmentwide performance goals that were presented in pie charts and collapsible lists. Information about agency-specific goals, however, remains sparse.

Under the law, agencies must contribute expansive information about each performance goal such as the necessary strategies and resources required to meet the goals, specific milestones, steps they are taking with other agencies to achieve the goals, and key factors beyond their control that could preclude or delay meeting the goals.

The government launched the public version of Performance.gov in August 2011, four months after Congress cut its funding mechanism, the e-government fund, from $34 million to $8 million in an agreement with the Obama administration to avoid a government shutdown.

Then-federal CIO Vivek Kundra told Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., in a May 2011 letter that funding cuts had forced him to freeze planned improvements to the site. An official later told Nextgov that the site might not be able to meet performance act requirements if new funding did not come through.

E-gov funding reached $12.4 million in the fiscal 2012 budget and $16.65 million in President Obama's proposed 2013 budget, above the 2011 figure but well below the fund’s 2010 high of $34 million.

The $16.65 million in 2013 funding is also in the current versions of both the House and Senate appropriations bills.

Kundra’s May 2011 letter to Carper also stated funding cuts would force him to close up shop on FedSpace, a collaborative site for government officials to share thoughts, concerns and best practices related to technology. The public face of that site still appeared to be operating Tuesday.

OMB did not respond to a Nextgov email asking whether the site is being held in reserve in case future funding comes through.

(Image via Anteromite/Shutterstock.com)

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