The Biden-Harris administration’s just-released “vision” statement for the President’s Management Agenda (PMA) sets broad goals to overhaul how the government recruits and retains its workforce, harnesses technology to provide citizens with better digital services, and undertakes acquisitions in a way that provides advantages to the domestic economy.
The practice of new administrations issuing PMA documents dates back to 2001. The documents describe strategies to make the Federal government more effective and efficient and set overarching goals for management.
The administration’s PMA vision document issued today – dubbed the Biden-Harris Management Agenda Vision – appears to be longer on goals and still somewhat brief on specific, granular steps to get there. The administration billed the vision document as the first step in a “multi-stage, multi-year, Administration-wide effort” to advance top priorities through an additional PMA document that presumably will arrive at a later date.
The PMA vision goals, said Jason Miller, Deputy Director for Management at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), rely heavily on improving the Federal government’s use of technology.
“Technology is the enabler across the entirety of this agenda,” Miller told reporters during a press briefing on the PMA vision, “both powering our personnel systems and making sure we have the right tech talent inside the Federal government strengthening our delivery systems.”
“One piece of that, that is part of OMB, is the U.S. Digital Service, which we’ve been ramping up under this administration, and supporting efforts across the board, across our priorities,” he said.
According to OMB and the President’s Management Council, which issued the PMA vision document, it sets forth a “roadmap for ensuring an equitable, effective, and accountable Federal Government that delivers results for all.”
The PMA vision, OMB said, aims at “strengthening and empowering the Federal workforce; delivering excellent, equitable, and secure Federal services and customer experience; and managing the business of Government to build back better.”
Those three goals, the document says, are “critical for improving the way the Federal Government does business, restoring the American people’s trust in Government, and laying a strong foundation for working families for years to come.” The pursuit of each of those goals, OMB said, will be guided by the values of equity, dignity, accountability, and results.
President Biden called the PMA vision a “blueprint for our Government to deliver for Americans the Government they deserve as we continue to build back better.”
Miller said the relatively small number of themes in the PMA vision document is part of OMB’s plan to “keep it simple.” He continued, “we need priorities that are broadly applicable and that we can prioritize, not dozens and dozens of new initiatives. Three or four priorities with clear and straightforward strategies need to connect our management priorities and the outcomes we’re trying to achieve, like any high-performing organization.”
Increasing Technology Reliance
The PMA vision document’s call for the government to provide better citizen services falls squarely in line with goals laid out earlier this year in major policy speeches by Federal CIO Clare Martorana.
In several public addresses, she has called for the government to better harness technology to provide “a simple, seamless, and secure customer experience to the American people” that is on par with their expectations of services provided by the private sector and to do so with an enterprise approach across government.
“Government interacts with millions of people every single day,” the Federal CIO said earlier this month, adding, “we need to put ourselves in our customers’ shoes.”
Similarly, the PMA vision calls for the government to deliver “excellent, equitable, and secure Federal services and customer experience” and states three strategies for getting to that goals.
- Improving “service design, digital products, and customer-experience management of Federal High-Impact Service Providers by reducing customer burden, addressing inequities, and streamlining processes”;
- Building and managing government service delivery for “key life experiences” that cut across Federal agencies”; and
- Prioritizing the development of “Federal shared products, services, and standards that enable simple, seamless, and secure customer experiences across High Impact Service Providers.”
The government on its performance.gov website defines “high-impact” Federal service providers to include most of the largest Federal agencies, including the departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Education, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, Housing and Urban Development, Interior, Labor, State, Transportation, Treasury, and Veterans Affairs, along with the General Services Administration, Office of Personnel Management, Small Business Administration, and Social Security Administration.
Asked about support and funding for the additional tasks to be given to Federal agencies to make those kinds of tech-driven citizen service improvements, Miller replied, “undoubtedly, as we move forward on all those, we’re going to be looking at the FY 2023 budget for … incremental resources to deliver” on the citizen service priority.
“We do have a number of resources” available for additional funding, including Technology Modernization Fund (TMF) investments, Miller said.
He added that improving service delivery and customer experience “does not always require major capital investment. It may, but it also will oftentimes improve the efficiency of our service delivery by getting it right the first time” and creating savings over time “while also meeting and exceeding customer expectations.”
Designing for ‘Critical’ Life Experiences
Miller emphasized that a big goal of the citizen service improvement effort is to design service improvements that match citizens’ life experiences – “moments of our customers’ lives that are critical to them” – in which they interact with the Federal government in multiple ways.
“What we want to do is first identify a set of life experiences that we are going to build teams around, and focus our efforts from the vantage point of the customer and how they are experiencing that set of services,” Miller said.
“Whether it’s experiencing a disaster, and trying to access the Federal government to support recovery,” or an event like “retirement or losing a job, there are critical moments in making sure that we are acting as one Federal enterprise from the customer’s viewpoint, and that those interactions across agencies serve the customer’s needs, rather than the silos of government,” he said.
Accomplishing that goal, he added, will improve outcomes for citizens and Federal agencies and their mission outcomes. “We’re going to carry it forward is a cross-agency effort,” he said, adding, “I’m really excited about this one in particular.”
The PMA vision document sets forth a series of priorities to strengthen and empower the workforce but is less revealing in specific steps to get there. The strategies include:
- Attracting and hiring “the most qualified employees, who reflect the diversity of our country, in the right roles across the Federal Government”;
- Making “every Federal job a good job, where all employees are engaged, supported, heard, and empowered, with opportunities to learn, grow, join a union and have an effective voice in their workplaces through their union, and thrive throughout their careers”;
- Reimagining and building “a roadmap to the future of Federal work informed by lessons from the pandemic and nationwide workforce and workplace trends”; and
- Building “the personnel system and support required to sustain the Federal Government as a model employer able to effectively deliver on a broad range of agency missions.”
Explaining those goals, Miller said the government needs to bring more people into government service earlier in their careers, adding, “we need to diversify the Federal workforce at all levels.” Discussing hiring practices, he said “there are a number of reforms that we need to make” including how candidates are qualified “so that we can be nimble [and] get high-quality people through the process.
Finally, the PMA vision aims to change Federal acquisition priorities to tilt the table in favor of U.S.-based businesses while also accomplishing climate and community development goals. Those steps will entail:
- Fostering “lasting improvements in the Federal acquisition system to strengthen the U.S. domestic manufacturing base, support American workers, lead by example toward sustainable climate solutions, and create opportunities for underserved communities”; and
- Building “capacity in Federal financial management and through Federal financial assistance to catalyze American industrial strategy, address climate-related risks, and deliver equitable results.”
OMB’s Miller said additional details and specific tasks flowing from the PMA vision document will be rolling out soon but did not commit to any hard deadlines.
“In terms of timeline, this is going to be an ongoing effort, so it’s not going to be a specific date at which” all of the details emerge, he said.
“There’s going to be an ongoing effort for us to release additional steps in the weeks and months ahead,” Miller continued. “We’re going to make progress as we can, and frankly, across all of these initiatives, there’s pretty substantial action that we’ve already taken.”
He cited work underway with Federal employee unions “to make sure that Federal jobs are good jobs,” adding, “we’ve been making progress already, and we’ll continue to announce more specifics as we move forward.”
“The launch today of the President’s Management Agenda vision marks the beginning, not the end,” Miller continued. “This is a step in a sustained, multi-year, whole of government effort to improve the way our government does business.”
OMB, the President’s Management Council, and Federal agency senior leadership, he added, will “identify leaders for each priority area strategy, establishing clear, measurable performance goals, building out teams and structures across government while engaging both internally and externally.” They will also be publicly reporting progress against those goals on the government’s performance.gov website.