Center for American Progress

Senate Should Pass Legislation Requiring Federal Agencies to Set Goals and Achieve Results
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Senate Should Pass Legislation Requiring Federal Agencies to Set Goals and Achieve Results

Senate members should take up a bill that could transform the way government works by requiring agencies to set priority goals and achieve real-world results.

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The Senate returned last week to an exceedingly busy legislative agenda, but we urge its members to take up a bill that could transform the way government works by requiring agencies to set priority goals and achieve real-world results. The legislation, which has yet to be introduced in the Senate, should be modeled on the bill introduced by Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-TX), which was passed unanimously by the House in June. This legislation requires each federal department and agency to set high-priority goals they intend to achieve for the American people.

The legislation would require all departments and agencies not only to set high-priority goals but also develop a plan to accomplish each priority goal, monitor progress quarterly toward the goal, and regularly adjust the plan as they go along so that the goals are more likely to be met.

A recent poll by the Center found that 83 percent of Americans believe requiring every agency to set clear goals would make government work better. The legislation passed by the House and now before the Senate would enact a strategy to improve government that the American people strongly favor.

The stars are aligning in support of this important measure. But a key question facing the Senate will be how far-reaching it wants the legislation to be. We believe there are three main options:

  • Sharpen legislation passed by the House so that it is more effective.
  • Be more expansive and address the connection with the Government Performance and Results Act of 1993 so that the GPRA works well alongside the new requirements imposed by this legislation, or perhaps go further and undertake more fundamental reform of the GPRA to make it more useful and used.
  • Ask President Obama to set a small number of top-level goals that cut across government departments.

These options are not mutually exclusive. Indeed, we believe that the bill would be strongest if the Senate decided to enact all of these options at the same time and thus build a new performance management framework for the federal government.

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